New Grants Totaling $490,000 Support and Expand – Strong Women Strong Futures Network

The Women’s Fund of East Tennessee (WFET) is announcing $490,000 in new grant support to provide new services and expansion of the Strong Women Strong Futures (SWSF) Network. The SWSF Network’s Vision is to change the current pervasive and discouraging narrative that creates a barrier to education for women and girls, into a cultural mindset that every woman and girl deserve to make the most of themselves by taking advantage of opportunities to further her education.

Congratulations to the following eight original Network nonprofit organizations and the four new exemplary nonprofit organizations who will receive grant funding beginning in January 2022, with continuation through December of 2023: 1. Boys & Girls Club of Elizabethton/Carter County; 2. Boys & Girls Clubs of the TN Valley; 3. Centro Hispano de East Tennessee; 4. Children’s Center of the Cumberlands/Scott County; 5. Girls Inc. of the TN Valley; 6. Project GRAD Knoxville; 7. The Restoration House/Knox County; and, 8. YWCA of the TN Valley. New members include: 9. Boys & Girls Club Kingsport/Sullivan County & a new Upper ETN Joint Venture in Carter, Greene, Sullivan & Washington counties; 10. Girls, Inc. Johnson City/ Washington County; 11. HoLa Lakeway Morristown/Hamblen; and, 12. Safe Harbor Child Advocacy Center of the Smokies/Sevier County.

In addition to these 12 agencies, funding has also been awarded to provide the first Navigator, Porschia Pickett, through a shared community partnership with the Knox Ed Foundation. The Navigator is the resource information hub to connect parents and young women to the resources they need and direct linkage to the corresponding SWSF Network member in their region. Grant funding is also being provided to include a Spanish speaking Navigator, website, and material resources in English and Spanish. The Women’s Fund believes that by 2024 the SWSF Network can become self-sustaining – an ongoing source of support to encourage young women and their families to choose post-secondary education as a real and viable option.

Earlier funding 2018 -2021 of $658,000 provided the initial 8 nonprofits already committed to improving the lives of young people throughout East Tennessee. The group included: Boys & Girls Club of Elizabethton/Carter County; Boys & Girls Clubs of the TN Valley; Centro Hispano de East TN; Children’s Center of the Cumberland; Girls Inc. of the TN Valley; Project GRAD Knoxville; The Restoration House/Knox; and YWCA of the TN Valley. This Network of organizations completed extensive research to understand the current regional narrative around post-secondary education. Based on this research, they worked to develop tools and resources to reach the young women, caregivers, and staff they serve. More about this project can be found here.

Funding for the Strong Women Strong Futures Network comes from the Women’s Fund Endowment and the Haslam Family Foundation. Currently, at $4M, WFET Endowment is fueled by members of the Women’s Fund and gifts from the private sector. The goal is to reach $10M. “Imagine what can be done when approximately $500K is made available every year in perpetuity to support low-income women and girls,” said Terry Morgan, Executive Director, WFET, “this will make significant change for our women and girls in East Tennessee.”

According to Think Tennessee, “Nearly one in six women in Tennessee live in poverty and half of Tennessee families depend on a female breadwinner.” Additional education after high school can lead to economic security, higher income, more stable employment, and job benefits.

“The vision of the Women’s Fund is ‘every woman self-sustaining.’ However, reaching that end often requires additional training. Consequently, we want to encourage women and girls to enroll in post-secondary education, whether that be a four-year college or university, two-year community college, technical or occupational trade school, or certificate program,” said Katharine Pearson Criss, Chair of the Network Building & Grant Making Committee of WFET. “Young women should have the freedom to choose what their future holds. Education will make more options possible.”

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