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Women’s Foundation burgeons as it impacts community
Saturday, December 20, 2014


                When Ruthie Lieder moved to Sun Valley 43 years ago, the only place she found to volunteer was with the women’s auxiliary at Moritz Hospital. And the doctors didn’t trust the women to get anything done, she said, so the woman spent most of their meetings gossiping.

                Lieder finally got a taste of true volunteering in 1971 when she was asked to help raise money to start an animal shelter. But it was only two years ago that her eyes were opened to the real power of philanthropy—when she joined the Wood River Women’s Charitable Foundation.

“I was overwhelmed,” she said, “I learned that there were 200-some non-profit organizations in the valley. That was a total revelation to me—the number of non-profits and the needs in the valley.”

The Women’s Charitable Foundation didn’t even have 50 members when it started. This year alone it gained 60 new members, said longtime member Jo Murray.

That means 255 members donating $1,000 each year to be pooled and given to a variety of causes, including The Advocates’ Green Dot campaign to stop bullying and The Hunger Coalition. The Foundation so far has given $1.3 million, said President Janet DeBard.

About a hundred of the Foundation’s members attended a “Come in From the Cold” reception Friday night at the Sun Valley home of Gina Knox.

The women toasted their strength in Knox’s expansive living room, which looks out onto the twinkling lights of Sun Valley Resort and Ketchum, as Eileen Reiss and Deanna Schrell served chicken satay with peanut sauce and other hors d’oeuvres.

Events Chair Joanne Wetherell promised them this was only the start: “2015 is going to be our 10th year so we’re going to have a full-year celebration.,” she said, “And if things go according to pattern, we’re going to have given $1.5 million to our community.

She laughed: “I love to be the bearer of good news!”

Judy Cahill, one of the organization’s new members, said she had made friends through the PTO  while raising her children in Southern California. But “it was scary moving up here,” wondering how she would make friends.

No problem. She met Mimi Avins, who said, “I’ve got this great group of women. Come along and see what they’re doing.”

“The idea that you’re pooling your money is so incredible,” she told the group. “You do a wonderful job of following up. I’m in awe of what you’re doing.”

Marcela Stoddard expressed the same idea: “I had been meaning to volunteer somewhere since I don’t work. I like all the good causes these women are supporting.”

Marcia Liebich was there at the first meeting—a tea that Barbara Thrasher hosted at her home in Sun Valley in 2005.

Liebich suggested the idea of vetting organizations applying for grants, based on her experience with the United Way in upstate New York where she had lived before moving to Sun Valley in 2002.

The first grants went to the Bellevue Library and to buy lab equipment for the nursing program at College of Southern Idaho.

The Foundation lost some members during the Recession of 2008 but gained those members back and then some, thanks to the $10,000 donation by an anonymous donor that allowed the organization to cover half of new members’ $1,000 yearly membership dues the first year.

“That gave us the excuse to recruit because we could offer new members something. And it dispelled any idea that we were an elitist organization,” Liebick said. “For me, the organization was an amazing way to get to know the community. I met executive directors of various organizations and a lot of the other wonderful people here. I learned the needs of the community and I used some of the skills I had.”

  Lieder said she is impressed by the impact that pooling funds has.

“When I get requests from my favorite organizations, I tell them, ‘I’ll support you, but my piddly $50 is nothing compared to what you could get if you make a formal request to the Women’s Charitable Foundation. Please do that.’ ”

Idaho: The volunteer state?

Idaho ranks second in the nation in terms of volunteering, according to Volunteering and Civic Life in America report released by the Corporation for National and Community Service.

Thirty-six percent of Idaho’s residents volunteer A total 434,200 volunteers gave 62.3 million hours of service estimated to be worth $1.24 billion in 2013.

The state was topped only by Utah—45 percent of its residents volunteer. Nationwide 25 percent volunteer.

 Forty-three percent  volunteer through a religious group. The top three actives include tutoring or teaching, general labor and mentoring youth.

PHOTOS: Kat Vandenheuval, Joanne Wetherell, Gail Wilkie and Lisa Lynn hobnob at the Wood River Women’s Charitable Foundation’s holiday mixer. Wilkie is on an impact team, which visits the non-profits that the foundation is supporting and collaborates with them. “Part of our mission is teaching women about philanthropy. I can’t think of a better way to do that,” she said.

Rebecca Michael and Jennifer Badish were among a hundred women who turned out for the party at Gina Knox’s home. “We bought a house here last summer and I thought this would be a good way to get involved in the community,” said Michael, a lawyer who also volunteers at the animal shelter. “I tell people San Diego is paradise but Ketchum is Disneyland.”

Kathleen Eder, in blue, joins the others in raising a toast.

New member Judy Cahill shares a laugh with Ruthie Lieder.

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