By Jessica Isaacs
As partners in an effort to make important social progress in the High Country, members of the Women’s Fund of the Blue Ridge recently hosted the organization’s annual Power of the Purse luncheon. The event raised more money than any of the fund’s luncheons in years past, and the agency is now prepared to accept applications for this year’s grant cycle.
“We are a fund by women for women, although we have a lot of male friends in the community who are very generous. We have an all female board and an all female membership,” WFBR Executive Director Karen Sabo said. “We raise as much money as we can and then we grant that money once a year to organizations in the community that have programs that benefit specifically girls and women.”
The fund’s website displays its mission statement, which reads:
“Our mission is to create positive change and economic justice for women and girls in the counties we serve. Through funding to local nonprofit agencies, we aim to be a philanthropic catalyst for all women and girls to have access to the resources they need as they strive to become empowered and reach their full potential.”
On June 25, WFBR hosted its 2015 Power of the Purse luncheon — one of its primary annual fundraising efforts — at Eseeola Lodge’s Camp Yonahnoka. The get-together brought in close to 300 members and guests and auctioned off some impressive prizes, including autographed guitars from country music stars Reba McEntire, Rascal Flatts, Lady Antebellum and Little Big Town.
The annual event exceeded its fundraising records of the past and pulled in a remarkable $96,760.
With the money raised, WFBR now enters its latest grant cycle and is now accepting applications from grant recipient organizations in the area. While WFBR aims to fund as many programs as possible that benefit local women and girls, its board members make supporting domestic violence shelters and awareness agencies a top priority.
“One of the most important things to us is addressing domestic violence issues, so we do encourage those agencies to apply and we try to fund them the best we can,” Sabo said. “It’s about personal safety for women and education for younger people, abusers and survivors. It’s just a really important part of our mission, so those are some of our most funded groups.”
Agencies that have worked with WFBR in the past are invited to submit grant applications between now and Aug. 1. Any new organizations in the community are encouraged to submit a letter of inquiry and find out how to be a part of next year’s grant cycle.
MORE ABOUT THE FUND
Unlike other women’s funds, WFBR also participates in various outreach programs. While they can’t fund every organization that applies for a grant, its members remain committed to serving the community in other ways.
“We always wish we could fund all of the grants at 100 percent. So far we’ve never been able to do that, but that’s our goal because these are great agencies, wonderful nonprofits led by wonderful people,” Sabo said. “These are programs that make an impact and we are always interested in talking to people about joining and donating so we can all make some positive societal change.”
Some of its upcoming outreach efforts include the annual local Back to School drive, which collects school supplies for children in the area, and an October coat drive that helps WFBR provide warm outerwear for people at the Hospitality House.
“A lot of other women’s funds focus on philanthropy, but we love to do outreach, too, and that differentiates us from other funds,” Soba said. “We can make change in society through these donations and for education programs, needs programs and cycle-breaking programs. That’s the most important thing we do.”
WFBR is also unique in that it offers membership to a wider variety of interested parties than most other funds like it.
“All women’s funds are great, but for some of them, because they’re focused much more on philanthropy than outreach, you need to have more money to join,” Sabo said. “The wonderful fund in Asheville asks an $1,100 per year commitment for three years, which excludes a lot of people from being able to join. Our highest level is $2,400 and up, which is a $200 a month commitment.
“But we also have membership that takes no money and is based on the number of volunteer hours people do for us. We’re a very inclusive fund and we want everyone to feel that they are contributing to helping other women and girls in society. So what it takes to be a member is just contacting us here at the office and giving at whatever level you can.”
For more information about Women’s Fund of the Blue Ridge, visit the agency online at www.womensfundoftheblueridge.org. To contact the office about membership or grant applications, reach Sabo at [email protected] or at 828-264-4002.
Check out these photos by Kenneth Kirksey from the Power of the Purse 2015 event on June 28: