Then, Marie said, "You know what we need? A women’s foundation.”
They soon began brainstorming with other like-minded women, including Ilene Shapiro, Carrie Herman, Laurie Zuckerman and Jody Bacon, then president of Akron Community Foundation. Rather than embark on creating their own private foundation, Jody encouraged the women to partner with Akron Community Foundation to harness the power of endowment while avoiding the costs and burden of administration. “It was a blessing from heaven,” Marie said.
From that seed, the Women's Endowment Fund grew.
A partnership for progress
In 1993, Marie, Norma and 104 other women raised a combined $106,000 to start the Women's Endowment Fund. It was a major accomplishment, particularly in the early 1990s, but it was also proof that the fund's mission of encouraging philanthropy among local women and girls was necessary and attainable.
In 2012, the Women's Endowment Fund of Akron Community Foundation embarked on "For Women, Forever,"
an ambitious campaign to grow the endowment by $2.013 million by 2013 – the fund's 20th anniversary. Since then, women from all over greater Akron have held fundraisers for the Women's Endowment Fund, which range from Zumba events and cocktail parties to musical theater performances and wine tastings.
“We think so often of philanthropists as people who give millions, but through the Women's Endowment Fund, we all can be philanthropists," Marie said.
In the following two decades, the Women's Endowment Fund would grow to more than $2 million and award nearly $600,000 in grants. The fund accepts grant applications for programs that inspire, empower and educate women and girls throughout Akron and all of Summit County.
The group also funded important studies on women and girls, including "The Economic Status of Women in Ohio," a briefing paper that uncovered great disparities based on race and ethnicity. These studies, along with the fund's bi-annual forum, help define the Women's Endowment Fund's grant-making priorities.
For Women, Forever
Still other women like Karen Lefton and Kathy Booth have begun their own charitable funds and engaged their mothers, daughters and other loved ones in the Women's Endowment Fund's cause of improving life for greater Akron's women and girls.
To learn more about the Women's Endowment Fund's work throughout greater Akron, read its recent publications.