Juanita King 2016 Luncheon Remarks

Has anyone ever investigated themselves? I have and I realized I am an overcomer. The definition of the word overcomer is to beat, to defeat, to conquer, and to gain the victory of. And I have done all of that. Today I am 8 years clean of crack cocaine and undetectable of HIV. I would like to recite a poem by Alexis Xia:

If we can fight together, we must strive together
If we can play together, we must pray together
If we can plan together, we must stand together
If we can cry together, we must try together
If we sing together, we must make peace together
If we stick together, we must stay together
If we have faith together, we must believe together
If we work together, we can make this a better place.

I would like to thank the Washington Area Women’s Foundation for allowing me to stand here today. I would like to thank my daughter, my mother, my sister, my pastors, and my encourager, Mr. Thomas Penny, for coming out today. And I would also like to thank the Goodwill program, for it was you who helped lift me and today I can smile again.

Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat 2016 Leadership Luncheon Speech

Good afternoon everyone! Thank you all for being here. I’m always blown away whenever I walk into the luncheon—the energy, excitement and enthusiasm are truly contagious, and I always leave this room feeling inspired.

And really how could you not be inspired by Karen and Juanita? Wow. Thank you both for the courage it took to share your stories with us today.

You know something that Karen said earlier really resonated with me: She said that you can’t find balance after pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, without a community of support.

At the Washington Area Women’s Foundation, this is what we’re all about, building and mobilizing community. And it’s the power of community that unites us of us here today.

It is absolutely no mistake that the theme of our luncheon this year is Together, We Thrive, because we know that when we bring community together, we can achieve better outcomes. And in the 18 years since The Women’s Foundation was created, we’ve certainly made incredible strides. Last year alone, our grant investments reached more than 3,600 women, and we helped them increase their incomes and assets by $3.6 million.

But we all know that the reality of today is that not everyone in our community is thriving, and in particular, women and girls of color face systemic challenges that stand in their way. And rather than lifting up the strength, resilience, and hope that is resident in communities across the country, some of the current public discourse is dragging us down.

And so, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about that and trying to figure out what I wanted to say to you today. As a white woman leading this organization in this moment, I’ve thought deeply about my role as a community leader in advancing racial equity. I acknowledge my privilege as a white woman, and I acknowledge the privilege and power that inherently comes with philanthropy. Frankly, on some level, it’s easy to hide behind that and go about my day. It’s hard to have difficult and uncomfortable conversations. It’s hard to confront and challenge the unconscious biases that we all have, but at the end of the day, I can’t honestly look into my daughters’ eyes and say that I did all that I could to create a better community for women and girls if I remain silent when deep injustices are happening around me.

Last year, I stood on this stage, and talked about the need for bold action. I’m a firm believer in – “don’t talk, act. Don’t say, show. And don’t promise, prove.”

And that is why today, The Women’s Foundation is publicly committing to advancing equity for women and girls of color and tackling racism head on so that we can truly advance our mission and ensure that all women and girls in our community have the opportunity to thrive.

We must use our voice, our resources and the community we have created to remove the barriers women and girls of color face.

As you know, the mission of The Women’s Foundation is to mobilize our community to ensure that economically vulnerable women and girls have the resources they need to thrive. Economic security has been central to our mission since our founding, but it’s not enough to simply say that we are working with low-income or economically vulnerable women and girls. We have to be intentional and explicit in our language and our actions. We can no longer leave unsaid the realities facing women and girls of color, and I would argue, it’s time to write a new narrative, one where we celebrate and embrace the contributions of women and girls of color.

While it’s always been implicit in our work, now we are committing to also explicitly applying a racial equity lens to our convening, our research and advocacy agendas, and our grant investments.

But most importantly, we are committed to ensuring that women and girls of color not only have a seat at the table, but are driving the solutions. And we’ll start that by launching a Young Women’s Initiative, which will be co-designed with young women and girls of color and other leaders in our community (many of whom are here with us today), all with the goal of crafting policy recommendations that address racial, gender, and other disparities. I’m pleased to say that we are doing this in collaboration with seven other women’s foundations from across the country as part of a broader effort called Prosperity Together, as well as the White House Council on Women and Girls.

