Middlesex United Way group highlights women's contributions to history

MIDDLETOWN — The Middlesex United Way Women’s Initiative is a volunteer-based group whose mission is to bring about positive change in our community through philanthropy and service.
Their goal is to build community engagement by sharing and creating volunteer and philanthropic giving opportunities, elevate women by recognizing and celebrating accomplishments, past and present; and invest in our community by making grants to local programs that support one or more of our focus areas.
The focus of the Women’s Initiative are three main areas affecting the lives of women and children in Middlesex County: empowering women, financial stability and childhood development. They work to ensure that women have the resources and support they need to make healthy choices.
They also provide education and tools to women of all ages to assist in them being independent and self-sufficient. Last, they work to make sure parents and children have a proper foundation for healthy development.
Since the onset of COVID-19, the Women’s Initiative adapted to the uncertain and challenging times by going 100 percent virtual while also continuing their tradition of investing in community partners. They even were able to host a multi-event series, “Power for the Vote,” to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment.
Youth ages 8 to 12 were asked to read the book, “How Women Won the Vote,” to learn about the suffrage movement. The committee donated books to Russell Library, and six young women submitted essays and drawings illustrating what the right to vote means to them.
This was the first collaboration of the Women’s Initiative, Women in the NAACP Committee of the Middlesex County Branch, Russell Library and Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore — and they hope to continue this partnership.
The Women’s Initiative partnered with Conspiracy, a small business in downtown Middletown, to sponsor a cocktail-making class infused with women’s history. Participants learned how to make two cocktails — named in honor of Sojourner Truth and Zitkala-Sa — and the incredible contributions these women made to the movement. As members learned and enjoyed their drinks, local jazz performer Nick Di Maria played, and highlighted female musicians and their contributions to the arts.
To conclude the series, the Women’s Initiative hosted a virtual discussion taking an inclusive look at women’s suffrage. Dr. Kelly Marino of Sacred Heart University and Professor Brittney Yancy of Goodwin University led a robust discussion about the suffrage movement, focusing on the women who were left out of the national headlines, including women of color, working-class women and those from Connecticut.
An important aspect of the organization is their grants program. The Women’s Initiative makes grants to community organizations focusing on women and girls in the areas of childhood development, financial stability and health. The grant committee meets most months to discuss grant application and award local organizations with monies.
In 2020, over $10,000 was invested in community partners, impacting hundreds of girls and their families. Some organizations that received grants are the Girl Scouts of Connecticut, Before and After School Recreation Enrichment Program, Hinka’s Food Pantry and Middlesex County Coalition for Housing and Homelessness.
The group is actively looking for new members to join them this year to continue their excellent work in empowering, building, investing and elevating women and children in our community.
A $35 annual membership means joining like-minded women who are interested in driving community change through philanthropy and service, participating in events and volunteer projects that make a meaningful difference and networking with women who have a passion for the community.
To learn more, please contact Christina Heckart atchristina.heckart@middlesexunitedway.org or register to attend the annual meeting, which will celebrate this year’s accomplishments virtually March 9 at 5 p.m. on Zoom.
Any woman who is interested in learning more about the group and their involvement in the community is encouraged to attend.