May 20, 2009

A sell-out crowd of over 300 people who share the Women’s Fund’s belief in investing in the future of the women and girls in our community attended at our third annual Trailblazer Luncheon at Wolferts Roost Country Club on May 20th.

At this luncheon, we honored the three outstanding Trailblazing Women of 2009 in recognition of their philanthropy:

Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D.

President, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Jan Smith

Manager of Public Affairs, GE Energy

Lorraine Power Tharp, Esq.

Posthumous Award

Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, Ms. Jan Smith and Mr. Russell Tharp, on behalf of his late wife Lorraine, shared stories about personal challenges and strong belief in the importance of supporting efforts on behalf of women and girls in our community.

Shirley Ann Jackson, the first African American woman to earn a Ph.D. from M.I.T., spoke of her commitment to ensuring opportunities for other women and for African-Americans, particularly in the Greater Capital Region. She quoted an oft-repeated African proverb: “Educate a boy and you educate an individual. Educate a girl and you educate a community.”

Jan Smith emphasized the importance of “being true to yourself” as well as building competency and not being afraid to try something new “just because it seems impossible.” If one doesn’t know it is impossible, one is much more likely to try, and often to succeed, she said.

Russell Tharp, Lorraine’s husband, accepted the award on her behalf. He spoke of the discrimination Lorraine often faced (and overcame), beginning in law school, because she was typically the first woman to accomplish most of what she did in her life.

The Women’s Fund 2009 grant awardees also were announced at the luncheon. Each program was selected because of its ability to directly address the challenges faced by women and girls striving for financial stability and independence. These included:

Women Build Careers Initiative – This program will provide resources and expertise to help low-income women find a fulltime career. Partners for this program include Albany Community Action Partnership, SEFCU and Equinox, Inc.

St. Patrick’s Home-Based Child Care Partnership – This neighborhood-based project emphasizes the support and training of childcare providers residing in low-income inner-city areas of Albany. Partners for this program include Catholic Charities, SEFCU, Holy Family Parish and the Capital District Child Care Council.

Money Smart – This program will engage low-income women in learning the basics of financial literacy, including banking, credit history, budgeting and owning a home. Partners for this program include Commission on Economic Opportunity and Capital Communications Federal Credit Union.

Project Independence – This project enables domestic violence victims to develop skills and find employment, ultimately allowing them to live independently. Partners for this program include YWCA of Schenectady and the Schenectady County Department of Social Services.

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Including these grants, The Women’s Fund has awarded more than $126,000 in three years to Capital Region programs.

Our honorary event co-chairs were Susan Houpt, Chair, The Women’s Fund of the Capital Region, and Jane Golub, a Trailblazing Woman of 2008.

Our emcee was Susan Arbetter of WMHT.

The success of this event was due in large measure to The Women’s Fund’s Events Committee, chaired by Steering Committee member Alicia Lasch.

As part of the Third Annual Trailblazers Luncheon, The Women’s Fund collected toiletries to help women and children served by domestic violence shelters. The Fresh Start Project will benefit shelters in the five counties served by The Women’s Fund.

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The Women's Fund gratefully acknowledges the generosity and support of our sponsors.

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