The Women’s Legacy Fund awarded $31,820 in grants to five organizations at its luncheon on Thursday, focusing on mental health programs with an emphasis on connecting Latinas to services in San Luis Obispo County.
The total amount was the largest awarded in the annual grant program since the inception of the Women’s Legacy Fund, which started 16 years ago “with a small group concerned about women and girls in San Luis Obispo County,” said Heidi McPherson, CEO of The Community Foundation San Luis Obispo County.
Over the years, the Women’s Legacy Fund has grown through donations to an endowment of nearly $1 million, held with the foundation, to support programs and organizations that benefit local women and girls.
This year, the Women’s Shelter Program of SLO County received the largest grant at $10,000. The grant will be used to expand counseling programs to address depression and stress in Spanish-speaking victims of domestic violence.
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The Latina Empowerment Program received $6,820. Sponsored by the South County Youth Coalition, this new program uses bilingual, bicultural community health educators to help Latinas in Oceano to connect with mental health services.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of SLO County received $5,000 for its Nipomo School-Based Mentoring Program that partners Latina elementary students with high school- and college-aged role models.
The Community Counseling Center received $5,000 to provide individual and group therapy for low-income women and girls from adolescents to seniors, also targeting services for Latinas.
The fifth organization, RISE, received $5,000 to provide individual and group counseling to survivors of sexual assault and abuse, and partner violence.
A record 600-plus women — and a scattering of men —attended the luncheon, where Women’s Legacy Fund committee member Suzanne Parker reminded attendees that their donations benefit people they see every day.
“Even here in this charmed place there are women and girls who are struggling,” Parker said. “They are our neighbors, they are our kids’ classmates, they are in line with us at the grocery store. They’re part of our community, so who are we, to be sitting in this room, and not try to help?”
The keynote speaker was Katy Sullivan, an actress and motivational speaker for prosthetics manufacturer Hanger Inc. who was born with no legs. She took up running at the age of 25, specializing in the 100 and 200 meter, and became a Paralympic athlete and U.S. record holder.
Growing up in Alabama, she said, her parents and three older siblings “didn’t see me as broken. They let me set the bar.” Over the years, she said, she’s learned to embrace challenges and discovered the confidence that can instill.
“We all are doing what we do,” she told the gathering, “to give girls the ability to look at themselves and say, I am special.”