As a first step in this Initiative, we are listening—really, truly listening—to the concerns and challenges facing women and girls of color in our community: Issues that limit their ability to achieve higher paying jobs; issues that threaten their own safety; and issues that jeopardize the health and well-being of their children.

And to be clear, when I say issues, what I am referring to are the policies and practices that disadvantage and disempower women and people of color on a routine basis—in other words systemic and institutional racism.

And so today, every member of my board, and my staff, is taking a public stand and professing their commitment to racial equity.  We are all in—today, tomorrow, and for the years ahead because this is hard work, and this hard work that must continue long after the national conversations have faded.

As we move forward in advancing equity for women and girls of color, I ask you to join us.   Stand with us.

Stand with us as we work together to understand the root causes of inequality and inequity in our city, and develop plans, together, to create change.

Stand with us if you believe that having a bright future means that you can’t predict how well women and girls are doing based on their race and ethnicity.

Stand with us if you believe that, Together, We Thrive.

 

Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat’s 2015 Leadership Luncheon Remarks

On October 15, The Women’s Foundation President and CEO, Jennifer Lockwood- Shabat, gave the following remarks at the 2015 Leadership Luncheon.

Good afternoon. Wow – what an amazing crowd! I’m Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat, and I’m thrilled to welcome you to today’s luncheon.

At each of your plates sits a small blue or orange envelope marked Wait to Open. The suspense has been tough, I know! But inside that envelope sits your fate for the next few minutes: either that of a woman thriving, or that of a woman struggling.

So now I’d like you to open your envelopes.

If you have a blue envelope, you are living the life of a woman who is thriving. You likely graduated from high school, college and maybe even grad school. You are employed and earn a comfortable salary. You can afford high-quality child care, a home of your own, and you set aside money each month for savings. If you opened your envelope to learn that you are thriving, I’d like you to stay seated.

If you have an orange envelope, then you are living the life of a woman struggling to get by. It’s likely that you graduated from high school, but college wasn’t an option. You are employed at a local chain restaurant, making $21,000 per year – minimum wage – barely enough to cover your bills, let alone child care for your toddler. Each week, you cobble together coverage through friends, family, and neighbors, wondering if your daughter is learning what she needs to be prepared for kindergarten. Each month, you make tough choices about which bills you will pay – whether it’s your daughter’s asthma medication or the heating bill – because you can’t cover both of them in full.

Thriving Struggling Cards

If you’ve found yourself with an orange envelope, please stand.

Take note. Look around. 1 of every 4 individuals in this room is now standing.

1 in 4.

These are people you know. They are your neighbors, colleagues, and friends.

The women and men standing are representative of the 476,000 women and girls in this region who are struggling to get by.

But why? It doesn’t have to be this way.

●    What if – right now – we doubled down on our investments to build economic security in this region?

●    What if for every door that felt closed off to a woman, we helped open 2 more doors of opportunity?

●    What if, instead of making assumptions, we took the time to listen – really listen – to what women need,
so we can tailor solutions that will truly help them get ahead?

If we were to do this, then you could all take a seat. And as you take your seat at the table, know that, in doing so, you’re creating new seats at the table. This is what a model community looks like—a place where we all have comfortable seats at the table, and ample opportunities to thrive.

It’s not so far out of reach.

Last year, I stood on this stage and shared my own personal journey. Having come from a place of struggle, I am now thriving. And so this work is very personal for me. My mom and daughters are here with me again today, and although I argued a little bit with my oldest daughter Katia about whether she should really miss a day of school, she said to me, “Mom, I want to see what you do. It’s really important to me.” And there you have it. That’s the difference. Because my trajectory changed, her trajectory has changed, and she sees other possibilities.

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But that’s not the case for far too many women and girls in our community. When mired in the challenges of poverty, especially when it’s the only life you’ve ever know, it’s hard to lift your head up and see a brighter future for yourself and your family.

