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Women's Fund looks to improve life for women, girls across area

WILLMAR -- When organizers with the Women's Fund of the Willmar Area Community Foundation were looking at how to allot grant money this past year, one program that caught their attention was Kitchen Kamp, an initiative by the Heartland Community Action Agency to help teenaged mothers gain basic knowledge about nutrition and budgeting.

The Women's Fund ended up awarding a grant to the program. Another grant went to the child guide program with the Willmar Public Schools to advocate for at-risk teenage girls.

Other Women's Fund dollars have supported Shelter House and the pre-nursing program at Ridgewater College.

It's the goal of this relatively new philanthropic fund to help make life better for women and girls in the Willmar area.

"Rural areas tend to have less programs than metro areas. Kandiyohi County does have a need for grant money for programs that focus on women and girls," said Suzanne Napgezek of the fund's steering committee.

To help raise more awareness of the Women's Fund and its mission, a special event, "Time for Tea, Time for Women," will be hosted from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Holiday Inn and Willmar Conference Center.

It's the first time the fund has held a formal fundraiser. Although organizers hope to raise some money, their real purpose is to let the public know what the Women's Fund is doing.

"It's a celebration of the fact that women are interested in helping women and we have the resources to do it," Napgezek said.

"Getting the word out, I think, should help," agreed Shelley Hedlund, a member of the steering committee. "We would welcome anyone to come."

The menu, inspired by the British tradition of high tea, will include organic and gourmet teas, scones, crumpets, preserves, fresh fruit and vegetables, tea sandwiches and mini-desserts. A program at 5:30 p.m. will feature a talk on the history of teatime by Sandy Evans of Gilday's Tea House.

The most recent grant awards by the Women's Fund also will be announced at the event. A handmade quilt and original painting are being raffled off as well.

The fund's current focus is on programs that support teenaged girls, foster economic and social skills among this age group, and encourage them to envision their future.

In future years this focus might shift, depending on what local needs emerge, Napgezek said.

The Women's Fund has one grant cycle each year. It has an endowment of $120,000 that the steering committee hopes to increase to $200,000 by next June.

"What we're trying to do is build an endowment fund so we can give more and more grants each year," Napgezek said. "We're in this for the long haul."

Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

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