Women’s Fund continues support and advocacy for women in Oneida and Herkimer counties

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CLINTON — Since becoming an independent non-profit organization … years ago, The Women’s Fund of Herkimer & Oneida Counties, headquartered at 2 Williams St., has focused its mission on creating economic, educational and personal growth opportunities for women of all ages — and girls — to encourage their advancement and participation in their communities.

According to the Women’s Fund, the organization accomplishes its mission by:

• Supporting critical programs aimed at providing women and girls with job readiness skills, employment opportunities, budget/money management skills, positive parenting education and life skills necessary to maintain safe, healthy, violence-free lives.

• Offering life changing intervention through Annie’s Fund, a unique fund that provides critical monetary support enabling women to overcome obstacles and crisis.

• Promoting philanthropy through awareness and education events. 

• Responding to the urgent and emerging needs of women and their families. 

• Publishing reports that provide pertinent information on the status of women and girls in Herkimer and Oneida counties.

“Typically we’re a not-for-profit for different programs or support positions that directly impact women and girls,” explained board member Edie Weintraub-Danovitz. "It can be a wide range of support that’s given, from a $1,000 grant to $20,000 that are given out annually."

Other local organizations The Women’s Fund has helped support include the Resource Center for Independent Living, the YWCA, and MAMI (Multicultural Association of Medical Interpreters). The grant application process is done on an annual basis, and the source that would receive the funding, must work specifically with women and/or children due to the original design of the non-profit, Weintraub-Danovitz explained.

As for the origins of the Women’s Fund, “There was a gathering of some prominent women back in the 90s who were inspired by some actions happening in Seneca Falls and the commemoration of the women’s right to vote, and it’s so appropriate we’re celebrating 100 years” of the Women’s Suffrage Movement, “this year,” she said. “They believed women needed to support each other, and that there were natural support systems like support groups and person-to-person activities, but often times women needed financial assistance to make those things happen. So that was the original design of the fund, and then it became its own entity. We had been working through the Community Foundation of Herkimer & Oneida Counties at first, but then it was recognized that we needed our own identify, so we became our own independent 501c3 (non-profit)” in 1999.

There are two specific grant programs, Annie’s Fund and Isla’s Fund. Annie’s Fund was originally designed for women who had some “basic need unfulfilled, where they needed immediate support to address the issue,” Weintraub-Danovitz explained.

Established in 2004 by Richard Hanna and The Women's Fund of Herkimer & Oneida Counties, Inc., Annie's Fund offers monetary intervention in a temporary, but immediate, crisis. The goal of Annie's Fund is to assist women striving to overcome obstacles and transform their lives.

• Annie's Fund is unique as the only fund of its kind offering life-changing assistance to local women.

• Small grants for critical expenses are awarded to benefit women age 18 and older, or if under age 18, living on her own and financially responsible for herself.

• Grant applications are made through six partner agencies, and grant monies are paid through the partner agency to benefit the applicant, not to the applicant directly.  Partner agencies include Emmaus House, Catholic Charities, YWCA, Resource Center for Independent Living, Refugee Center, and Legal Aid.

• All alternative sources of assistance must be exhausted before applying to Annie's Fund.

• Grant recipients are not required to pay back their grant award. They are encouraged to help another woman or make a donation to The Women's Fund if future circumstances enable them to do so.

• Annie's Fund is sustained solely through donor contributions.

• Since its inception, more than $120,000 has been granted by Annie's Fund.

“Say if a woman used a car to get to work, and it needed repairs and she didn’t have additional cash on hand, we have a relationship with other 501c3’s such as Catholic Charities, YWCA…so women can go through these agencies” to apply for funding, the board member said. “Then they write to us” with their cause and need, "and we can immediately disperse money to address the issue so they don’t have their car in limbo. We’ve bought appliances, furniture, helped with security deposits...Third parties or social services can’t and won’t address the use, and we can come in and help make that quick fix."

In 2018 the organization developed a new fund called Isla’s Fund. It involves the same application process, but it is designated for young women in college.

It was established in 2018 to help and support local women students facing obstacles in their educational pursuits.

Recognizing that education is the most powerful tool in helping women escape the confines of poverty, but at the same time knowing that at any time, emergencies can happen, The Women’s Fund created Isla’s Fund. Local partner colleges take an active role in interviewing students and making recommendations for the grant awards. Individual grants awarded to handle an emergency can mean the difference between staying in school and dropping out entirely, Weintraub-Danovitz said.

Isla’s Fund

• Small grants for critical expenses are awarded to benefit women students.

• Grant applications are made through partner colleges, not to the applicant directly. Isla’s Fund was piloted with Mohawk Valley Community College in 2019 and, following the successful first year, is expanding to other colleges in Oneida and Herkimer counties.

• Grant recipients are not required to pay back their grant award. They are encouraged to help another woman or make a donation to The Women's Fund if future circumstances enable them to do so.

• Isla's Fund is sustained solely through donor contributions.

“If issues arise, or if there’s hurdles preventing a woman from getting into college, or staying in,” Isla’s Fund will help, Weintraub-Danovitz said. “If needed, the fund will also help support day care, or books, or even transportation. The student could appeal through their guidance department and again, get that direct cash influx to address their immediate needs."

Besides making the two grants available to area women in need, The Women’s Fund also holds fund-raising and educational events throughout the year, while recognizing the impact of women in society and working toward the improvement of women in their vocational, educational and social positions.

The board and other members are also actively involved in different sub-committees. Besides being a board member, Weintraub-Danovitz said she also chaired the Status of Women Committee.

"When I got on the board, it wasn’t just me, but many knew my passion for politics and social services,” she said. "Its (the committee’s) role is to get into issues that address women. Three years ago, the committee met with community leaders dealing with important issues impacting women, such as housing, health care…Then we decided our focus would be on domestic violence. For those women impacted by domestic violence, no matter where they were, domestic violence would always hold them back, no matter their physical and financial placement."

And in addition to support and advocacy, The Women’s Fund decided to get creative in its celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Women’s Right to Vote. That’s why the organization decided to combine the arts the commemoration of women and their accomplishments.

The Women’s Fund of Herkimer & Oneida Counties, Inc., will commission 10 local artists to produce an original work that represents the suffrage movement and women’s right to vote. Art will include painting, sculpture, quilting and photography.

Works will become the ownership of The Women’s Fund and will be on display at “Art of the Vote.” A silent auction of the works will be held at the event, tentatively scheduled for October, with proceeds to go to The Women’s Fund.

The Women’s Fund will commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote, with a celebratory night of art and recognition of the civil rights legislation.

"Art of the Vote” will be held at Utica College. The "Art of the Vote” event will include performances by local music choirs and dance repertoires, a silent art auction, and will be capped with a speech by Attorney General Letitia James.

The 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote — “We talked about various recognitions around that issue, and we played with all kinds of situations,” said Weintraub-Danovitz. “Then we decided we wanted to recognize the impact of art and the artist, and how art has been responsible for uplifting women and making our communities and society better places to live in. We decided to mesh the two and really take access of all kinds of different populations — each piece of art will address the Women’s Suffrage Movement in lots of different mediums."

A choir from Utica College, as well as Utica City School District, are scheduled to perform. Several area dance studios will have students present a piece that addresses women’s empowerment, there will be a recognition of new female citizens through the Refugee Center, and there will be poetry readings as well.

For updates on the “Art of the Vote” event, stay tuned to The Women’s Fund website at http://www.womensfundhoc.org/islas-fund.php.

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