When we talk about female poverty in our region, 1 in 4, we must explicitly talk about the disproportionate impact this has on women and girls of color.

16 percent of Black women and 14 percent of Latinas live in poverty compared with 6 percent of white women.

And when we look at families led by single women, the disparities for women of color are truly staggering.

What’s happening with women and girls of color in our community is so deeply connected and intertwined with what is happening to men and boys of color. My Brother’s Keeper has ignited an unprecedented investment in boys and young men of color, an investment and conversation that is long overdue. I applaud our trifecta of leadership—the Mayor, the Chief of Police, and the Chancellor—for these efforts.

I think we can all agree that this isn’t about one gender or another. This isn’t about pitting girls against boys. This is about investing in the future of our community, investing in our children.

What we need now, more than ever is bold action.

So today, I am challenging our community to join The Women’s Foundation and boldly invest a collective $100 million over the next five years in our region’s women and families, many of whom are women of color.

Join The Women’s Foundation in committing to moving the 476,000 women and girls currently facing economic hardship to a place of consistent economic stability. Our region’s families deserve nothing less.

To aid in these efforts, in the coming months we will be unveiling a donor advised fund model that will transform how we collectively invest in this work. Because we can achieve this, and when we do, we will transform our community. We will transform lives.

To better appreciate the life-altering nature of our work, I want you to consider the story of Okema.

Three years ago, Okema stood on this stage and shared her personal journey. In her mid-20s she found herself unemployed, trying to raise her daughter single-handedly. She enrolled SOME’s Center for Employment Training where she graduated and ultimately earned a job working for SOME. Today, 8 years later, Okema is now the Lead Employment Retention Specialist at SOME. That means she is the person responsible for ensuring that recent graduates have the support they need to stay in their jobs for the long-term. And she has the real life experience to share. I recently ran into Okema, and she shared with me that she now wants to become a life coach. Imagine that – talk about paying it forward?

It’s success stories like Okema’s that make this work both critical and rewarding. We can’t be intimidated or daunted by the staggering statistics. We have to focus on what’s possible and the positive signs of progress that we are seeing every day.

Last year, our grantmaking reached nearly 7,000 women, and as a result:

●    Women collectively saved close to a quarter of a million dollars.

●    More than 400 women increased their collective incomes by $1.5 million through new jobs or advancing to higher paying jobs.

These are impressive results, but we know much more needs to be done. Over the next five years, we are committed to increasing our investments in this community from $1 million to $5 million.

But those investments can only be successful if the women they support aren’t hindered by other barriers—like access to child care or transportation.

DC is poised to become one of the most generous places in the country for low-income workers seeking paid family and medical leave. Regardless of where you stand on how we pay for this benefit, there is no ignoring that the time has come to have this important conversation.

This is just one of the many reasons why The Women’s Foundation is also committing to coordinating our work with those community partners and policymakers who are positioned to remove barriers and enact tangible policies that improve the lives of women and girls.

You are each here today because you know one very simple truth: when women are strong, our community is strong. And yet, just a stone’s throw away—whether it’s Langley Park, Bailey’s Crossroads, or Anacostia—there are roughly 30,000 single moms who are struggling to make ends meet, and their children know nothing else but what it feels like to scrape by.

So yes, bold visions are needed, but bold actions are overdue. Today, I’ve laid out for you our commitments, but I want to know what will each of you do to change the uncomfortable reality for so many women and girls?

You are The Women’s Foundation. We are The Women’s Foundation. Together we will invest in our greatest innovators, entrepreneurs, educators, and changemakers.

Together, we can change the FUTURE.

We don’t need to look any further – WE have the power to make this happen.

And NOW is the time.

Thank you.

Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat’s Luncheon Remarks

On October 23, The Women’s Foundation President and CEO, Jennifer Lockwood- Shabat, gave the following remarks at the 2014 Leadership Luncheon. Please click here to see a video of her delivering the speech in its entirety.

Here. Now. For Her. – is this year’s luncheon theme.  I hope as you thought about coming today, you also took a moment to reflect on what this means to you.

