Group of women funds health care projects

URBANA — One woman with $500 may not be able to buy a lot of health care improvement for her local community.

But get a lot of women together, each one bringing $500, and things start to happen.

"To think you could take a small gift and improve health care in our community," says Donna Greene, former chairwoman of the Women's Legacy Circle, a women's philanthropy group that supports health care improvements in East Central Illinois.

The group, now 120 women and growing, was launched in 2009 as an initiative of the Carle Development Foundation.

It solicits proposals from Carle-supported health care projects each year, and its members each contribute $500 a year to support those projects, says Judi Baylor, current chairwoman.

Each group member gets a vote on the final selection of grant recipients, she said.

This year, the group awarded about $58,000 in grants to seven initiatives, including:

— $3,000 for a project to improve patient mobility at Carle.

— $15,000 for a child diagnostic clinic evaluation service at Carle, a team of providers that evaluates underinsured children and teens ages 2 through 18 suffering from behavioral, emotional, attention, language, learning, sensory and/or coordination difficulties.

— $9,500 for an airway clearance/cough assist program at Carle and two cough assist devices.

— $10,805 to help pay the salary of a bilingual mental health counselor at Frances Nelson Health Center.

— $8,008 for a computerized cognitive training system for Carle Therapy Services for use with brain injury patients.

— $2,602 for iPad2 devices to be used by Carle patients so they can communicate with their loved ones outside the area.

— $8,950 for nursing scholarships.

Jennifer Vallowe, the Carle Foundation's manager of corporate and foundation relations, said the foundation originally sent out invitations in 2009 with a goal of getting 50 members in this group of women the first year and wound up with 74.

The first year of giving resulted in $35,000 in health care grants given away in 2010, including money for the new dental clinic at Frances Nelson Health Center, Vallowe said.

The first year's members gave more money than the $500 a year current members give to get the fund established, Baylor said. The current giving level of $500 a year per member was established to keep the group growing and its membership diverse.

"We wanted to be able to include as many people as possible," Vallowe said.

Some members include Carle employees who give through payroll deductions, she said.

The group is eager to add new members, she and Greene say.

Baylor, a retired nurse, said being part of this giving circle means a lot to her.

There can be an overwhelming number of grant proposals to consider, she said, but giving the money to those selected is rewarding and so are the friendships among the women.

"What is unique is we meet as a group of women." she said. "We all donate the same amount of money, then we vote. We all have a say in where the money is being spent."

Greene said women like to see where their donation dollars go and how their money is being spent. They also enjoy hearing from the grant recipients, an opportunity they have when recipients speak at their annual lunch which was held this past Wednesday.

"Every time you give money away and improve health care in our community, it affects families in our community," she said.

Vallowe said anyone interested in joining the Women's Legacy Circle can call her for more information at 326-1545.

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