|Submitted by: Michelle Dejno
The Women’s Fund, like so many other nonprofit organizations that inspire change in our community, not only benefits the recipients of the programs it funds, but enriches the lives of the community members who help make that possible. This couldn’t be truer for the participants in the Girls’ Grantmaking Project (GGP). This program originated in 2012 as a way to enlighten girls from area high schools about community needs, educate them in the process of making grants to community organizations and empowering them to make a direct and lasting impact on the lives of the beneficiaries of the grants they made.
Each year’s group of girls learns about philanthropy, issues affecting their own community and the importance of volunteerism in order to be a catalyst for change. The dynamics they experience by working with their peers, nonprofit agencies and strong leadership has been, in many cases, a life-changing experience. For many participants, this is their first exposure to such situations, and the dynamic interaction and sense of community empathy changes their outlook for life.
In the recent GGP Report (2017), a study of the 86 girls who participated 2012-2017 was conducted to learn the power of the program from their perspective. Of the 86 girls, 39 responded to the survey – that’s an astonishing 45%! The report is overwhelmingly positive, and many cited this program as the catalyst for their adult life choices… ranging from community activist, college major choices and creating new outreach programs.
My own daughter, Grace, was a Class of 2013 GGP participant. Through my community volunteerism and work, she was no stranger to the importance of helping to make our own backyard a better place for all, but volunteering for an event or bringing items to school for a food drive was just the tip of the iceberg of her own personal experience… until she was selected to participate in the GGP. She was so moved by the need and support (or lack of) for community organizations that she chose to commit to helping people for a profession and delved into the Human Development/Family Services major – focusing on ways to improve our society by helping people from birth to death.
The ability to make a difference was important to her. “I learned that being a teammate and morphing into the role of a leader, support system or creative mind. whatever the group needs, is all worth it for the big picture. The Girls’ Grantmaking Project had a great influence on my choosing to go into the human service field,” says Grace. She continued on to say, “I’ve taken that initial experience and carried it on through my work at StoutReach during college and will continue on that path as an adult and recent college graduate. Looking for employers who are committed to that same philosophy is important to me.”
Over 20 community organizations have been awarded grants from the Girls’ Grantmaking Project. The ability to give participants a voice, instills in them the importance of engaging in their community, and inspires them to make lifelong giving choices… all with an end result of providing assistance to our friends in need. Thank you to the J. J. Keller Foundation and the Ethel Keller Fund for Women for your past support of this inspiring opportunity for our area high school students.