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Shining Stars: Women’s Giving Circle

Considering they’ve only been in operation for six years, you may not be aware of the Women’s Giving Circle and all the good they’ve done for numerous area non-profits.

In just those few years, they’ve given away more than $200,000 in grants.

NEWS9 sat down with chairwoman Joan Stamp and past chairwoman Kris Molnar, two of the group’s founding members, to see how and why they contribute so much to their community.

“We thought that there was a need for support of young girls and women in the Ohio Valley,” Stamp said.

The Women’s Giving Circle is housed under the broader Community Foundation. Stamp said it seemed like much of the organization’s grant money was being distributed to the same non-profits over and over, so she and other Giving Circle founders including Molnar and Sue Seibert Farnsworth decided to address a need for women and girls.

“Women coming out of incarceration who cannot get their children back and they can’t rent a home,” Stamp said. “Men, it’s easy to get a rental home, so the YW[CA] has a program called the transitional living program where they go into counseling, they have the boutique to help them dress, they teach them how to do an interview process in order to go interview for jobs, try to help them get back on their feet, get their children back. So these are the kinds of things we wanted to help with.”

“Youth Services has lots of services for pregnant teens who don’t have a home,” Stamp added. “Their parents don’t want them, and they have a house on the Island. They have a counseling program.”

The Women’s Giving Circle is a membership group. Dues are $500, and $250 goes to an endowment fund, while $250 goes to the grant fund that’s distributed every year.

More recently, the Giving Circle created a new membership level. Women under age 40 can join for $250.

Molnar said they added the option so they “could build membership and help educate people about philanthropy.”

“It’s a learned behavior I think, philanthropy and supporting social services in the community,” Stamp said.

The group started with only 17 members in Stamp’s living room in 2011. Now, their ranks have swelled to 150 members. Over five years they managed to give away approximately $165,000, and at Thursday’s meeting at the Wheeling Country Club, they surpassed $200,000 in grants.

To receive funds from the Women’s Giving Circle, non-profits apply online at the Community Foundations’ website. A committee reads the grant applications and discusses them before deciding how to distribute funds. Another committee within the Giving Circle educates potential non-profits on how they could benefit from funds and how to improve their applications.

Past beneficiaries include the YWCA, Youth Services Systems, the West Virginia Northern Community College emergency fund for female students, a robotics course for women in engineering, the Wetzel County Smart Science Center, Girl Scouts, summer camps for girls, Tri-County Help Center and more. Their direct reach extends to eight counties: Hancock, Brooke, Ohio, Marshall, Tyler and Wetzel counties in West Virginia and Belmont and Jefferson counties in Ohio.

However, indirectly, the Women’s Giving Circle has reached even further.

“We’ve helped spawn a couple of other giving circles,” Stamp said, citing groups in Morgantown, WV and Marietta, OH. “They learned what we were doing and wanted to do it in their community, which is wonderful.”

Stamp also says they hope their membership continues to grow. She thanks Susie Nelson, CEO of the Community Foundation, for helping the Women’s Giving Circle achieve their goals.

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