Middlesex United Way women's group about empowerment, child development

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 is 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.
The Women’s Initiative gives grants to community organizations focusing on women and girls in the areas of childhood development, financial stability and health. In 2020, the group invested over $10,000 in community partners, impacting hundreds of women and their families. To date, 102 grants have been issued, totaling over $96,000.
So far, in 2021, four community partners have received grants, which provide educational and leadership development opportunities, in addition to basic needs, such as food and legal representation.
Grantees are: the Girl Scouts of CT, Steam Train, The Children’s Law Center of CT, and Hinka’s Food Pantry.
Funds given to Girl Scouts of CT will allow 25 girls in Middlesex County the opportunity to participate in the Girl Scouts program and develop leadership skills. Steam Train recruits and trains girls, women, and other underrepresented populations to pursue fields of study that include STEM disciplines.
The Children’s Law Center of CT provides children and their parents access to legal services and support they could not otherwise afford. Hinka’s Food Pantry serves an average of 100 families a month.
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 its tradition of investing in community partners.
They have been able to put together various virtual events including a multi-event series, “Power for the Vote,” to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment by collaborating with Women in the NAACP Committee of the Middlesex County Branch, Russell Library and Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore.
They have also partnered with Conspiracy, a small business in downtown Middletown, to sponsor a cocktail-making class infused with women’s history.
The group also hosted a virtual discussion featuring Dr. Kelly Marino (Sacred Heart University) and Professor Brittney Yancy (Goodwin University) 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.
Most recently, the Women’s Initiative hosted its first “Women in Business Summit,” featuring a discussion panel on how female business owners have managed during the pandemic, and advice on how to start and successfully grow a business.
Panelists included Pamela Roose, owner of Specialty Handknits and Yarn, Shanta Samuels, owner of Shanta’s Vintage Boutique, and Linda Jones, owner of Linda Jones Home Improvements. The event brought over 25 women together for a thoughtful conversation.
We are proud of this wonderful group of women leaders and are amazed every year by how much they give back to our community. If you’re interested in becoming a member or getting involved, please email Christina Heckart at christina.heckart@middlesexunitedway.org or by calling 860-345-8695.
Kevin Wilhelm is president and CEO of the Middletown-based Middlesex United Way.