Originally published in The Times Union, Thursday, February 2, 2006

A collection of civic groups wants to create a special fund to promote economic opportunities and self-sufficiency for women and girls.

The Community Foundation of the Capital Region, the United Way of Northeastern New York and the United Way of Schnenctady County are looking for 500 women who would seed the fund over the next year with $500 donations.

With that $250,000, the Women's Fund of the Capital Region could support female-owned small businesses, help pay for job training programs for women, and bolster career-exploration programs for girls.

"We want to engage more women in our effort to get at root causes of barriers to social and economic development," said Katherine D. Pelham, president of the United Way of Northeastern New York. "The Women's Fund will provide the opportunity for more women to have a significant and unique role in changing conditions for women and girls in our region."

The groups will formally launch the fund on Feb. 16, during an evening reception at The Century House in Latham.

"Research shows that many working women are caught between poverty and a true living wage," said Karen Bilowith, president of the United Way of Schnenctady County. These women typically must overcome multiple obstacles on the path to independence."

The fund would be the first of its kind in the Capital Region, though there are others, including the 19-year-old New York Women's Foundation.

Abigail Disney, past president of the New York City fund, who is also founder and president of the anti-poverty group Daphne Foundation, will speak at the kickoff reception.

She said the key is to convince Capital Region women that they can do more collectively than any of them could do alone. "$1,000 is just $1,000. But 10 women giving $1,000 is a really powerful thing," she said. "There's an enormous amount of power in collectivity."

The New York fund gave out $50,000 in 1987, its first year. It expects to award $2 million this year.

Disney said about 100 women's funds operate around the country, managing about $500 million.