Ehrlich praises group for helping women, children

June 12, 2004|By TAMELA BAKER


Maryland's first lady lent her voice Friday to a new local organization that raises money for programs affecting women and families.

Kendel Ehrlich, accompanied by Gov. Robert Ehrlich, attended an afternoon tea at Robinwood Medical Center with members of the Women's Giving Circle, a group organized last year to create a permanent endowment fund for programs for women and families.

She praised the organization's efforts to raise money to pay for social programs "because the government can't do it all ... these organizations help to pick up the slack."


As of Friday, the Women's Giving Circle had raised about $50,000, according to co-chairman Jeanne Singer. The group hopes to award its first grants in November. Singer said the group also hopes to raise $100,000 by the end of 2005.

According to its vision statement, the group's grants are to be used for programs that:

  • Increase the life skills of women.

  • Encourage healthy development of young girls.

  • Improve quality of life for families.

  • Improve emotional and physical well-being of all females.

"We would be thrilled if there was no longer a need for the Women's Giving Circle in a few years," Singer said, but added that there likely would be new and different issues to address in coming years.

Cynthia Perini, the circle's other co-chairman, noted that "in Washington County this week, there will be seven referrals for (victims of) domestic violence. Of those, 40 percent will involve substance abuse. And for a third of those, children will be present."

Half of the families in Washington County with women as heads of household and that have small children are below the poverty level, Perini added. The number of teenage mothers in the county is rising, she said. "This week one more teenager will discover she is pregnant" - with serious implications for completing her education, gaining employment and caring for that child.

"This month, there were children who didn't go to school because they didn't have clothes to wear," Perini said.

For the first lady, the issues were familiar.

"Unfortunately I know your bad numbers in this county; they are staggering," she told the group. "There's too much child abuse; there's too much domestic violence.

"I tell young women they should get as much education as possible to take care of themselves, and any children they might have, by themselves."

Ehrlich told the group that its goal of $100,000 by the end of 2005 was reasonable - and that they "can put the seed out" for more private efforts to address social problems.

The Women's Giving Circle is a membership organization, Singer said. Members pledge $1,000 over three years.

"It's less than a dollar a day," she said. "That's half a cup of coffee. If Starbucks ever comes, it's a third of a cup of coffee."

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