The Dallas Women’s Foundation Addresses Poverty, Education

Mothers supporting their children alone but lacking job skills and education – the decades before 1900, as well as our own times, have produced many stories.

During the last 20 years the Dallas Women’s Foundation has provided more than $6 million in grants to more than 500 programs that help women and girls in Dallas, Collin, and Denton counties, yet they must turn down three out of four qualified grant requests because of funds.

“People often ask me ‘Why do we need a special foundation to fund women’s girls’ needs?'” said Becky Sykes, executive director of the Foundation. “My answer is ‘Because women and girls are affected disproportionately by societal issues; because programs for them are chronically under funded; and because, when women and girls are able to reach their full potential, the whole community benefits.'”

Sykes said if a woman can read, for example, her children probably will be able to read.

Texas ranks second among states in the number of teen births, and, in Dallas County, 25 percent of girls who reach ninth grade drop out before graduating.

Both girls and boys require and deserve programs that address their unique needs, said Sykes.

As girls grow into women, they continue to need gender-specific programming, according to Sykes.

In Dallas County, 97 percent of welfare recipients are women.

One program at the Wilkinson Center in Dallas helps women find jobs in their “field of fascination.”

Women typically live longer than men but have less saved for retirement because they have less time in the workplace.

Nationally, less than seven percent of foundation grant dollars last year went to programs designed for women and girls, according to the Council on Foundations.

“The Dallas Women’s Foundation exists because women represent a disproportionate number of those in need, and our community requires resources and information to meet those needs and change those futures,” said Sykes.

Foremost among this community’s responses have been the efforts of Dallas women to alleviate hardship. While the Foundation has in some ways continued the work of those early groups, it differs from them in one way: its financial base.

It raises money through social events, such as an all-woman road rally, performances by professional musicians and actors, and shows presented by department stores.

The Foundation’s main source of funding is from individual contributions.

Nearly 30 women’s funds appeared in the U.S. during the 1980s, and the earliest discussions about a women’s foundation for Dallas occurred during the late summer of 1984.

Women and children not only make up more than 75 percent of the poor, but also comprise to the fastest-growing segment of the homeless, according to the Foundation.

After nearly a year of work and planning led by Sykes the organization received a charter of incorporation in June of 1985 and held the first meeting of its Board of Trustees in September of that year.

The Family Place, one program under the Foundation, set up counseling programs for 69 participants; 80 percent of the enrolled women experienced no further abuse.

Help Is Possible’s residential drug treatment program through the Foundation’s operations, assisted women in applying to training programs and finding jobs.

The Museum of African American Life and Culture provided scholarships for 50 of the 565 women who attended its 1986 Black Women and Economic Development Conference, according to the Foundation’s website.

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