Friday, October 14, 2011

Strength in numbers

Women make bank for local charities

Express Staff Writer

Members of the Wood River Women’s Charitable Foundation talk at a gathering earlier this year. Photo by Mountain Express

The power of pooled money is awesome, no matter who you are or how much you have.

It's the latest philanthropic tool using the power of community investors.

The Wood River Women's Charitable Foundation is a local example of 130 women united in their desire to address emerging issues pertinent to the community in the area of arts, education, environment, social services and health. In the past seven years, these women have given $1,000 a year to the foundation with up to half eligible to be earmarked for a favored charity, and the other half into the pool.

To date that has meant more than half a million dollars being distributed among the valley's nonprofit coffers to facilitate their public aid programs.

The foundation is now accepting grant applications for the 2012 grant cycle. It means any nonprofit with 501(c)(3) tax status located in Blaine County can submit a letter to apply for one of the grants. The deadline is Nov. 4.

"The economy helps dictate how we apply the criteria to make a decision," explained Board Member Carol Scheifele-Holmes recently. "There are always unbelievably compelling needs."

A grants committee reviews letters of interest submitted by the organizations and selects 10 to 12 nonprofit projects that best meet the foundation's criteria.

Criteria include addressing a critical community need in Blaine County, developing a bold new venture, creating new approaches to old problems and providing dollars to leverage more and forge partnerships.

In August, grants were presented to The Hunger Coalition, Senior Connection, the Advocates for Survivors of Domestic Violence, Planned Parenthood, Blaine County Education Foundation, Wood River Fire & Rescue and the Wood River Community Orchestra.

After presentations from the finalists, the process concludes with voting by the membership.

It's never easy, but it is as fair as it can be. The pooled funds are sent to the Idaho Charitable Foundation in Boise with a list of those that members have voted for.

The rest of the year, the women are educating women in philanthropy.

"I didn't realize how much I could learn about my community, and how many truly passionate people there are trying to help," Scheifele-Holmes said. "The foundation is growing organically to meet that need."

While I was writing this story, I got a call from one of my daughters, who after merging piggy banks with her sister and seeing the bounty that resulted, crowed, "Mom, Gracie and I put our money together and get this—we're filthy rich."

Maybe they'll form a junior chapter.

Jennifer Liebrum:

Get involved

To apply for a grant or become a member, contact the Wood River Women's Charitable Foundation at or call Carol Scheifele-Holmes at 726-6826.

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