A group of Berks County women has made its largest ever annual round of grants to programs that help other local women and girls increase their leadership skills, sense of empowerment, educational attainment, and ability to find employment.
The Power of the Purse in Berks County awarded $60,000 in grants through Berks County Community Foundation to eight organizations. That is the largest annual amount the group has distributed since it was formed in 2012.
“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, group members review grant applications, meet with nonprofits, and vote to determine which programs will receive grants. Since the group began, it has awarded $285,903 in grants to local organizations.
This year’s grant recipients:
- VOiCEup Berks, $12,575: For its Youth Volunteer Corps of Reading In-School Leadership and Service Program. The program provides 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, “Bags of Hope” assembled for girls at a local shelter, and advocacy for menstrual equity (providing feminine hygiene products to girls in need).
- Safe Berks, $10,000: To run the Education, Empowerment, Employment! program, which provides survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault with financial assistance and support for education, transportation, child care, job searches and more.
- Reading Recreation Commission, $10,000: For its Girls Leadership Program, which empowers young women in Reading. The program addresses peer pressure, bullying, self-worth and self-confidence. Girls participate in community service projects such as food and clothing drives. The program includes speakers, female mentors and field trips.
- Community Prevention Partnership, $10,000: To support the Nurse Family Partnership program, which provides home visitation to first time, low-income mothers beginning in pregnancy and continuing until the child’s second birthday.
- Berks Youth Chorus, $5,000: For scholarships to ensure all girls ages 8 to 18 who desire to sing with the chorus can do so, regardless of financial need. BYC’s programs help girls develop the soft skills they need to succeed in their education and in the workforce, such as confidence, leadership, time management, effective communication, and teamwork.
- Girl Scouts of Eastern PA, $4,619.50: To support its Funded Initiatives Program, an innovative, out-of-school-time leadership development effort that engages hundreds of girls between the ages of 5 and 17 in underserved areas of Berks County.
- Girls on the Run (GOTR), $4,619.50: To provide Power Up kits to local girls. Power Up is a new at-home program by Girls on the Run that uses creativity and physical activity to teach valuable skills to girls, such as how to stand up for themselves and others, recognize the leader within, better understand and deal with emotions when times are difficult, and learn to enjoy and be present in daily life — all of which are incredibly relevant right now during the pandemic. This funding will also support the GOTR fall season in Berks.
- Clare of Assisi House, $3,186: For its “Bridge the Gap” program, which offers workforce development, drug and alcohol counseling, and life skills training to non-violent women who are coming out of prison.
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.
Attached photo: “Girls Supporting Girls. Period.” — a project of the Youth Volunteer Corps of Reading In-School Leadership and Service Program — seeks to address a lack of access to feminine hygiene products, which has been identified as a significant problem among Berks County women and girls in low-income households and shelters.