Why are you here, now—in this moment?  Who is the “her” in your life who has touched you profoundly, or whose life you have touched? 

For me, this theme is deeply personal. You see, in many ways, I am HER.  And I am here today because of my mother, Dianna Lockwood.

My mom grew up poor in a small town in NH, on a working farm, the youngest of three sisters. She never had the opportunity to go to college.  She met my dad while working as a medical transcriptionist at a VA hospital in Vermont.  He was a physician’s assistant.  They created a wonderful life—two kids and a house they built on 10 acres of land.

JLS-family-merged-photos

And then the summer I was 10, it all changed. I remember the day well – my mom and dad came home in the middle of the day looking very sad and confused.  It was the early 80s, and many of you will remember, a recession was hitting the country.  The small private doctor’s office in our hometown was struggling financially, so they made a business decision – lay off the person who made the most (my dad) and the person who made the least (my mom). That decision changed our lives forever.

Up until that point, my dad was a high-functioning alcoholic. But being laid off crushed him, and he turned to alcohol frequently and worked only sporadically. We repaired our relationship later in my life, and he was an amazing grandfather to my girls before he passed away 5 years ago. But for the rest of my childhood, it was my mom who got up every day and put one foot in front of the other, consistently working two and three jobs to make ends meet.

I knew that my mom was making great sacrifices so that my brother and I would have the opportunities that she did not.  I could see how tired and stressed she was, and I’m certain there were many days when she’d simply had enough. I learned early on that if I wanted something, I needed to work hard to earn it.  I got my first job at 15.  That summer, and every summer for the rest of high school, I too worked two jobs, selling tickets at the local race track by day and waitressing at the local Pizza Hut by night.

I worked not because I wanted extra spending money, but to pay for basic necessities and do what I could to save for college. My mom always regretted not having that opportunity, but was determined that her children would.  It wasn’t easy financially, and I worked full-time pretty much the entire way, but I am proud to say that I am the first person on my mom’s side of the family to not only get a 4-year degree, but also a master’s degree.

Today is a big deal for my mom.  She’s here, with my husband, my daughters, and my brother.  She’s watching her little girl on stage, running a nonprofit in the nation’s capital, remembering some very dark days, and I know she’s thinking, “Damn, it was all worth it.”

Women's Foundation Luncheon 2014

So, I do what I do because of her. I’ve devoted my career to working on behalf of low-income women and their families because I want her to know that the investment she made in me, all of her sacrifices, were not in vain.  And now that I’m a mother, I have a new, more profound understanding of what she did, and I know that as I strive to make a better life for my own daughters, I am paying forward what my mother has given me.

But, my story is just one story.  There are many, many others.  Thousands of women who do all they can to ensure their children and families can step beyond their own experiences and limitations to live their dreams and achieve their potential.  But sometimes having a dream and working hard is not enough. Sometimes the deck is stacked against you.

There are more than 200,000 women and girls living in poverty across the Washington metropolitan region. Sadly, that statistic hasn’t changed significantly in recent years, particularly in light of the recession and what has now become a slow and prolonged recovery for those most in need. That stat also doesn’t capture the additional 250,000 women and girls who are living just above the poverty line, but certainly aren’t earning enough to make ends meet.

As frustrating as these numbers are, and as impatient as we all are for change, we have to remember that most women in our community didn’t suddenly fall into poverty.  It’s multigenerational.  And just as it didn’t happen overnight, it won’t be resolved overnight.

What does it take to move women and girls from a place of economic vulnerability to security?

The answers to that question and the issues our region faces are complex, but now is the time to stand firm in our commitment, craft a bold vision, and re-double our efforts so that future generations of girls can achieve their dreams. That’s why we launched an innovative two-generation initiative to work with middle school aged girls and their female caregivers—whether that’s a mother, grandmother, or another women responsible for guiding and shaping that girl.

You all remember what it was like to be in middle school. It’s a difficult transition under the best of circumstances. As girls develop into young women, there are clear and critical markers that can support or challenge their future economic security.

Our goals for investing in girls are to support high school completion, develop self-esteem, encourage positive choices, and empower them as social change agents.

