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Women empowered to give through Pearls with a Passion

RALPH WILSON/Sun-Gazette Correspondent Recipients of the 2022 Pearls with a Passion grants are from left, Dr. Colby Wesner, Think BIG Pediatric Cancer Fund Inc., Shawna Meuser, Snyder Union Mifflin Child Development Inc., Jenny Hull, Family Promise of Lycoming County Inc., Tiphanie Stocks, AIDS Resource Alliance, Inc., Emily Gorski, DIG Furniture Bank and Camp Koala shown with Jennifer Wilson, President & CEO, First Community Foundation Partnership of Pennsylvania. The grants of various amounts are presented annually to programs that benefit children, individuals and families in crisis situations.

Members of Pearls with a Passion, a women’s endowment fund with First Community Foundation Partnership of Pennsylvania, listened as the six non-profit organizations chosen to receive this year’s grants shared how the “Pearls'” generosity enables them to meet the needs of the people they serve.

For Doug Pertanzetti’s group, Snyder Union Mifflin Child Development, Inc.,the grant will help families facing the rising cost of childcare receive the assistance they need to remain in the workforce.

Survivors of sexual assault will have help in getting the life-saving medication they need, Tiphanie Stocks from the AIDS Resource Alliance, Inc. told the group.

DIG Furniture Bank will be able to manage their inventory, volunteers and offer clients an online database with the software purchased with the Pearls grant, according to Emily Gorski, founder.

Gorski is also the program director for Camp Koala, where the grant will benefit youth who are grieving the loss of a loved one. The need is increasing, Gorski said, especially with the pandemic.

Jenny Hull, executive director of Family Promise of Lycoming County, Inc., said that there are 18 families on a waiting list seeking help. Families who are working, but on the brink of homelessness. The Pearls money will help to meet those needs.

Tears were evident as Dr. Colby Wesner, president of the Think BIG Pediatric Cancer Fund, Inc, shared a story of a child who had gone through cancer treatment and his organization had been able to help the family with financial help with car payment, mortgage payments, utility bills and eventually with funeral service as well.

“We take those burdens off that family, have them submit their electric bills and mortgage payments to us, so that they can just focus on the well-being of a child,” Wesner said.

When it began in 2013, the goal of Pearls was to find 10 women who would be willing to invest $25,000 to create a $250,000 endowment with FCFP. It was designed to bring women together from diverse backgrounds with a common goal: “to create powerful communities through passionate giving.”

“The way we work as a community foundation, we invest charitable dollars, so that we can always preserve the principal, and over time, we use a spending policy to do grant making in perpetuity. So this fund will be here forever,” said Jennifer Wilson, president and CEO of FCFP.

“So that $250,000 endowment would guarantee at least $10,000 in grant making annually. It also allowed us to create $250 annual memberships so that lots of women can participate in our program,” she explained.

To date, 227 individual women have been members over the past 10 years and have granted a total of $179,000. The fund balance is nearing $1 million..

Like a pearl necklace, each one of the donors or pearls, joins together to pool their charitable dollars. Then, each year, they decide where the community needs are so that their donations will benefit the most.

They also decide on a grant cause, which will support non-profits in Lycoming and Union counties. This year’s cause was children, individuals and families in crisis situations.

According to FCFP, a total of $66,000 in requests were received from 15 organizations. Six nonprofits were chosen from that group to receive this year’s grants.

They are:

• Snyder Union Mifflin Child Development Inc., $2,200, for the SUMMIT Early Learning Family Tuition Assistance Program which helps provide continued child care for families in need during difficult times.

• AIDS Resource Alliance, Inc., $4,000, to support the HIV Prevention Assistance for Sexual Assault Survivors Program, which provides free HIV prevention medication to sexually assaulted individuals.

• DIG Furniture Bank, $4,800, to implement a management software program to advance their ability to personalize client service, a critical part of achieving their mission of instilling dignity after crisis.

• Camp Koala, $5,000, to support the costs of conducting six-week grief support groups for grieving children in partnership with local school districts.

• Family Promise of Lycoming County,Inc., $5,000, to support The Promising Futures program to meet the housing needs of people in chrisi and in danger of losing their homes or the safety of their homes.

• Think BIG Pediatric Cancer Fund, Inc., $5,000, for the Lycoming and Union County Family Assistance program, which relieves the stress of everyday financial expenses so families who are battling pediatric cancer can concentrate on treating and healing.

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