STAR-BULLETIN / 2005
Christy Betts, left, and Amanda McCann swing McCann's 15-month-old son, Jack. Betts and McCann lead The Baby Hui.
The Women's Fund backs programs that can make all the difference for those in need
Amanda McCann, president of The Baby Hui, recently reconnected with a teen mother who had been in one of her classes a few years earlier. When the young mother -- now living on her own and parenting successfully -- realized who McCann was, she exclaimed, "I can't tell you how much you helped me!"
The Baby Hui was one of several nonprofit organizations that received a grant from the Women's Fund of Hawaii last year. It used the $4,500 to sponsor 30 teen mothers and purchase materials for a 10-week course at several public high schools, working to keep the girls in school and enable them "to be good parents and set goals," said McCann, 28.
TEA AND CHAMPAGNE
Honoring the 2006 Women's Fund of Hawaii grantees
Party time: 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday
Place: Indigo Eurasian Cuisine, 1121 Nuuanu Ave.
Call: 737-4999 or visit womensfundhawaii.org
Another bonus: Participants made close friends. "So many groups kept going after the 10 weeks," she said. "You build a whole new ohana."
Another Women's Fund grantee last year was Women in Need, which used the $5,000 to add three parenting classes for victims of domestic abuse and women recovering from drug addiction -- many of whom had watched their children go into foster care. Consequently, the group was able to accommodate 52 more people, and saw several families successfully reunite as a result of the 16-week classes, said WIN director Mary Scott Lau.
The Women's Fund anticipates just as much achievement from its latest group of grantees. To honor its 2006 beneficiaries and celebrate its fourth round of grants -- distributed twice a year -- the organization is hosting its second annual Tea and Champagne Party on Thursday.
"We're keeping the ticket price really low ($40) so people can come," said executive director Sara Buehler. "The goal is for people to learn what programs are out there."
STAR-BULLETIN / 2005
McCann, At left, sits with her children Lily Carlson, 4, left, and Jack.
Raising money and bestowing grants between $1,000 and $10,000 to organizations that help women and girls "become safe, financially secure and empowered" is the mission of the nonprofit founded in 1989, which has 350 members statewide.
According to the Women's Fund Web site, three girls between the ages of 15 and 18 get pregnant every day. Domestic violence kills one woman per month. And half of all single mothers live in poverty.
"Our job is to find little organizations out there that are working on these problems, and to increase their funding," said Buehler, who earned her law degree to help her advocate more effectively in this arena. The Women's Fund gave $27,500 in grants in 2005. In the first six months of 2006, grants have exceeded $25,000. The goal for this year is $50,000. Though some foundation and corporate support helps sustain the organization, 85 percent of its money comes from individuals. The board of directors is composed of volunteers.
Anyone can fill out the two-page grant application for the nine committee members to review and rank. Top priorities include services for women and girls, native Hawaiians and rural areas on neighbor islands. For many of these groups, "$5,000 can make or break a program," said Buehler.
The Kohala Cheer and Dance Club in Hawi on the Big Island received a $5,000 grant this year. Girls were disappointed that the Pop Warner Cheerleading Program would operate only four months a year, so they decided to do whatever they could to sustain the sport year-round.
"A lot of these girls are not involved in any other activities," said Toma Raymond, a special education assistant at Kohala Middle School who is the club's volunteer coach and coordinator. "In our little town, there's not a whole lot to do. There's a lot of things they could get into that would not be productive for them."
She and her best friend, Johnelle Ching, organize, coach, raise funds and make sure everyone gets home safely from practice. "We're the taxis ... everything!" she laughed.
Thirty-two girls, ages 5 to 15 on two different squads, now will be able to train 12 months a year. The squad also has uniforms and money to pay for a bus to transport them to competitions, and even harbors distant hopes of renting space in a gym occasionally. And it's possible the coaches won't have to pay for incidentals out of their own pockets -- for a while, at least.
A creative writing program at the Women's Community Correctional Center in Kailua was another beneficiary this year. Ilima Stern, a retired teacher at Hauula Elementary School started teaching the class with Pat Clough about two years ago, and the progress of the participants is noteworthy.
"It's very therapeutic for them," Stern said of the female inmates. "Some of them are reluctant about writing; it's not one of the things they've been able to do in the past."
STAR-BULLETIN / 2005
Ilima Stern helps inmates at the Women's Community Correctional Center in a creative writing class.
But when they understand the freedom writing gives them, their attitude changes. "This gives them a way to express their feelings appropriately. They are very honest."
Stern and Clough will use the $5,000 grant to publish a second "Hulihia" literary journal of class writings. The 110-page book, whose title means "transformation," will be distributed throughout the prison system, to public libraries and other outreach programs related to drug addiction and mental health.
This, Stern believes, is an opportunity for the community to read and understand the circumstances that led many to where they are in life. It's important because "these women feel the greater community has forgotten about them."
In an ongoing effort to improve the health of Native Hawaiian and Filipino women on Molokai and Lanai, the Women's Health Center at Molokai General Hospital received $5,000 to devote to a new project encouraging women to comply with breast and cervical cancer screenings. They plan to fill 300 to 500 lauhala gift bags with fragrant lotions and body soaps, as well as cancer-prevention pamphlets. To receive the goodies, women must visit the clinic for an annual PAP smear.
STAR-BULLETIN / 2005
Betts and McCann lead The Baby Hui, a nonprofit organization that received a grant from the Women's Fund of Hawaii to finance its program to help teen mothers stay in school and become exceptional parents.
"If we can get them in the door the first time and make it a pleasant experience, we're hoping the reminder calls and cards will help them return," said Desiree Puhi, director of outpatient services at the health center.
Research indicates that Native Hawaiian and Filipino women suffer from higher rates of cervical and breast cancer. Early detection is imperative for successful treatment, yet women are still reluctant to participate.
"The services are available, but we don't really know what the barriers are," said Puhi, who believes cultural issues might be part of the problem.
Word of mouth led health center representatives to the Women's Fund. Distributing incentive gifts at health fairs proved to be a "great way to get the community involved in health education," said Puhi.
The grant will make an enormous difference for the program. Puhi expressed gratitude toward the Women's Fund -- "it's just important that women support women."