Our goals for investing in women are to obtain jobs with family sustaining wages and benefits, support increased financial capability, and provide the foundational skills that allow them to break the cycle of poverty for their children.

In the past year, we’ve been proud to partner with College Success Foundation, DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative and YWCA National Capital Area to help forge collaborations and creative thinking on ways to serve both middle school aged girls and their female caregivers with programming that meets their individual needs, while also bringing them together so that they can support one another on this journey. This work will first launch in Ward 7, but our goal is expand our two-generation work across the region, so that the 53,000 girls currently living in poverty can have a brighter future.

The two-generation strategy actually builds and expands upon a decade of investments in our community that have focused on low-income women and women-headed families specifically. Through our grantmaking program, Stepping Stones, we have invested more than $7 million. And that investment has helped over 10,000 women increase their incomes and assets by $45 million through higher wages, decreased debt, and increased savings.

Luncheon-Infographic

Yes, these are impactful outcomes, but I believe we need to think bigger.  We are capable of doing more.  How do we move from 10,000 women to 100,000 or 200,000?  My goal is to, one day, stand before you and say we’ve accomplished this.  And I believe we can do it.

The Women’s Foundation has a powerful voice, and we have a responsibility to use that voice and our power as a convener to affect greater change. Yes, our investments in the community are critically important, but so too is our voice and our deep expertise and knowledge.  These are tools we can leverage, and it’s the combination of our investments and our influence that will ultimately have the greatest impact.

But it’s not just about us.  I know that no one organization can single-handedly end poverty.  This will require unprecedented collaboration and partnership among philanthropy, business, government, nonprofits, and individuals. And we need all of you, here in this room, to help spark a movement. We are poised and ready to lead that movement, and I want each of you to join me. Let’s harness our collective strength to, in turn, strengthen others.

This is the time—NOW.

Because what we do in this moment will shape the future of our communities. There are thousands of women and girls who need us now, more than ever.  Each one of them has hopes and dreams, and they deserve the opportunity to reach their full potential.

Stand with us. 

HERE…NOW…FOR HER.

Thank you.

 

The Year in Review: Top Blog Posts for 2013

Where has the year gone?! We can barely believe that 2014 is just around the corner, and though we’re already looking forward to the great things the future holds for Washington Area Women’s Foundation, we’d be remiss if we didn’t take this chance to look back at the incredible year we’ve had in 2013. We launched a new two generation grantmaking strategy for middle school girls and their mothers, saw incredible success stories from our grantee partners, blew past our annual Leadership Luncheon fundraising goal and much more! We chronicled these and more on our blog, and have rounded up some of our favorite blog posts from 2013:

1. New Grantmaking for Girls: A Two Generation Strategy: Foundation President Nicky Goren announced exciting new funding for innovative programs that work with both middle school aged girls and their mothers or female caregivers to establish economic security across generations.

2, 3, and 4. The March on Washington: In Marching Great Distances: My Family’s Past and Future, and the March on Washington, We March On: Diversity, Unity & the March on Washington, and “I Still Have a Dream:” 50 Years Later, March on Washington Remains Relevant our staff provide diverse perspectives on their experience marching with the Foundation and commemorating the 50th anniversary of The March on Washington.

5. Leaning in isn’t an option for all women: In March, Sheryl Sandberg made quite a splash with her book “Lean In,” in which she advises women to assert themselves in the workplace and beyond. On our blog, we looked at the complexity of “leaning in” for low-income women dealing with many other mitigating factors.

6. Sharon Williams Luncheon Remarks: On October 23, Sharon Williams spoke at The Women’s Foundation’s 2013 Leadership Luncheon. Her remarks inspired those in attendance and were posted on our blog shortly after the luncheon. After speaking, Sharon received a Visionary Award for her commitment to improving the lives of women and their families.

7. Why can the restaurant industry be so difficult for women? Spoiler alert: Top Chef Masters got it wrong: In this post, Jessica Zetzman responds to remarks made on Top Chef Masters to Chef Jennifer Jasinski and shares the real reason the restaurant industry is tough for women.

