-by Jennifer Pope Baker
executive director of Women’s Fund of Central Indiana
Wow! Were you with us earlier this month for Power of Women’s Fund Philanthropy, presented by Glick Philanthropies? We were excited to celebrate more than twenty years of grant making, announce a $750,000 mental health grant, share a unique partnership with the grant-making Motor Speedway and hear from Brooke Shields, a conversation sponsored by Cindy Simon Skjodt.
Over the past twenty years, Women’s Fund has awarded 415 grants totaling $7.7 million to 114 women and girl serving organizations in Central Indiana; we have focused most of our funding in the areas of caregiving, domestic violence and economic mobility; plus, funding for programs serving girls that help create future stories and a lifetime of economic security.
We are particularly proud of funding organizations, programs and populations that are vulnerable, underappreciated and often ignored. Programs for teen parents and their children, women involved in the justice system, Latina girls and their mothers, refugee women resettling in our city, and programs that help women secure long-term employment. With many of these programs, Women’s Fund dollars were first in the door to launch new initiatives. Such was the case with the $750,000 grant Women’s Fund awarded at Power of Women’s Fund Philanthropy earlier this month—for me, it was the highlight of the evening.
We announced the results of a nine-month search, conducted by a taskforce, for a bold, innovative idea that would create a new way of thinking about mental health and young girls, particularly girls of color. We wanted ideas that would disrupt the status quo of systems and create culturally appropriate programming that would help dispel myths and misunderstanding about emotional well-being. Collaboration would make it even better in our eyes. Our hopes were a tall order!
Asante Children’s Theatre met that tall order with their proposal to create The Sankofa Paradigm Program, a trauma-informed therapeutic theater program for girls, ages 8-18, at Boys and Girls Clubs of Indianapolis. Through theater games, narrative storytelling, enactment and performance—through preserving and celebrating the African and African-American performing arts tradition—girls will have a space to express their feelings, solve problems, and work together to present a collective narrative. The girls will also receive mental health supports from IUPUI and Community Health Network. It’s a true collaboration. The success these young girls will have in this new program will help make this a healthier community for all of us.
Allison Melangton, senior vice president, Hulman Motorsports, announced at Power of Women’s Fund Philanthropy that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) has partnered with Women’s Fund for the international Week to Change Direction effort June 8–15. On May 18 and May 19 during Armed Forces Qualifying Weekend, May 24 at Carb Day and May 25 at Legends Day, IMS promoted Week to Change Direction with videos and by displaying the five signs of emotional suffering on their big screens and on distributed posters and cards.
Our evening would not have been complete without the fantastic conversation between Brooke Shields and Carolene Mays-Medley. During the conversation, sponsored by Cindy Simon Skjodt, Brooke talked openly about the many ways mental health has impacted her life. She shared her personal relationship with her mom who lived with alcoholism, her own postpartum depression, and the joys and challenges of raising two teenage girls.
Brooke was compelling in her plea for people to talk about postpartum depression and normalize conversations about mental health. She explained that her book, “Down Came the Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression,” was inspired by a desire to provide a resource for her daughters, so if they choose to have children of their own, they have their mother’s words of assurance in perpetuity—they’d never be alone.
I am thankful for candid, open conversations like the one with Brooke Shields. For partnerships like the one with IMS and other institutions in our city driving change for conversations about mental health. And for innovative initiatives, like the one being created and launched by Asante Children’s Theatre.
Thank you for being a friend—longtime or new—of Women’s Fund. And thank you to our nearly 50 Power of Women’s Fund Philanthropy sponsors. You encourage us to think big and live boldly in service of others.
If you would like to contribute to our efforts, please visit womensfund.org.
Jennifer Pope Baker