A quote from Margaret Mead hangs in the Community Foundation office. It says,"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
On December 11, 1984, the first "brainstorming session" to discuss funding for women and girls was held at the C.S. Mott Foundation. Two Mott program officers, Geri Larkin and Suzanne Feurt, had founded the Mott Women's Support Group. They began pooling monthly gifts-from $5 to $15-to qualify for the Foundation's employee matching gifts program. If they gave $1,000, so would their employer, effectively doubling their gift.
Geri and Suzanne were Mott staffers at that time, and were inspired to give to women and girls causes. While attending a conference they listened as a speaker, then U.S. Representative Patricia Schroeder (D-Colorado), said women and children are the most poverty stricken in the United States. And she challenged them to do something about it.
Coming home, they did their own research and found that 80% of Flint-area residents living in poverty at that time were women and children. About one of every five women over the age of 65 were poor; and half the women working fulltime earned less than $12,500 annually.
This inspiration, coupled with their initial gifts and employer match, took root as the Flint Women and Girls Fund. The Fund was initially established through The Flint Public Trust. The assets were later transferred when the Trust merged with the Flint Area Health Foundation to create the Community Foundation of Greater Flint.
The first meeting of the Flint Women and Girls Fund Advisory Committee was held at the home of Jan Burnside on September 25, 1985. A purpose statement for the Fund was created: "to assist in removing barriers to the economic, educational, physical, emotional, social, artistic and personal growth of women and girls in society."
A group of about 35 women, from all walks of life, served on the first Advisory Committee. Starting from scratch, the group decided on a grant application and selection process, and began advising grants from the Fund.
Preserving Donor Intent
Formative years can be challenging with any new group, and the Flint Women and Girls Fund was no different. In the early 1990s, Geri and Suzanne were no longer at the C.S. Mott Foundation, the Advisory Committee was floundering, and fundraising had come to a halt. The Fund needed some intentional rejuvenation.
"I felt that women and girls were an important target audience and the commitment of the Mott staff who started it ought to be honored," said Dorothy Reynolds, President of the Community Foundation from 1990 to 1997. "My contribution was that the Fund would have been completed halted had I not come to the Foundation."
Dottie, as she prefers to be known, recruited a new Advisory Committee and began some initial fundraising.
"We continued to plug ahead with it," Dottie said. "Making the case for women and girls in that period in history in Flint was not an easy task. But I was committed to the fact that the women from Mott had initiated the Fund and I thought their efforts deserved good treatment."
During Dottie's tenure, the Fund continued to grow, small grants were made, and a new Advisory Committee was established. Just 34 years later, over $707,945.33 in gifts have been made, and over $321,000 in grants has been awarded.
Give to the Flint Women and Girls Fund today to help increase opportunities for women and girls in Flint. To give or learn more about the fund click here.