In tumultuous times, it’s comforting to think that a civically engaged group of young leaders will emerge to move our communities forward, positively. Legacy Foundation’s Women in Philanthropy group sees the value in helping to create the next generation of well-informed leaders and is making a collective impact on this in the Region.
“Each year, members of Women in Philanthropy have the option to focus their funding on an issue or area that’s most meaningful to them as a group. In 2018 and 2019 they selected youth civic engagement,” said Erica Fizer, marketing and communications director at Legacy Foundation. “The members are passionate about cultivating the next generation of leaders and ensuring that young people in our communities have opportunities to be involved in decision-making in a meaningful way.”
Women in Philanthropy was formed in 2016 when a group of Legacy Foundation women board members and other women leaders in the community began talking about how to pool their charitable donations to make a bigger impact.
“They knew that collectively they could make more significant grants than going it alone,” Fizer said.
Since hosting their first luncheon in 2016, Women in Philanthropy has granted more than $40,000 and built an endowment fund of nearly $30,000.
The Dunes Learning Center was a grant recipient in 2018, and funds went toward providing a community-based Citizen Science program to nearly 400 middle school students in Lake County.
Michelle Krueger, grant specialist at Dunes Learning Center, said the new program included an end-of-year Citizen Symposium that gave students the opportunity to present the local research they conducted as part of a national science research project, network with local environmental science professionals to learn about more opportunities for getting involved in their communities, and meet with college representatives to discuss career pathways.
“Working together in the field and throughout the day of the Symposium, middle school students proclaimed how much they love science now. That's how you make a lasting impact,” Krueger said.
The program provided opportunities for the student to engage with a wide range of partners from the National Park Service, The Field Museum, Humane Indiana, Purdue University, The Nature Conservancy, Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission, and Keep Indianapolis Beautiful.
Fizer said Women in Philanthropy is more than just a grant-making group. “There are intimate networking events and opportunities for group members to hear from experts about the issues they care about. Members also gain insight from each other by sharing their experiences and perspectives on community needs,” she said.
The upcoming Women in Philanthropy annual luncheon takes place from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m., Dec. 4 at Gamba Ristorante, 455 E. 84th Ave., Merrillville. The event features Aaliyah Stewart, founder of The ASW Foundation, which promotes non-violence and uplifts youth. The dynamic young philanthropist lost two young brothers to gun violence and turned her tragedy into motivation.