BRAVE. BOLD. YOU. Resounds at FWG Celebration Raising Nearly $600,000
Commemorating its history of community impact, Tracee Ellis Ross was the featured keynote speaker at Fairfield County’s Community Foundation’s Fund for Women & Girls Annual Luncheon. More than 800 friends and supporters from Connecticut and beyond were part of this celebration held at the Hyatt Regency in Greenwich, Connecticut, on April 4, 2019. The empowering theme —BRAVE. BOLD. YOU. — applauded the heart that supporters have steadfastly brought to empower women and girls in the county for more than two decades. The estimated gross proceeds from the 2019 luncheon was nearly $600,000, exceeding this year’s fundraising goal.
“BRAVE. BOLD. YOU. perfectly embodies the role that the Community Foundation’s Fund for Women & Girls has courageously played in our region. We salute our devoted supporters for their brave and bold tenacity for The Fund and their ongoing dedication to changing the lives of our women and girls in our region,” stated Juanita James, President & CEO, Fairfield County’s Community Foundation. “We are honored that Tracee Ellis Ross joined us to celebrate our accomplishments and the support of our benefactors.”
Over the years, Fairfield County’s Community Foundation’s Fund for Women & Girls has invested over $7 million in sustainable solutions, informed by research, in support of economically secure, safe and healthy women and girls throughout the county. Established in 1998 by a small group of visionary women, The Fund is now New England’s largest women’s fund.
“The Fund for Women & Girls has had another great year; one that includes commissioning fresh research to ensure our funding continues to align with the most critical needs of the region. Our vision and values – like those of our keynote speaker, Tracee Ellis Ross – are helping women and girls to be safer and healthier; to achieve equity and equality; experience inclusivity; and to feel empowered to be their authentic selves in their lives and bodies,” stated Tricia Hyacinth, Director, Fund for Women & Girls.
Fund for Women & Girls pioneer, Anne Leonhardt, contributed seed funding that ultimately launched the Fund in 1998. In honor of her legacy, the second Anne S. Leonhardt Award was bestowed upon Vicki Craver, a longstanding supporter of the Community Foundation and The Fund. Craver was recognized for her community leadership and philanthropic efforts to strengthen Fairfield County.
Last year, Fairfield County’s Community Foundation’s Fund for Women & Girls awarded over $985,000 in grants to 30 organizations and have positively impacted thousands of women and girls. Grants were bestowed on organizations that share a commitment to meet the unique needs of women and girls and fuel solutions through research-driven work. The research, which will be unveiled at a community event in the fall, will guide The Fund’s development of new investment areas, competitive grantmaking strategies and advocacy efforts for 2020 and beyond.
Net proceeds from the Annual Luncheon will benefit the Fund for Women & Girls’ programmatic work, including the Family Economic Security Program (FESP) at Housatonic Community College. FESP, a signature program of The Fund, recognizes the critical need that low- and medium-income adult students often cannot attend college due to competing needs, financial hardship, lack of childcare and more. FESP addresses these issues by providing financial aid, as well as comprehensive, bundled support services that foster an encouraging and nurturing environment for its students, leading to economic security and sustainable careers.
During the luncheon, Rebecca and Rich DelValle, the first FESP couple to be highlighted at the luncheon, spoke about how the program has changed their lives and those of their six children. Rich DelValle stated, “FESP has enabled us to accomplish so much more than we ever imagined. And now our children are seeing what’s possible for them and their futures and their families. To be able to make such a generational impact is priceless!” He continued, “Believe it or not, it was the boldest and bravest thing I’d ever done – to go back to school in my late 30s. I wanted our kids to know that change can be good. There are options out there if you’re open to them.” In conclusion, his wife, Rebecca DelValle, said, “When you’re living day to day to survive, that type of hardship doesn’t give you the luxury to dream. But with FESP, you’ve given us – and our family – that gift.”
The Fund for Women & Girls dedicated Steering Committee member, Leah Glover, of Danbury, co-chaired this year’s luncheon with Jane Carlin, of Stamford. They were supported by an engaged luncheon committee from across the region. The co-chairs led a highly successful Text-to-Give fundraiser during the event that will directly benefit this worthwhile initiative. A Text-to-Give challenge matching gift of $50,000 was generously donated by the daughters of Anne S. Leonhardt, Barbara and Melissa. This year’s Text-to-Give effort raised nearly $120,000, generously donated by attendees during the luncheon.
The audience was further invigorated when award-winning actress, producer and activist, Tracee Ellis Ross brought her unparalleled energy to the stage. She uses her voice, platform and social influence to spread an important message of equity, inclusivity and acceptance which aligns with The Fund’s core values and mission. As an influential voice in modern conversation, she answered a wide range of questions.
When asked about the role women friends play in her life, Ms. Ellis Ross responded, “Being a friend has done more for me than being friended. I grew up in a tribe of women. It was my mom and her three girls. So, this myth in the world that women are in competition with each other is, by the way, not a myth. It’s because the systemic environment has been there is only space for one of us and that we’re supposed to compete with one another, just to get a place for one of us. It’s just a way to silo us off and keep us separated from each other because in the collection of us, there is power, collective power in us.” She continued by saying, “There’s enough sun for everybody. Your win is my win. I really believe that. Every time a woman laughs out loud, lives out loud, loves out loud, I get more permission to do the same. That’s how, to me, the human spirit is supported in that energy of community and connection.”
Stamford Health was the Presenting Sponsor for Fairfield County’s Community Foundation’s Fund for Women & Girls Annual Luncheon. In addition, Annual Luncheon champion sponsors included TD Bank; Deloitte Services LP; Eversource; Koskoff Koskoff & Beider, PC; Manatuck Hill Partners LLC; NBC Sports Group; Neuberger Berman; People’s United Bank; Pitney Bowes; Spinnaker Real Estate Partners LLC; UBS; United Bank; Wells Fargo Private Bank, Ethan Allen and Nielsen’s Florist and Garden Shop. Media sponsors included Media Partner - Hearst Media Group Connecticut, Moffly Media, Star 99.9 and 95.9 the Fox.