Fund Celebrates 20 years of Empowering Women

November 17, 2016

Photo: Women’s Fund Chair Paula Cohen explains the important work of the fund over the past two decades.

The Women’s Fund of the Richland County Foundation celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. Since its inception, the Women’s Fund has awarded grants to local nonprofit organizations that support women and girls as well as 29 scholarships to women who are non-traditional students attending local colleges to total over $307,000.

“The Women's Fund was formed to help meet the unique needs of women and girls. The role of women has changed much since then, and we will continue to adapt as our community evolves. We look forward to the future, “said Women’s Fund Chair Paula Cohen.

Foundation President Brady Groves said “the Women’s Fund is a critical partner of the Foundation. Through grant making, committee members provide the leadership, energy and funding to address local needs.”

The Women’s Fund began as a concept of Linda Smith, who envisioned an endowed fund to encourage philanthropy among Richland County women and to provide funding to 501c3 programming that supports women and girls.      

“I grew up in a very supportive encouraging family, something that I took for granted.  As I grew older, I came to understand the many unique challenges women face and the difference having a strong support system could make in your life.  I felt strongly about helping other women and fortunately so do many others,” said Smith. 

Smith and then Foundation President Pam Siegenthaler reached out to people in the community to discuss the idea of a fund especially for women. A core group became interested, committed, and joined the effort to establish the fund.   

Smith served as the original chair and the other founders were Suzanne Davis, Erin Fain, Carol Goldman, Catherine Goldman, Edith Humphrey, Joanne Humphrey, Carol Payton, Bets Risser and Suzanne Wilson.

The founding members felt working with the Foundation would provide trusted fiscal oversight as well as respect in the community. 

The fund was established in 1996 and is one of more than 335 charitable funds at the Foundation. Past and current advisory committee members along with its donors celebrate the fund total which now exceeds $1,000,000.  

Each year the 15-member advisory committee works with staff to review applications and visit organizations seeking grants. The Women’s Fund is accepting grant applications until September 16; grant guidelines are available at

Current Women’s Fund Advisory Committee members are Charma Behnke, Carolyn Carto, Carol Chambers, Paula Cohen, Jodie Dees, Lynn Fahmy, Erin Fain, Susan Gentille, Sally Gesouras, Jill Haring, Edie Humphrey, Kristie Massa, Jeanne Meisse, Della Phelps and Deanna West-Torrence.

In addition to annual grants, the Women’s Fund provides college scholarships to nontraditional female students, awards the JoAnn Dutton Award to honor volunteerism, and conducts a Mother’s Day Fundraiser as a way for people to honor the special women in their lives.

The Women’s Fund welcomes all donations which can be made online at or by check.


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