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cornellonhill_120Almost $20,000 has been awarded to ten projects through the first ever Women Building Community (WBC) Grants cycle, announced Julia Gorman, vice president of the City Federation of Women’s Organizations (CFWO) board.  WBC Grant recipients were recognized at an event December 9 celebrating the ways they will help to improve the lives of Tompkins County women and girls.

Grants were awarded on the merit of the program, quality of the application, and available funds for the cycle, explained Diane Shafer, chair of the Grants Committee.  “We hope to have more funds available to allocate as WBC Grants in 2014.”

The following projects organized by these organizations are WBC Grant recipients: Child Care Grant for TC3  (Tompkins Cortland Community College), Community-based Counseling Project (Family & Children’s Service), Expansion of Femtastic!  (Advocacy Center), Healing Neen Community Screening (Southside Community Center), Keep Our Juniors Rollin’ (Ithaca League of Women Rollers), Natural Leadership Initiative’s Cohort-based Leadership Development Program  (Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County), Personal Needs Products Program (Catholic Charities of Tompkins and Tioga Counties – Samaritan Center), Removing Roadblocks Fund (Child Development Council,  ReSET Job-Training Program Apprenticeship Scholarship (Finger Lakes ReUse), and Women’s Non-traditional Scholarship Fund (Women’s Opportunity Center).

The mission of the CFWO is to support women and girls and to act as a catalyst for the improvement of the lives of women and girls in Tompkins County, thus making a contribution to the entire community. The CFWO owned the Women’s Community Building on West Seneca Street where Ithaca Neighborhood Housing is constructing affordable housing.  The proceeds of this sale and existing CFWO resources have created a fund which makes WBC grants possible.

Nonprofit organizations and governmental agencies serving Tompkins County women and/or girls were eligible to apply.   Applications from other organizations that carry out charitable projects or activities that address issues facing women and/or girls in Tompkins County could also be considered.   Organizations and individuals without nonprofit 501 (c) (3) designation needed a sponsoring nonprofit organization.

Project areas considered for funding addressed needs and opportunities that improve the quality of life for Tompkins County women and girls.  One of the following criteria had to be addressed: Community Development, Education, Health, Human Services, and Activities that address Gender Equity.

The City Federation of Women’s Organizations was founded in 1910 by a group of women “concerned with education, recreation, philanthropy, health, safety and civic betterment.”  As the number of member organizations grew they purchased a home on the corner of Cayuga and Seneca Streets in 1920 and opened the first Women’s Community Building as a recreational center for women and girls.  This center had meeting rooms, a public rest room, and living quarters for young working women.  In 1927 they purchased the house next door and it became a home for older women.  In the 1940s they opened a community nursery school.

By 1960 both houses were gone and the new Women’s Community Building was opened with a much needed community auditorium and commercial kitchen.  Times changed, membership in the CFWO declined and community needs were different.  The building was sold in 2012 to make way for much needed affordable housing.  The profits from the sale of the building and existing CFWO resources have been used to establish an endowment that will continue the legacy of the many organizations of the CFWO and community members who have supported the changing needs of women over the years.

The new CFWO is managed by a Board of Directors which includes individuals representing the community and individuals recommended by the CFWO Legacy Organizations as of 2012: American Association of University Women, Cornell Campus Club, Eckankar, Ithaca Downtown Business Women, Ithaca Garden Club, Ithaca Music Club, Ithaca Woman’s Club, La Leche League of Ithaca, The League of Women Voters of Tompkins County, Service League, Tompkins County National Organization for Women, Tompkins County Quilters Guild and Writers Association of the Ithaca Area.
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