Monday, February 13, 2012

United Way of Greater New Haven's Women’s Initiative has fundraiser coming up

By Jazmine Hughes
Special to the Register
United Way of Greater New Haven Women’s Initiative aims to “engage women in the United Way’s work through a focused investment of their time, talent and treasure,” according to its website.
“The United Way’s work in the community is to bring together the caring power of people and change, and one of the ways of doing this is by uniting women and giving them the opportunity to support issues that are important to the community,” said Maria Arnold, the vice president of development of the agency.
There are more than 120 Women’s Initiative’s in the United States, engaging over 50,000 communities.
Launched in June 2011, the New Haven-based Women’s Initiative’s priority areas are health, income and education. In 2006, the agency embarked on a large community needs assessment, involving for-profit, non-profit, and governmental organizations.
“New Haven has the largest income disparity in Connecticut and a huge achievement gap within our region. That is what set our direction,” said Arnold.
The Women’s Initiative’s first major project was creation of a New Haven food truck. A pressing need was for children to have access to nutritional meals outside of school. Many children in the New Haven Public School system live below the poverty line, thus, during the summer, they don’t have access to the nutrition they receive in schools.
The Women’s Initiative collaborated with the public school system to create a solution: bring nutrition to the communities. Combining fundraising efforts for a vehicle and federal funds for food, the food truck debuted in summer 2011, providing 16,597 meals in 22 days.
“The food truck was a perfect start: an immediate community need with an innovative solution, which needed awareness and fundraising around it. It was really tangible in terms of hearing what the needs are and getting women around engaging the solution,” said Arnold. Each year, the Women’s Initiative will focus on a large-scale project.
All the work of the Women’s Initiative is spearheaded by the Leadership Council, a component of the initiative, responsible for implementing strategic direction, and making decisions around the identification and selection of projects.
The group had its first meeting of the year on January 11, which attracted close to 35 women, both existing and prospective members. The group discussed upcoming fundraising events, including an event in which scholar Claire Guadiani discusses her book on women and philanthropy, which will be April 26.
Arnold is excited about their upcoming efforts. “Women really want to be close and connected to the issues that they support, and we’re really seeing them want to be involved.”

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