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February 19th, 2019

wop bannerCourtesy photoROBERT PIERCE • Leader & Times

 

Established in 2008 by Southwest Kansas women who made donations to build a permanently endowed fund to support local programs focused on issues affecting women, the Western Kansas Community Foundation’s (WKCF) Women of Purpose (WOP) fund’s vision, commitment and passion have supported annual grants to enable women to succeed in area communities.

Now through March 1, applications are being accepted for his year’s annual WOP grant award, and WKCF Program and Marketing Director Stacie Hahn said the foundation, whose main office is located in Garden City, helps donors in area communities set up accounts with the foundation.

“We call them funds where they can make charitable donations, and from those funds, they can provide grants and scholarships to non-profits and students,” she said. “We started in 1996, and typically, we give out an average of $1.3 to $1.5 million in grants per year.”

Hahn said some of these grants are restricted, meaning donors designate specific entities they want the funds to go to, while others are unrestricted and decided upon by the foundation’s grant committee.

“They review applications from competitive grant cycles and determine which programs they would like to fund with the unrestricted dollars,” she said of the unrestricted funds.

Hahn said the money for Women of Purpose and other WKCF grants and scholarships comes from private donors.

“Most of our funds are what we call endowed funds that we invest with Commerce Trust Company here in Garden City,” she said. “The grant amounts we are able to spend from the funds are based upon the interest earning on each of those endowed funds. That way, we don’t invade the purpose or the principle, and the fund can continue to grow to increase their grant amounts each year, hopefully, if we have good investment years.”

From its beginnings with 10 ladies, Hahn said Women of Purpose has grown to just less than 100 members as recently as 2018. She explained how someone becomes a member.

“Anybody wishing to be a member of the Women of Purpose pays $100 annually, and that gets deposited into their fund,” she said. “In March of every year, when it comes time for their grant award, we send out requests for proposals based on a theme they have decided on for the year, and when we get those proposals back, anybody who has paid their membership for the year gets to vote on which organization they want to see awarded with that grant.”

Hahn said in the past, WOP has focused on financial matters like financial literacy for women, as well as health focuses and general causes for women. This year’s focus, she said, will pertain to mentorship for females of any and all ages.

“I don’t know if you want to call it a pilot program,” she said. “It was the first program out in this area like that, and also branched off of it, there is now a group similar to Women of Purpose in Wichita County called Heart Strings to Purse Strings. There is a group in Ulysses called Women of Purpose as well, and I believe Scott City started a similar group, all based on our Women of Purpose here in Garden City.”

Hahn said how candidates are chosen starts with WKCF itself.

“We look at the foundation,” she said. “Since the Women of Purpose is a fund under the foundation, we look at the foundation’s general granting guidelines and if it falls in line with that, but we also look to see if it falls in line with the theme for the year. We look to see how many it will impact, if we think it’s a high value cause in the community.”

The WOP group, Hahn said, has a nine-member executive committee which then determines the candidates to send to membership for a vote and the ones who do not qualify.

WKCF serves 15 counties in Southwest Kansas, and so does WOP, and Hahn said a few applications have been received from outside of Finney County.

“We’ve gotten a few from Liberal, from Hugoton,” she said. “We get some from Leoti, the Wichita County area. I think we’ve gotten a few from a couple of other places, but we do accept applications from all of those 15 counties.”

Still, Hahn said more often than not, applicants come from communities closer to Garden City.

“The majority typically yeah, but not by design,” she said with a laugh. 

Hahn said in more recent years, WKCF has made an effort to reach out to other counties, not just for Women of Purpose, but for the foundation as a whole.

“We would love to have more applications from those other counties,” she said. “We try to send out that request for proposal to a database we found of non-profits in all of those counties we could find, and we send it also obviously to the newspapers and chambers of commerce requesting if they have any organizations that might qualify, if they would share that with them for us.”

The last two years, Hahn said, is when the foundation has reached out to outlying communities, and thus far, those efforts have produced a total of 16 applicants, an improvement over previous years.

“Prior to that, we only had a handful at a time, like three or four,” she said. “Typically, there is one organization that’s selected.”

In 2018, however, Hahn said foundation officials found when allocations were made, there was a little bit more funding than had been anticipated.

“So we did decide to surprise award a couple of extra organizations, but typically, it’s one,” she said.

Hahn said 2018, at least to her knowledge, had been the first year WKCF members had been able to surprise extra recipients.

“We had not actually shared with the membership either there was going to be extra, so every year in April, we hold an annual luncheon to kind of close out the season,” she said. “That’s where we announce the recipient of the grant award, and all of the applicants are invited, all of the membership, anybody who has ever paid a membership fee, even if they’re not current, is invited to attend. We provide a lunch and a small program, and when we announced last year we were giving some extra, everybody was very excited. All of the membership was very thrilled to hear we were able to provide that.”

Hahn said all of the organizations that apply for Women of Purpose do great things for their communities and add great value to the lives of their residents.

“We’ve done various programs in the past,” she said. “One I can think of very specifically is a financial literacy program, and we heard great stories out of that program of women who took the course. The goal of the course was they were going to start a savings account, and hopefully, by the end of the course would have about $600 saved up in their account. There were several women who, right after they had started the course or right after they finished the course, had run into some sort of financial difficulty. One gal had her car break down, and if she hadn’t had that savings account, she wouldn’t be able to get her car fixed so she could go to work. There was one gal who was saving up money to buy her own trailer house. There was another gal who had some unexpected medical expenses. They were all able to take care and build the savings account in order to make sure they could provide for their families.”

Other programs WOP has funded include a facility for cancer patients.

“We funded a program through them, and they have been able to provide whigs,” Hahn said. “They provide therapy services.”

Applications must be submitted by March 1. The executive committee has determined the following areas of interest that should be considered for inclusion in this year’s application:

  • Focus on any and/or all of the following aspects of female mentorship: health, education, financial or employment;
  • Emphasis on females (of any and/or all ages);
  • Impacting females in significant and sustainable ways; and
  • Using collaboration to increase the scope and impact of the work.

Any organization wishing to learn more about the request for proposal should contact Hahn at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., call the office at 620-271-9484 or visit the Web site at wkcf.org/grants.

Questions regarding the grant application will be addressed to the best of our ability. Contact with the WKCF does not constitute a guarantee of funding.

No matter who is chosen for this year’s Women of Purpose award, Hahn promises the grant will make a difference, just as those in the past have.

“It’s changed somebody’s life, or it’s impacted their program to go above and beyond what they expected,” she said.

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