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Local group ‘mothers’ community and women

The Women’s Strive Series funded by The Women’s Project features successful Chaves County women talking about their journeys. In turn, attendees help other community organizations. At a February event, attendees donated children’s books to Chaves County CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocates). (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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A group of local women are demonstrating that nurturing and caring for women and young ladies can take many forms.

The Women’s Project, a funding committee of the United Way of Chaves County, is entering its third year.

“We try to empower women and build women up and fund programs that we feel makes the community better for women,” said Sherry Mumford, executive director of the local United Way. “We want to give women an outlet where they are recognized more and give them more networking capabilities.”

The committee was founded in 2016 as the brainchild of local attorney Adriann Ragsdale, in-house counsel for Pioneer Bank.

She worked closely with Mumford and several other Roswell women in getting it established. Current board members include Yasine Armstrong, Amy Briggs, Karen Griffo, Vera Lupien, Kelly Smith, Laurel Weathers and Kris Holloway. Juliana Halvorson, Pioneer Bank marketing vice president, the graphic designer for the group, is a lifelong member.

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“Any woman who is interested helping support the women’s group and being able to network with other women in our community, they pay annual dues of $250 and basically it is those dues that provide us with the funds to distribute,” said Mumford, who said some extra fundraising events are sometimes held during the year.

Whether members attend the social gatherings or fundraisers is up to each individual, but membership does enable people to have a say in allocations.

Some of the projects the committee has sprinkled with money are the Starting Line, which provides business attire, interview counseling and resume assistance for women looking for work; the Boys and Girls Club SMART Girls program to improve health, fitness and self-esteem; the Chaves County CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) Summer Girls Program; a Reflections and Recovery curriculum; a Roswell Refuge program; and the Strive lecture series coordinated by WESST, formerly the Women’s Economic Self-Sufficiency Team.

The committee also sponsors the Dare to Be Her awards breakfast, to be held June 18 this year, to recognize six outstanding women who are rising stars, innovators, top educators, entrepreneurs, humanitarians and trailbrazers.

“I felt like there were a lot of opportunities in other areas of the state to recognize amazing women in the community, and Roswell didn’t have anything like that,” said Armstrong, who originated the Dare to Be Her concept last year.

She said the breakfast is also a great way to connect new or young women in the community to “women of influence.”

This year, The Women’s Project intends to provide about $10,000 to various programs. Six to seven applications have been submitted so far, with decisions expected in June and announcements made at the Dare to Be Her event.

The group is in the midst of recruiting members, and Mumford said she hopes to see the numbers increase from the 39 women who joined last year.

“We’d really like to surpass what we did last year. My personal goal is to grow to 45,” she said. “As long as we are growing, I think that is a good sign.”

This year, the committee is introducing corporate memberships. For $600, three women from one company can join.

One of the recipients of the funding characterized the committee as a “pro-hope, pro-community and pro-healing.”

Lorual VanRheenen, executive director of the Reflections and Recovery program to help men and women recover from addictive or destructive behaviors, said the money from The Women’s Project helped the organization introduce the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Overcomers curriculum. The program teaches people how to replace the destructive thought patterns that arise from childhood abuse with more helpful, healing and productive thinking.

“We will continue to work with them. They are a very supportive group,” she said. “When we do get together as a group, it is just a wonderful celebration. I am amazed by how many people in the group are themselves overcomers.”

More information about The Women’s Project and Dare to Be Her nominations or breakfast are available by contacting United Way, 575-622-4150.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.