READING, PA – A group of Berks County women has made its largest annual round ever of donations to programs that help other local women increase their leadership skills, sense of empowerment, and ability to find employment.
The Power of the Purse in Berks County awarded $45,000 in grants through Berks County Community Foundation to seven organizations. That is the largest annual amount the group has distributed since it was formed in 2012. The previous high of $37,000 was set in 2017.
Women who wanted to improve the lives of other local women and children started the Power of the Purse in Berks County, said Chiara Renninger, one of the group’s founders.
“Our donations are combined and targeted toward specific programs so that we have a greater local impact than we would if we each gave individually without a coordinated effort,” she said.
Annually, from November to May, group members review grant applications, visit nonprofits, and vote to determine which programs will receive grants. Since the group began, it has awarded $225,903 in grants to local organizations.
This year’s grant recipients:
CONCERN – Professional Services for Children, Youth, and Families
CONCERN was awarded $15,000 to enhance its Intensive Family Reunification Services Program to Better Empower Working Mothers. This program focuses primarily on helping single mothers finish their education, become a productive member of the workforce, lessen their dependence on public assistance, and reunite with their children who have been living in out-of-home placement.
VOiCEup Berks received $12,800 for its Youth Volunteer Corps of Reading In-School Leadership and Service Program. The program, which is part of the school day, provides weekly opportunities for middle school girls in Reading to be involved in service learning and leadership development. Service learning combines educational efforts with community service projects.
The program demonstrates to students their capacity to change their lives and their community through their choices and actions. Projects the program has previously completed include a school-wide anti-drug meme contest, a school-wide PSA on teen suicide, and “Bags of Hope” assembled for girls at a local shelter.
YMCA of Reading and Berks County
The YMCA was given $7,500 for a program that enables women in transitional housing, and who would otherwise be homeless, to quickly obtain employment and educational opportunities by paying for child care and transportation. The program also provides the women with opportunities to engage in creative experiences.
F.R.E.E. Drop-In Center
Freedom and Restoration for Everyone Enslaved, a local nonprofit that fights human trafficking, was awarded $2,770 to help establish a F.R.E.E. Drop‐In Center at a location in Berks County to provide relief for women who are experiencing sexual exploitation.
Barrio Alegria, a Reading community development organization, was presented with a grant of $2,770 for its “Storytelling through Dance” program. The program uses the arts as a platform to shift community residents’ perceptions of themselves and their communities by embedding leadership- and self-confidence-building activities in theatrical productions that explore difficult social themes. While several performances will be produced to engage the community, the productions aren’t the goal. The goal is to increase empowerment, leadership and community- building.
Clare of Assisi House
Clare of Assisi House, which provides transitional residential living and life-skills training to women in Reading, received $2,360 to enhance programs that include money management and GED attainment.
Girls on the Run of Berks County
Girls on the Run (GOTR) of Berks County will use a grant of $1,800 to launch a new one-week program, Camp GOTR, to provide elementary-school-age girls with opportunities for physical activity and social and emotional development during non-school times. GOTR inspires girls to be joyful, healthy, and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum that creatively integrates running.
For more information on Power of the Purse, including how to join or contribute, go to bccf.org/pop. Members commit a minimum of $1,000 per year if they are 35 and over, and a minimum of $500 per year if they are under 35.