Celebrating 15 years of helping women, girls reach their potential

By LISA CAPOBIANCO

STAFF WRITER

For the past 15 years, the Main Street Community Foundation has helped women and girls realize their potential and the power they have to build strong communities through the Women & Girls’ Fund.

Established in 2001, the Women & Girls’ Fund is a community-based endowment that serves females of all ages in Bristol, Plainville, Southington, Burlington, Plymouth/Terryville and Wolcott. Since its inception, the fund has granted over $350,000 to over 85 organizations and programs that improve the lives of local women and girls.

The funds for these grants stem from four sources: proceeds of the annual Wonder of Women event, the endowment, and two other named funds, including the John & Gloria DiFrancesco Fund for Women and Girls and the Barbara Hackman Franklin Fund for Women.

Last Wednesday, close to 450 people attended the WOW event held at the Aqua Turf to celebrate the 15 years of work that the fund accomplished. The event also celebrated all of the women who were honored through the fund’s special campaign, “A Toast to Women.” The faces of mothers, wives, daughters, friends, and relatives appeared on a slideshow during the event to acknowledge the positive impact they have made in the lives of others.

Tom Barnes Sr., chairman of the Barnes Group Board of Directors was on the development committee at the foundation when the Women & Girl’s Fund began.

“I’m absolutely amazed at how this [fund] has taken off,” said Barnes. “It’s phenomenal what has been accomplished.”

Last year, the Women & Girls’ Fund distributed a total of $35,350 in funding for local organizations, such as Bristol Family Resource Centers, the Boys & Girls Club of Bristol Family Center, Prudence Crandall, and Chapter 126. Other recipients included Arts for Learning Connecticut, Charter Oak State College Foundation, the Early Childhood Collaborative of Southington, Girl Scouts of Connecticut, and Plymouth Human Services. In addition, the Women & Girls’ Fund Endowment and the Women & Girls’ Immediate Response Fund received grants.

In 2001, the Women & Girls’ Fund had a goal of growing its endowment to $500,000. To date, the fund is more than 90 percent there.

Through the “First 500 Challenge,” local donors have the opportunity to help the fund meet its endowment goal. Dawn Nielsen, chair of the Women & Girls’ Fund Advisory Board, announced that anonymous donors contributed $15,000 to help reach the endowment goal.

Nielsen said any donation would help “meet the challenge and realize the vision set forth by the original founders of the Women & Girls’ Fund.”

Sponsored by Barnes Group, Inc., MassMutual Financial Group, and Walmart of Bristol, the WOW event featured WFSB Emmy winning television personality Kara Sundlun. Sundlun also is the author of the book, “Finding Dad: From ‘Love Child’ to Daughter,” which tells the story of her of meeting her biological father Bruce Sundlun when she was a teenager and he was the governor of Rhode Island.

Raised by a single mother, Sundlun said her father was a part of who she was, and did whatever it took to meet him. Despite many unanswered letters, Sundlun ultimately met her father, and learned to forgive him. When she moved to Providence at just about 18 years old, Sundlun developed a relationship with her father, and met her three brothers, who are still a major part of her life today.

Sundlun’s father passed away four years ago.

“It is never too late to heal,” said Sundlun. “Forgiveness allows you to let go and own who you really are. Owning your story means owning the bad, the scary, the ugliest, the tough.”

Comments? Email lcapobianco@BristolObserver.com.

PHOTOS by MIKE CHAIKEN

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