A Publication of WTVP

Having just passed the 88th anniversary of the enactment of women’s right to vote, how appropriate that Hillary Clinton put those 18 million cracks into the glass ceiling. Or that Michelle Obama brings to the podium the idea of “women’s lives.” And Sarah Palin has exemplified so well the many facets of those lives. They all celebrate women’s contributions, while recognizing that there are improvements to be made when women still only earn 76 cents for the same work for which men earn $1, and where women and children make up 66 percent of families living in poverty.

In 1993, another benefactor recognized that women’s and children’s lives are intertwined, and what impacts women also impacts their children. At the direction and encouragement of Sharon Holling, who was active in the Junior League, and Donna Haerr, who was the first executive director of the Community Foundation of Central Illinois (then called the Peoria Area Community Foundation), the Jay Goldberg Companies made a special gift to the Community Foundation from profits derived from the Women’s Lifestyle Show. The gift established a fund designated as “The Women’s Fund” to provide scholarships for women. From the beginning, it was established so that any person, corporation, trust, estate or organization could make a fully tax-deductible gift to support the efforts.

The Women’s Fund was established as the only advisory committee to the Community Foundation. Donna Haerr then implemented the very first board of directors for the Women’s Fund. She recruited outstanding women to join her, including the late Millie Arends, Rebekah Bourland, Carlotta Bielfeldt, Dorothy Cornish, Diana Hall, Jennifer Lee, Judy Oakford, Roberta Parks, Debbie Ritschel and Joan Ruppman.

Over the years, the board worked to grow the endowment of The Women’s Fund. Along the way they also encouraged mentoring, acting as the bridge between the YWCA and Bradley University, to connect young women with powerful mentors. This was the starting point of the current First Tuesdays.

The Women’s Fund acted as a filter to ensure that the funds under their control were used in ways that would have the greatest impact on local women and children—funding many excellent programs put on by local nonprofit organizations. The list is long, but among the many excellent causes supported by The Women’s Fund are Child Care Connection’s partnership to educate child care providers in the Manual High School area, Dress for Success, and a dating violence prevention program by the YWCA in Canton. As they grew, so did their endowment.

The Women’s Fund also participated in the 1998/99 Governor’s Commission on the Status of Women in Illinois. Rebekah Bourland headed this committee and created the collaboration with Dr. Stacey Robertson of Bradley University.

Juanita Adds Healthcare
In 2001, The Women’s Fund was enriched by a gift from the Juanita Slane estate establishing a fund to support innovative programs that assist with the healthcare needs of women. Called “Juanita’s Hope,” this fund is a subset of The Women’s Fund.

Because of the seed money from Jay Goldberg Companies, Juanita Slane’s bequest and the many donations that followed, women’s lives and the lives of children in central Illinois have been made better. But the best is yet to come! Last year, the board focused on rebuilding their direction and strategy and renewing their purpose. This group included: Duffy Armstrong, Pam Johnson, Drew Gay, Cathy Butler, Roslyn Radee Adams, Mary Corrigan, Margee Cullinan, Mary Dill, Donna Haerr, Pat Hagenbuch, Monica Jagiella, Cheryl Kuppler, Carol Ladwig, Janice Lourgos, Jennifer Mellon Keffeler, Danielle Pflederer, Linda Sahn, Chris Shay, Nancy Snowden, Shann Tunks and Cathy Williams.

In 2007, in celebration of Mother’s Day and with Drew Gay at the helm, they restarted First Tuesday—this time as a networking opportunity for women and an occasion to communicate their renewed dedication to building the endowment of The Women’s Fund.

A Million Times Better
The current board has developed a goal to grow The Women’s Fund endowment to a million dollars. They plan to achieve that by having a thousand women give a thousand dollars each, reflecting the growing financial independence of women. As the first generation in which more than half of women had careers nears retirement: 60 percent of all women work, women now own at least 40 percent of businesses in the U.S., and 51 percent of all assets are held in the names of women. So while there is still great need evidenced by the earlier statistics of less income and greater poverty, there are also a growing number of women ready to step up, change our world and help. Now, thanks to The Women’s Fund, there is a way for women to designate their financial gifts to help women and children.

The current president of The Women’s Fund Board, Duffy Armstrong, says it well: “When we were raising our children and building our careers, there may not have been anyone to help us. Now it is our chance to make sure that that is not the case for our children and their children. We are looking for more women who would like to be ‘Founding Members’ of The Women’s Fund. If you can give $200 a year for 5 years, you qualify. Come help us make a million-dollar difference in the lives of central Illinois women and children.”

To support The Women’s Fund, call Stephanie at (309) 674-8730, or visit and click “Opportunities for Giving.” iBi