NH Womenade groups raise $1.75M for families in need

A remarkable network of grassroots organizations called “Womenade,” are providing New Hampshire families short term financial assistance when they have nowhere else to turn. Since 2005, these local organizations have raised and distributed over $1.7 million to more than 5,000 families. The grants are used to pay for essentials such as utility bills, food, rent, car repairs, medications, dental care and clothing.

Sometimes, it’s the seemingly small things that threaten a family’s health and independence. When the refrigerator in Laura’s apartment broke down, Womenade purchased and delivered a refrigerator so that she and her children could stay in their home. Womenade paid for the glasses that Terry’s 8 year old son needed in order to see the blackboard in school. When Tony’s car wouldn’t pass inspection, Womenaid paid for new tires so that Tony could keep her job. Womenade paid to adjust Betty’s dentures so that she could eat without pain. For a family living in a shelter, Womenade paid the overdue fee on a storage unit so that the family’s possessions would not be lost.

Sometimes, a family’s need arises from a major crisis. There was no way to predict that Jackie’s 3-year-old son Joe would be diagnosed with cancer and need many months of intensive treatment. Jackie had to quit her job to take care of her son and his medical care, a financial strain that threatened to cost her family their home. Thanks to Womenade, they were able to cover part of their mortgage and make it through until Joe was stable enough for Jackie to go back to work. Today she works for a nonprofit that provides support for families with children with chronic health conditions, and is paying it forward as a Womenade validator.

What makes Womenade so remarkable is its grassroots, decentralized, non-traditional structure. Each Womenade group is a separate nonprofit organization, but they all follow some common principles. All of the money raised goes to people in need, all of the work is done by volunteers, and all of the recipients remain anonymous to the people who raise the money. Requests for assistance come through a validated community resource such as school nurses, guidance counselors, doctor’s offices, clergy members, social service organizations, hospice and more. A validator is someone who is typically working with an individual or family, verifies their need and eligibility for assistance, and makes the request on their behalf. Requests are reviewed by each Womenade organization’s board of

directors, and if approved, payment is made promptly to the service provider.

Raising $1.7 million in just over a decade has been as grassroots (and creative) as the grantmaking process itself. Womenade of Greater Squamscott has raised $675,000 in 13 years through yearly appeals and popular events like their Holiday House Tour in Exeter. The Greater Bedford Womenade’s events have included a Wellness Expo, Road Race and Movie Nights. Womenade of Concord steps out with its annual fashion show in May, while Catamount Womenaid raised over $10,000 this fall with a 5K Run/Walk at the Deerfield Fairgrounds. Oyster River’s BBQ in the Barn has featured live music, buffet dinner and dancing. Womenaid of Greater Portsmouth has raised over $500,000 since 2006 through house parties, direct appeals and other events. Every chapter also holds small fundraising gatherings, often in local homes. All of these big and small events bring neighbors together for a compelling and highly gratifying purpose: helping one another when times are tough.

In 2009, Womenade was chosen as the beneficiary of the Seacoast Half Marathon, which donates 100 percent of its proceeds each year to a nonprofit organization serving coastal New Hampshire and Maine. Six Womenade groups gathered sponsors, volunteers, and worked on the pre-race committee to help raise $66,000, directly benefiting over 150 families.

Womenade relies entirely on the energy and creativity of volunteers. To learn more about the eight active NH Womenade organizations across the state, visit www.womenadeofnh.org. To see Womenade’s impact on one New Hampshire family, watch Jackie’s first hand story as both a recipient and a validator: https://www.womenadeofnh.org/how-we-help. For information and guidance for starting a Womenade group in your community, contact Mary Jane Shanley Keane, who launched the first group in New Hampshire: Womenade of Greater Squamscott, mjkeane55@gmail.com.

– Submitted by Greater Bedford Womenade