8. Miss Utah Equal Pay Flub Should Be a Call to Action: Following the media buzz after Miss Utah’s flubbed response at the Miss USA Pageant to a question about pay inequity and women’s rights, Foundation President Nicky Goren reflects on the incident’s indication of the lackluster state of the women’s rights movement.

9. No Joke: The Impact of the Sequester is Devastating Vulnerable Families: In June, we looked at the ways the sequester was affecting families in our region and across the US.

10. Changing GED Could Mean Greater Barriers for Area Women: Following an informative panel put together by grantee partner Academy of Hope, we looked at the upcoming changes to the GED slated to take effect this coming January and how they will impact women in our region.

Sharon Williams Luncheon Remarks

Sharon-SpeakingOn October 23, Sharon Williams spoke at The Women’s Foundation’s 2013 Leadership Luncheon. The following are her remarks. After speaking, Sharon received a Visionary Award for her commitment to improving the lives of women and their families. Please click here to learn more about the Visionary Awards and click here to see a video featuring Sharon and her story.

Good afternoon everyone- It is kind of strange seeing myself up there on the big screen.  As I listen to myself talk – it really does remind me of how much my life has changed. You saw a little of my story in the video, and I’d like to share a bit more with you now.

Upwards of 10 years ago, my life was very different. I spent a lot time asking God, “Why me?”

I was in high school – 10th grade to be exact when I had my first child. I’m not sure if I was afraid – but I can tell you that I was more determined than ever to be and make a difference for my child. Part of that difference was getting married – which I did at 17.  By the time I was 21 years old, I had two children, my own successful daycare business, three vehicles and I purchased my first home – with a white picket fence. I decided that having a daycare was the best thing because I wanted to spend time with my children and everything that I did was for them.

That all sounds nice, but my personal situation was not good, but as I look back on it now I still feel like I made the right decisions especially with the cards that I had been dealt.

And then – life happened.   I got divorced. I closed my business – moved out of my home into an apartment– shared custody of my children and I felt cheated. I began to ask God, “Why me? I’ve done my best – I’ve tried so hard to be a better person and now look!”

I was getting frustrated with life itself and something within me stirred up like a fire and once again – I wanted to make this situation better for my children.

I began taking classes at Prince George’s Community College.   I learned about the Next Step Training and Education Program and I wanted to try it out.

This was one of the best decisions that I could have made.  The Next Step program not only assisted me with tuition but I was also given additional supportive services and tools to aid in my future success.  One of the most rewarding on the most rewarding gift that I took away from the program is a lifelong mentor in Cecelia Knox, the program’s director.

Once I was accepted into the nursing program I was ecstatic!  You would have thought that I hit the Powerball ten times over – and I don’t even play the lottery!

I want you to understand how huge it was for me to go back to school. College was never a goal for me. So you can imagine how shocked I was not only to be back in school… not only to be passing all of my classes… but getting a 4.0 GPA!

I must say to you all – and especially Cecelia – I am so grateful that the Next Step program was in place to assist me when life happened. What do I mean by “life happening?” What I mean is this: When circumstances place you in situations beyond your immediate control. No two situations are the same, and I know everyone in this room can relate to that.

Next Step put me back in control. You see life wasn’t just happening to me but it was I that decided what life would be.

For me, that meant becoming a registered nurse at MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center. It meant an opportunity to provide my children with more stability and security.  It meant taking advantage of opportunities to travel the world – and I have.

I received a full scholarship to Notre Dame of MD University to complete my Bachelor’s Degree.  I traveled to Australia and South Africa – learning about their health care systems and volunteering with TB clinics and HIV orphanages.  I visited Nelson Mandela’s prison cell – I walked in his garden – I strolled in the limestone quarry – just like he did.

But what made a most lasting effect on me was my visit to a nursing home – because that’s where I met Mrs. Christian.  She was a proud elderly South African woman who grew up in the brutality of apartheid.

