Southern Arizona has no shortage of nonprofits that work every day to improve the quality of life for women and girls. Through that work, the Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona has been behind them, providing funds to make their programs and resources accessible.
At their annual luncheon Wednesday, April 24, Danell Jessup shared with the audience how these types of programs impacted her life.
Jessup became pregnant right after high school and became a single mom at 19 years old. She spent the following years working at least two jobs at a time to provide for herself and her son.
“I was doing really well,” she said. “I worked my way up into retail management. I was self-sufficient.”
But when Jessup became the primary guardian of her two nephews, she said it opened her eyes to what it means to be a kinship caregiver.
“Broadly speaking, that’s when a family member steps in to care for another family member’s children,” she told the audience. “This could happen for many reasons including death, incarceration or as in our situation, substance abuse. Nearly half of all Arizona foster kids are being cared for by relatives every year.”
Through her experience, Jessup learned that there aren’t many resources within the community to help families like hers.
But the Single Moms Scholar Program, which is partly funded by the Women’s Foundation, helped her go back to school and eventually get her bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University in community advocacy and social policy.
She now works daily to advocate for women in similar situations to hers.
The scholarship money is used broadly to prevent barriers that single moms face while trying to pursue their primary education. Jessup said she used some of the money to fix her air conditioning in the summer, and to make ends meet after she had to miss days at work when her children were sick.
“This program has been so special to me and it has given me and my kids an incredible amount of support and opportunities while I finished my education,” she said.
Members of the Women’s Foundation chose Louise Glasser, a two-time board member, as their honoree. She helped the foundation identify compatible nonprofits to direct their support to, and helped ensure they met a $1 million challenge grant ahead of schedule.
“I would sit with my nose to the computer monitor for days doing evaluations, followed by site visits with potential grantees,” Glasser told the audience.
She most appreciates the direct service that the Women’s Foundation supports through these nonprofits, but also their work in legislative advocacy, which promotes policies that increase women’s incomes and assets.
“We are the loudest voices for women and children in the legislature today,” Glasser said.
Amalia Luxardo, CEO of the Women’s Foundation, said that in the last year the foundation has awarded $849,820 in grants to nonprofit organizations focused on serving women and girls, reached 877,083 people with advocacy information and created $4.9 million in increased income for women.
At the luncheon, the foundation raised a total of $415,000 from over 1,000 attendees to further that work in the coming year.