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The Power of the Purse — Benefiting Our Community Kristin Kramer

Y

es, a purse can be a powerful fashion statement. Arriving at an event with the “right” bag may draw attention. But what if women combined “purses” to make a positive difference in the lives of women and girls in the community. Chiara Sockel Renninger helped establish “The Power of the Purse” in Greater Reading to do just that!

Chiara, a Berks native who graduated from Governor Mifflin High School and Bucknell University, moved back to the area in 2001. She volunteered in the community and served as an assistant basketball coach at Governor Mifflin, but she was looking to do more. “I wanted a way to interact with other women, while providing support for the community, and I wanted an opportunity to learn about the critical needs within our community at a higher level,” Chiara explained. “Even though I’m from Berks County, I did not understand how much need there is in the Greater Reading area.” Chiara, an Advisor and partner for Herbein Wealth Management, met with Franki Aitken, Senior Vice President for Finance and Operations at the Berks County Community Foundation, to explore options and to discuss what types of funds had been established to support women in neighboring communities. Through a client, Chiara learned of the Good Shepherd Women’s Giving Circle. “After attending one of their meetings in 2011, I decided Berks County could benefit from a women’s giving circle dedicated to giving back to women and children,” she said. In 2012, Chiara met with Franki and Heidi Williamson, Community Foundation Vice President for Programs and Initiatives, to set up general guidelines and a fund framework. That year, a group of local women pooled their resources to create The Power of the Purse in 12 Women2Women Summer 2015

Berks County Fund at Berks County Community Foundation. “As the group considered some of the many issues faced by women and girls, one insight emerged repeatedly: women who have support and the skills they need to become gainfully employed are empowered to improve their quality of life,” Chiara shared. The Power of the Purse provides funding to help break the cycle of poverty by eliminating or addressing barriers for Berks County girls and/or women who want to enter or re-enter the workforce or to seek the education they need to do so.

Making a Difference

During the past three years, The Power of the Purse has grown to 38 members and has given back over $78,000 to help women and children in our community. Local nonprofits can request funding through the Community Foundation, which provides administrative support to assist with the process.

mothers are able to qualify for other childcare subsidies. Berks Counseling Center received $5,200 to develop a work attitude program for women in recovery. The 38-week program was developed to cater to women’s issues and everyday barriers that could limit women from reaching their full potential in their careers, maternal expectations and individuality. Berks Women in Crisis Educational Opportunity Fund received $8,981 in 2014 to assist domestic violence and sexual assault survivors obtain their GED or to connect to other educational opportunities. Also that year, Co-County Wellness Services received $8,981 to help educate young women in the City of Reading on the risks of teen pregnancy through the Curriculum Dissemination Project (CDP), and The YMCA of Reading and Berks County received $10,581 to support Y-Haven. This year four nonprofits were awarded grants totaling $34,500! Mary’s Shelter received $5,000 to support the Education and Employment program, which assists young women in securing post-graduation employment, education, or training that will help them become successful parents and self-sufficient adults. Bridge of Hope received $5,000 to support their efforts to end and prevent homelessness for women and children with the help of trained mentoring groups within congregations. The YMCA of Reading and Berks County received $10,500 to support Y-Haven. Reading Recreation Commission received $13,000 to support their Girls Leadership Program, which empowers young women in urban environments to be leaders and visionaries and gives them the tools to be healthy, successful and contributing members of society.

How You Can Help

In 2013, Opportunity House received $5,000 to offset the cost for women to earn their GED, and The YMCA of Reading & Berks County was granted $5,000 for women in the Y-Haven program, which enables mothers in transitional housing to quickly accept jobs and educational opportunities by covering costs for childcare and transportation until

By making an annual donation, your dollars can help provide funding for women and children in Greater Reading. If you are under the age of 35, your annual commitment is $500, and women age 35 and over have a financial commitment of $1,000 annually. Time commitment is minimal with four meetings held each year. A kick-off meeting is held in the fall featuring a speaker discussing current community needs. At the

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