Women’s Fund connects community-minded women with life-changing causes

Girls are learning how to create video games and virtual pets during an after-school program.

Colleges are gaining new resources to teach young women how to look for signs of breast cancer.

Women in rural, low-income households are receiving training that could help them find much-needed jobs.

All of these things are happening in the midstate in no small part thanks to The Foundation for Enhancing Communities’ Womens’ Fund, an effort supported by a diverse group of women committed to helping their neighbors.

An anonymous donor created the fund in 2000 through the foundation, a Harrisburg-based nonprofit that supports all kinds of local organizations. In the past 17 years, the Women’s Fund has provided more than $117,000 in grants for 33 organizations that support a varied range of women-focused causes, from breast cancer awareness to literacy training for mothers.

Power of the Purse

Includes: Purse silent auction, cash bar, plated luncheon, Karen Snider Women in Philanthropy award presentation, Dream Team donor induction

Cost: $75 per person

Where: West Shore Country Club, 100 Brentwater Road, Camp Hill

When: Nov. 3, starting at 11:30 a.m.

Registration deadline: Oct. 26

More information/tickets: www.tfec.org/wfpop

The effort is financed by local women from all kinds of careers and economic backgrounds, said Janice Black, the foundation’s president and CEO. About 117 of those donors are part of the fund’s Dream Team, a group committed to donating at least $1,000 per person through a one-time lump sum or in monthly installments over the next several years. The fund’s leaders hope to eventually have 1,000 Dream Team members in order to create a permanent $1 million endowment.

“We really want to make this available to all,” Black said. “You don’t have to be wealthy to want to help people.”

The fund’s leaders plan to hold their annual Power of the Purse gala Nov. 3 to continue raising money and awareness. In advance of the event, several leaders from local nonprofits shared the impact the Women’s Fund has had on women and girls in their communities.

The Salvation Army

Kathy Anderson-Martin remembers a letter The Salvation Army received from the mother of one of the students in the organization’s Girls Who Code program. The mom wrote that her daughter enjoyed coding as much as she did art, and thanked the Salvation Army for teaching girls skills they can use to eventually find rewarding careers.

Why they give

Here are reasons several donors gave for deciding to contribute to the Women’s Fund:

“Women and girls still face discrimination at work, in school and in the health care system. The Women’s Fund gives donors a collective voice to raise awareness and contribute to programs that address the needs of women in our community. I contributed to help strengthen that voice and to improve the lives of women and girls in Southcentral Pennsylvania.” – Marielle Hazen, founder of Hazen Law Group in Susquehanna Township, Dauphin County

“Gifts raised from the Women’s Fund are then distributed as grant opportunities to nonprofit organizations who are impacting the lives of women and girls in our communities. As Dream Team members, we are able to engage in these programs and projects and celebrate the amazing impact they are making to enhance the lives of all of us here in Southcentral Pennsylvania.” – Todd Snovel, assistant dean for engagement and inclusion at Lebanon Valley College

“The Women’s Fund is a catalyst to fund organizations that empower and enhance women and girls. And I know that these organizations create amazing benefits for women and girls – a greater sense of confidence, a higher comfort level with taking risks, the ability to claim every space as a space where girls and women belong and the support and encouragement of a strong female network.” – Ellen Kyzer, president and CEO of Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania

It was an affirmation that the program was making a difference in people’s lives – and it was something the Women’s Fund helped make happen, said Anderson-Martin, director of philanthropy for The Salvation Army Harrisburg Capital City Region.

The Salvation Army has received financial support from the fund for several years, most recently in the form of a $3,000 grant in 2016. That money helped The Salvation Army create the Girls Who Code program, an after-school, girls-only extension of a similar computer coding course it offered during its annual summer youth enrichment program.

About 10 girls in late elementary and early middle school took part in the pilot course last year, and more are taking part this year.

“Our ultimate goal is teaching them skills so they can someday get a good job,” Anderson-Martin said. “It’s important for all kids, but especially girls. You have to expose them to that at an early age, and the women’s fund is helping us do that.”

Feel Your Boobies Foundation

Women under the age of 40 rarely receive screenings for breast cancer. Leigh Hurst was seven years short of that mark when a doctor diagnosed her with the disease.

Hurst is now 47 years old and cancer-free, but she still helps to spread the word about breast health to young women who might not otherwise consider the risk of breast cancer. Her organization, the Feel Your Boobies Foundation, received $1,500 from the Women’s Fund last year to support outreach efforts at college campuses, including a pilot program called Bras Across Campus.

The program provides pre-packaged toolkits, complete with everything from brochures to selfie frames, to student organizations that want to organize breast health education events. Students in the pilot learned event-planning skills, and participating schools raised an additional $7,000 to help Feel Your Boobies further expand its educational offerings.

“The funding from the Women’s Fund really allowed us to pursue new schools,” Hurst said.

Perry County Literacy Council

Perry County has no public transportation, no state-run career centers and no state or federal offices. The Perry County Literacy Council works to help people overcome these barriers through programs that promote adult education, workforce development and employment services.

The council has received tens of thousands of dollars over the years from The Foundation for Enhancing Communities, including more than $4,400 from the Women’s Fund over the past three years.

“The Foundation for Enhancing Communities has been a faithful and generous funder,” Kathleen Bentley, the council’s executive director, said via email.

“TFEC recognizes that low-income women supporting families face unique challenges, funding projects that have advanced their access to education, training, employment, early childhood resources and family literacy programs.”

Continue reading below the video.

Friends remember Karen Snider, philanthropist who made time to give


When Harrisburg School District Superintendent Sybil Knight-Burney mentioned that she wished her district’s students knew more about African American history, Karen Snider, head of the district’s nonprofit foundation, quickly handed over a check to pay for 15 students to attend an NAACP banquet.

Knight-Burney was touched to see that the check came not from the foundation, but from Snider’s own pocket.

“She believed in our kids, she believed in people, she believed in herself and in the power of giving,” Knight-Burney said.

Snider died unexpectedly in her sleep this past January at the age of 77, according to her obituary. She left behind a legacy of charitable giving, both in terms of time and money, that the Women’s Fund is recognizing through its newly renamed Karen Snider Women in Philanthropy Award.

Snider was Secretary of Public Welfare under Gov. Robert Casey and later founded Susquehanna Consulting and Financial Group in Harrisburg. She devoted her later years to a long list of charitable organizations, including the Harrisburg Public Schools Foundation, The Foundation for Enhancing Communities, the Rotary Club of Harrisburg and many others.

Snider received numerous accolades for her contributions to the midstate community, including the Women’s Fund’s first Women in Philanthropy Award in 2011.

“She was so involved in so many thing but handled it all so smoothly you never knew how busy and how involved she was because everything she did she did well,” said Carolyn Dumaresq, a long-time friend of Snider’s.

Dumaresq, a former Pennsylvania Secretary of Education, will be one of two recipients of this year’s Karen Snider Women in Philanthropy Award. The other is Betty Hungerford, director of development for the Homeland Center retirement community in Harrisburg and another friend of Snider’s.

Hungerford recalled Snider’s efforts through the Rotary Club of Harrisburg to renovate a worn-out room for victims and witnesses in Harrisburg’s police station, as well as her devotion to helping former inmates through the state’s court-assisted re-entry program, among Snider’s many other community-focused efforts.

“Karen made the time to do that,” Hungerford said. “She was so busy, yet she made time.”

Jennifer Wentz
Jennifer Wentz covers Lancaster County, York County, financial services, taxation and legal services. Have a tip or question for her? Email her at jwentz@cpbj.com.

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