By Alisha West, Operations Coordinator
It’s not often that I walk into a large conference hall, filled with many of Seattle’s most amazing women—but that’s exactly what happened when I arrived at the Washington Women’s Foundation Grant Award Celebration on Tuesday, June 13th. The room was nearly filled to capacity by the time I arrived so I slipped into one of the few available chairs next to a man who reminded me of my grandfather. (Yes, there were a few men there but they were far outnumbered for once!)
As I looked around at the buzzing room and watched people chat or call out to old friends, I leaned over to the man next to me and said, “This is why I love our community.” He asked if I was a member of the Foundation and I said no, that I worked for one of the organizations that had won a grant this year—but I wasn’t allowed to reveal the secret of who I worked for just yet. He smiled like he understood what an exciting secret we shared. Then he pointed to a woman near the front of the room and said, “My daughter Beth is with the Foundation. Do you know her? Beth McCaw?” I know OF her, she is the president of the Washington Women’s Foundation after all! “You must be so proud of the work she does.” Yes, yes—he nods with pride in the way only a parent can, knowing that he was part of shaping this person who works so hard to make Washington an equitable place for all of us.
Indeed, he has every right to feel proud because his daughter provides leadership to an organization of almost 500 members that has a 20 year history of working together to meet the needs of communities throughout Washington State. Over the years, WWF has awarded over $17 million in grants. I learned that their grant committee has 60 members who, every year, read over 300 LOI’s, review 15 proposals, and complete 15 site visits. I’m a little tired just thinking about it.
As the Grant Award Ceremony started, I realized BEST was going to be announced last. “Oh well,” I thought. “It might be fun to hear about some other nonprofits in the area.” Enlightening would have been a better word. The missions and the leaders of the winning organizations were outstanding. Seattle Globalist is now in my newsfeed—how had I never heard of them before? Shameful. I was tempted to quit my job to go teach for Tiny Trees who run outdoor preschools for low-income families and communities of color. I had some idea the waste and harm to our environment that is the textile industry but it became even clearer as ReUse Works explained what they do. FEEST upset me only slightly—but that’s just because they stole an idea for an NGO that I wanted to create someday. FEEST teaches youth about healthy eating and helps communities living in “food deserts” gain access to healthy foods. I was proud and thankful that even during a difficult year nationally, so much good is happening here in Washington.
Finally, Katherine DeForest-Evans, co-chair of the Human Services Grant Committee, came to the stage. From her I learned that BEST was just one organization out of 85 that had submitted an LOI for this grant. Our category was then narrowed to five organizations, all who do so much to make Washington State stronger and better. La Casa Hogar helps develop leadership skills among Latina women in the Yakima Valley. Room One provides childcare and integrates it with wrap-around services to help families become financially stable in the Methow Valley. Sound Outreach helps build wealth among Pierce County’s residents by providing low risk financial products to people who may not otherwise qualify for banking services. Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence targets survivors of abuse in our Native population to provide wrap-around services for well-being, as well as working to influence national policy.
As my colleagues stepped onto the stage, I can’t lie, my eyes got a little damp with tears of pride. We’re such a small organization but we work so hard, especially our Executive Director and Founder, Mar Brettmann. It’s difficult to explain how much it means to be recognized in this way and to know that the women who make up WWF voted for us, that they support us, and that they understand how important our work is to the children, women, and men who are ultimately affected by this crime. Mar spent a few minutes sharing our mission with the room, explaining how businesses have power to change attitudes, perceptions and behaviors that cause human trafficking to continue. Businesses changed their policies regarding sexual harassment a few decades ago, and while sexual harassment still exists, it’s no longer ignored and it can be addressed without fear of reprisal. Businesses can make the same difference when it comes to sex buying and we’re going to show them how—sometimes whether they want us to or not!
Thank you again, Washington Women’s Foundation members, for a beautiful event. But mostly thank you for understanding and valuing our vision. Thank you for empowering us though these funds to continue our work. Thank you, on behalf of the many children, women, and men who may avoid exploitation in the future because you gave us this award. You’ve shown us that together, there’s really nothing women CAN’T accomplish.
For more information about the Washington Women’s Foundation, check out their website or the Facebook page (which also has beautiful photos of this years’ Award Celebration).