I sat at her feet as she told our group about seeing the horrors of families being ripped apart and how she stood on the front line with the activists in fight to end to apartheid. Although her comments were towards the group as a whole – she looked into my eyes as she spoke – and I found myself once again asking God, “Why me?”

“I have fought for you to be free,” she said. “And you are under obligation to take advantage of the education available to you and use it to better yourself, your family and your community!”

And she told me – me – that she was proud of me and in that moment my priorities in life changed and my thinking changed and I made a conscious effort to see greatness in others.

I began to believe within myself that if given the opportunity – people living in less than ideal conditions and having less than ideal situations could and would do great things – and  honestly my friends – that is the belief that NSTEP had in me.

As a Registered Nurse I have helped a lot of people old and young alike and I have found babies to be the most interesting species of them all.

Some of them come out kicking and screaming and ready to run for the world and others are born not so active.  They need extra attention – maybe some oxygen and a sternal rub in order to get them to breathe – to get their arms flailing and their legs kicking so they too can be ready to run for the world.

It’s that way for adults sometimes too –  Some are fortunate enough to have had a background and upbringing that allowed them to take off running – while Others need that sternal rub so to speak to help us breath again and give us the strength to stand up and take off for the world as it were –  And when we do – it’s a beautiful thing.

It’s been about two years now since my trip to South Africa and I have worked hard to help others. I know that I have encouraged and inspired others to go back to school.   I often have the privilege of returning to Prince George’s Community College to speaking with women in orientation for the Next Step program and I listen to their stories – I listen to their hopes and dreams without judgment – because I remember being in their seat.

Today, I work roughly 10 miles from where I grew up. Knowing my history – knowing where I come from and where I am now has caused me to ask at times:  Am I one in a million? A needle in a haystack – No.   There are many success stories emerging from the streets of S.E. Washington, DC just like mine.  How? Because we have been given an opportunity and found someone to believe in us more than we believed in ourselves and for me – that was Cecelia Knox and Ms. Myrtle Christian.

Today, my conversations with God are very different. I say a humbled thank you for my 22-year-old son who is my pride and joy – for my 20-year-old daughter who completed high school at 15 years old and is now is studying to become a child psychologist… and for my 11-year-old daughter who is smart and so talented and plays the violin exceptionally well!

Today, I say thank you to God for the courage to keep my head up despite adversity and for allowing me to become an example for those who have the potential to succeed although they may not even realize it – yet.

I’m thankful for the opportunity to be with you fine people today and have you hear my story.  I am grateful that The Women’s Foundation invests in places like Prince George’s Community College – a place that has assisted me in my present and future successes – and hopefully I have been able to show you that what appears to be impossible is possible.

Today, I place you all under obligation to take advantage of what is before you and join me in making our community better than it was yesterday.

Thank you.

Holly Fischer Storms Capitol Hill

This guest blog post was written by Goodwill of Greater Washington, a Women’s Foundation Grantee Partner. The Foundation invests in Goodwill’s job training and support services programs. On October 23rd, Foundation supporters will have another opportunity to support Goodwill by participating in a clothing drive. Bring business clothes and accessories to the 2013 Leadership Luncheon, and help the women and men who participate in Goodwill’s job training programs.

It seems like everywhere you turn these days you hear words like “furlough” and “sequestration.”  Recent budget cuts have cost many federal employees their livelihoods; and with Goodwill of Greater Washington having nine federal contract sites, it has been an issue of serious concern for us.

This past June, Goodwill of Greater Washington participated in Source America’s “Grassroots Advocacy Day.” This event gives agencies from across the country who employ and support individuals with disabilities the opportunity to visit our nation’s capital and advocate to Congress in support of employment for those they serve. This year’s advocacy day focused on attempts to ensure that individuals with disabilities who work in government facilities are not affected by sequestration. Goodwill of Greater Washington was fortunate to be represented by President and CEO Catherine Meloy, Vice President of Contracts Tony Garza, and Holly Fischer who is employed at our U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) contract site. Holly is back to her regular work schedule today, but the recent government shutdown makes voices like hers more important than ever.

