The Women’s Fund, a special fund held by the Community Foundation for San Benito County, held their fourth annual Women’s Summit at San Juan Oaks Gold Club on Oct. 18. The event focused on empowering women to create a better community.
With the room filled with a majority of women from all sorts of backgrounds, Community Foundation’s director of the Women’s Fund, Stephanie Hicks, made opening remarks. “Today the women’s fund has touched over 400 residents in San Benito County. We have over 200 donors…We’ve partnered with many wonderful funders and organizations to really bring about change and awareness to our community.”
She added that according to their latest reports they have granted over $100,000 for violence prevention, poverty prevention, and youth empowerment programs.
“We strategically focus on these areas because we want one less victim to endure violence in their own home. We want one less youth to repeat they cycle of teen pregnancy. We want one less mom to be consumed with addiction and be separated from their children. We want one less girl doubt and fear her future,” she said. “For every one less that we’ve achieved, we stay in forward motion making a difference and truly saving lives.”
San Benito County superintendent of schools Krystal Lomanto served as emcee for the evening.
“When we think about giving back and bringing change, the Women’s Summit allows us to come together to celebrate and to collaborate about how we can be the change agent for our community,” Lomanto said before introducing keynote speaker Margaret D’Arrigo.
D’Arrgio, vice president of community development at Taylor Farms, has spent over 25 years in the produce business. The mother of 12- year- old twin boys juggles her time between her job, serving on several boards, volunteering at various non-profit organizations and is even pursuing her Master’s degree at CSUMB in the EXEC-MBA program.
She shared a personal story about losing her 6-week-old daughter after struggling to get pregnant for seven years. She credited the strength of her community for being able to get through the loss. She focused her energy on volunteering and luckily, was able to conceive her twins five months later.
“People ask me ‘how did you get through it? How did you survive the death of a daughter? I said it was strength of the people in my community that brought forth the strength I needed to get through it,” she said. “So, it’s really people like you that make people stronger. You come together as a community and embrace the people that you love.”
She added, “Find opportunities to get involved. I encourage you to charge forward and ask for any support you need along the way,”
Lomanto addressed the opioid epidemic in the county and introduced special guest speaker Monica from Sun Street Centers, “In San Benito County, did you know the rate of opioid subscription age per population dispense was higher in females than male, in 2016? 715.33 over 516.03. So as women we need to stand tall and support other women in need because we are in a crisis,” she said.
Raised in Hollister Monica shared her story to recovery. She said that even though she came from a well-educated family, “the disease of addiction does not discriminate.”
Later in the evening grantees shared their key impacts. This year the women’s fund granted $40,000 to local organizations to help support violence prevention, youth empowerment, and poverty prevention.
Girls INC. Of the Central Coast said only 17.7 percent of women in the county have college degrees and Latinos continue to have the highest high school dropout rate at 15 percent. They currently service 98 girls in their high school ECHO Leadership Program with the goal of having them achieve higher education.
Sun Street Centers said in 2017 the census identified 527 homeless individuals in San Benito County, 42 percent of them were women. “San Benito women make up 25 percent of the DUIs and drug arrests in our county,” they said. With the help of the women’s fund they opening a women’s rehab and in a few months.
Community Solutions said they were able to expand their Promotora (promoters) program from 90 individuals to 191. The program allows them to provide stipends to women who go out into their communities and into the fields to bring awareness about issues of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking. The promotoras serve primarily monolingual and Trique speaking people.
Junior Achievement (JA) of Northern California encourages young people to take control of their economic success. With two programs, Personal Finance and Career Success, scheduled each semester at San Andreas Continuation High School students are learn about what it means to take financial responsibility.