When a group of women got together in Sun Valley last July, they all had one common interest—philanthropy. It all started when Jo Murray of Jo Murray Public Relations introduced her pro bono client Cathy Silak, president of the Idaho Community Foundation, to Barbara Thrasher.
The three discussed whether or not they could find women to participate in a charitable organization to benefit some of the under-served needs of the Wood River Valley. The result of this meeting was the formation of the Wood River Women's Charitable Foundation.
"We invited people we thought might be interested and hoped to get 25 people together, which is really hard to do," said Murray. Much to their surprise, 50 women responded to the invitation.
The group was asked to donate $1,000 each to participate in the 501c3 tax-exempt nonprofit organization, which functions with the support of the Idaho Community Foundation.
"It's easy to give and to pay your dues to live here," Murray said. "We wanted everyone to feel included, have a voice and not feel overburdened, but to keep the group very informal. If you only have time to write a check, that's fine."
At 94 women strong, the group has had a successful year at fulfilling grant requests. A grant of $10,000 was issued to the Bellevue Library for interior physical improvements. A grant of $5,000 was given to CASA, court appointed special advocates for abused and neglected children, for recruitment, support and training of Guardians ad Litem, and the College of Southern Idaho received a $12,500 grant to purchase microscopes for a college-level biology lab at the Hailey campus. In addition, Blaine County Senior Connection received $2,500 of a $10,000 request for essential transportation to elderly and disabled citizens in the county.
Currently, the foundation is writing its bylaws, creating offices and selecting officers. "The real focus is to find projects that would not be funding and pool money ... There are few places to go for small grants," Murphy said.
There are 20 such women's groups in the country, and many have been started by women who have known each other for a long time, Murphy said.
"One of the personal benefits to this group is meeting people that I didn't know, and would never have the opportunity to meet."