When Holly first arrived on Capitol Hill she was very nervous because she wasn’t used to public speaking. “In school I always wanted to be the one holding the flag in the assemblies,” she said. “I never wanted to have a speaking part.”

However, Source America provided several classes for the hand-selected group of advocates to help them become more comfortable with public speaking. With that training Holly felt prepared to take on the opportunity before her.

“A job is more than a way to make money; it is a way to a feeling of self-worth,” Holly told a Senator’s aide. “I know what it’s like to have a hard time finding a job and I know what it’s like to be laid off.” Holly continued by emphasizing the work ethic that she learned as a child. “My father taught me how to work hard and I know how to work hard,” she added. “I appreciate the opportunity to work for Goodwill through the Ability One Program.”

Holly hopes to visit Capitol Hill again one day. Those who saw her in action believe she is a powerful and eloquent speaker. But Holly only wants our elected officials to walk away with one message: that she would not be able to find a good job without the help of Goodwill. “It was well worth it,” Holly said with pride. “If it’s advocating for my job, I will advocate to keep my job. And I will advocate for those who are disabled.”

Holly is a woman of bold conviction who is not only willing to stand up for herself but also for those around her who share similar challenges in life.  Goodwill of Greater Washington is proud to have someone like Holly as an ambassador for our cause!

Portrait Project 2010 Fact of the Week

DYK 52 percent copy

Today’s Portrait Project 2010 fact is one of the most mind-blowing statistics you’ll find in the report: the average annual cost of full-time center-based infant care is 52 percent of the median annual income for a single mother with children in the District.

With more than half of a family’s income going to childcare alone, it’s difficult to imagine how families living below the poverty line could hope to improve their circumstances.

On October 14, Washington Area Women’s Foundation will reveal more statistics like this with the release of 2010 Portrait of Women & Girls in the Washington Metropolitan Area.  And we’ll introduce you to the ways organizations right here in our community are working to help these families build better lives.

Portrait Project 2010 will be unveiled at The Women’s Foundation’s 12th annual Leadership Luncheon and Community Briefing. Between now and then, we will be releasing some of the most compelling facts from the report.  Visit our blog frequently for new information.  We’ll also have updates on Facebook, Twitter (using #PortraitProject) and LinkedIn, so be sure to join us there, too.

Click here for previous facts we’ve revealed from Portrait Project 2010.

Photo Credit: Michael Colella at Colella Photography

Rebecca Roberts: Join me and my mom for lunch on October 20th?

As journalists, my mom and I are often considered powerful women.

But we know that true power comes from much more than a job or a public voice. It stems from collective action and dedication to postive change–in ourselves, our families, our community and the world.

And that’s why we’re a part of The Women’s Foundation’s powerful wave of philanthropists helping improve our community through investments in women and girls.

So, we’re thrilled to be serving as this year’s luncheon moderators, along with emcee NBC4 News Co-anchor, Doreen Gentzler, and to help share The Women’s Foundation’s story of how investments in women and girls pay off infinitely in change within our community.

We hope you’ll join us on Tuesday, October 20, 2009 at The Women’s Foundation’s 2009 Leadership Luncheon from noon-2 p.m.

You won’t want to miss our annual community-wide celebration of the powerful women’s philanthropic movement in the Washington metropolitan area!

As always, the Leadership Luncheon will be preceded by the annual Community Briefing, which will feature an update on Stepping Stones–The Women’s Foundation’s groundbreaking initiative that is helping low-income, women-headed families escape poverty and create lives of financial independence and success.

Please join us at the 2009 Leadership Luncheon, where we’ll stand together as a proud community of philanthropists and activists helping to transform our community through investments in women and girls.

Rebecca Roberts is an award winning journalist whose work can be heard on Talk of the Nation, Weekend All Things Considered, and the Kojo Nnamdi Show.  She is also a member of The Women’s Foundation’s Washington 100 and is co-chair of the 1K Club.  Her mother, Cokie, is an award winning journalist, currently serving as a senior news analyst for NPR News and a political commentator for ABC News.  Cokie is also a member of Washington 100.