Vermont Women’s Fund Awards Grants to 14 Organizations


By Amelia Pollard, Contributing Writer

This spring, the Vermont Women’s Fund, a program of the Vermont Community Foundation based in Middlebury, is awarding $124,000 in grant money to 14 organizations throughout the state. The funds will be used to teach financial literacy to girls from ages 12 to 25 and to help them develop jobs, skills and find mentors. The initiatives included an array of programs designed to launch women into today’s competitive workforce.

Vermont’s robust history of philanthropy has long supported the empowerment of young women. Whether because of economic hardship, family burdens or distressed relationships, many teenagers and 20-somethings in the state have struggled to obtain financial opportunities.

The Vermont Women’s Fund has parceled out grant money to non-profit organizations that aid young women since 1994. Each year, the donor base has strengthened, with private donations and public attention rising.

“We’re all about economic self-sufficiency,” said Meg Smith, director of the Vermont Women’s Fund.

The organizations to receive the grants all have the primary goal of helping young women who may not find support in their family to better their lives in the future. Since its founding, the Fund has awarded more than $2 million to programs that align with the organization’s mission.

Some of this year’s recipients encompass career development and exposure to various fields and industries. For example, Green Mountain Habitat for Humanity received $10,000 in order to mobilize a team of young women interested in the construction field. This group of women will have the opportunity to build a home for a local, low-income family, giving them the skills for a potential future career. Another program, MedQuest, received funding to immerse high school students in healthcare careers, fostering connections in the field.

Through a reactionary tactic, other organizations were chosen for their rehabilitation approach to economic and personal hardship girls face. Destined for Something Big, an initiative through the John Graham Shelter, helps women reach independent stability through career field trips, workshops and peer group meetings.

Vermont Women’s Fund has recently taken on funding for Change the Story, an initiative to make systemic change within the state to strengthen opportunities and equality for women. The mission is backed by two other organizations, the Vermont Commission for Women and Vermont Works for Women, in a collaborative effort.

The substantial aid doled out this year by the Fund and its involvement with Change the Story illustrates the group’s determination to make a difference in the lives of young women. In the coming years, the Fund hopes to tackle some of the impediments to female success in the state.

“It goes deeper than programs; we’re really trying to look at some of the causes,” Smith said, referring to the lack of opportunity for women. “We’re trying to address, statewide, how women should be getting equal pay and taking on issues of family leave and work-friendly environments.”