The Women’s Fund: Mobilizing Women in the Redding, CA Area Through Strategic Philanthropy

Hatched in 2009 during the depths of the nationwide financial crisis, The Women’s Fund of Redding probably should have failed. After all, how could a philanthropic organization take flight when everyone felt that their financial wings had been clipped? Yet even during economic hardship, men and women of Shasta County rose with the vision to “mobilize the power of women through collective philanthropy … to create a better future for women and their families in the Redding area.” Through collective giving and educational public forums raising awareness of local issues, this organization has created opportunities for women and families to receive assistance while also generating opportunities for people to make a difference.

Denise Yergenson seized this opportunity when Kristen Schreder, one of The Women’s Fund founders, invited her to join the organization. Denise, who has been an active community member since her days as student body president, expected The Women’s Fund to be a standard volunteer opportunity but found herself increasingly drawn to what the group does. She even served two terms as chairperson of The Woman’s Fund. “This is one organization where you donate your dues and you actually see it work,” Denise says. She names the Smiles program, a partnership with Shasta Community Health and Soroptimist International, as one of her favorite grant recipients. The program pays for 10 women each year to receive dental work, helping them gain the self-confidence they need to live fuller, more productive lives. “Some of these ladies were so embarrassed by their teeth that they couldn’t apply for jobs or go to their children’s schools,” Denise says. The million-dollar smiles of these women radiate the generosity of The Women’s Fund members.

Other recipients of The Women’s Fund grants over the years include One Safe Place, Girls Inc., Shasta Community Health Center and California Heritage YouthBuild Academy (CHYBA). Some of the grants have helped women enter traditionally male-dominated fields such as construction, video-making and firefighting. The grant selection committee reviews applications in August and announces the winners at the Annual Membership Fall Celebration. Each year a new theme, voted on by the members of The Women’s Fund, directs the selection of grant winners. This year’s theme, “fostering self-sufficiency,” represents one of the main values of The Women’s Fund. Denise puts it this way, “We want to give struggling women a hand up, not a handout. We want to help them be successful, not just give them money.”

Though women comprise most of the membership, about 80 men also contribute to the altruistic objectives. Members, Denise says, “can be as involved as they want,” simply paying dues or becoming active through a committee or the cabinet. Erin Resner, the owner of Dutch Brothers Coffee, assumed the chair position in July.

Toward their intention of empowering women, the organization has built an endowment fund, and this year exceeded its goal of reaching $50,000 – two years ahead of schedule. This allows the organization to spend more on grants and less on their already minimal operation costs.

Denise describes the philanthropy as “very visible in the community.” The Women’s Fund raises public awareness about local issues.  During her time as chairperson, Denise saw nearly 400 people attend forums led by various field experts, such as Lloyd Pendleton, a nationally recognized advocate for the homeless. In September, The Women’s Fund hosted a forum concerning the juvenile justice system. Educating the public on these matters can offer motivation to act on one’s own, or through The Women’s Fund, to make a positive mark on the North State.

To learn more about The Women’s Fund and find out who won this year’s grants, mark your calendar for the Fall Celebration, held on October 24th in Redding’s Old City Hall. Check http://www.facebook.com/WomensFundRedding for the latest details. 

Jenna Christophersen
About Jenna Christophersen

Jenna Christophersen is a Chico native who loves her community and can never get quite enough of the arts. She supports fostering creativity in any venue, especially as a part of young people’s daily lives.

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