LWRWC Donates $53,000 to Charities
The Lakewood Ranch Women’s Club (LWRWC) presented their donation of $32,000 in cash and over $21,000 in-kind to their 501(c)(3) adopted charities at their Annual Business Meeting on Wednesday, January 6, 2022, at the LWR Townhall. The charities include HOPE Family Services, SMART (Sarasota Manatee Association for Riding Therapy), Solve Maternity Homes, and Children’s Guardian Fund (CGF). The donations marked the culmination of a successful year of charity fundraising in spite of the pandemic.
Cheryl Breining and Helene Levin passed the gavel to the new President, Carol Belmont.
Carol Belmont thanked Cheryl and Helene for their dedicated work to keep the LWRWC going during the past year with memberships, financials, zoom meetings, Special Interest Groups and events that were planned and then cancelled at the last moment due to Covid. Carol stated that these two women are outstanding in every way and good friends. She presented Cheryl Breining and Helene Levin with a gift from the LWRWC.
Philanthropy Chair, Eileen Buzzard, introduced the Executive Directors from each Charity and each director gave a moving presentation that illustrated the positive impact that the LWRWC support made in the lives of the people they serve.
Rebecca Blitz, Executive Director of SMART, shared that she fell in love with the empathetic SMART horses used in the therapeutic horseback riding and carriage driving programs to enhance the physical, emotional, and cognitive growth of children and adults with special needs. Rebecca expanded SMART’S programs to serve more veterans with PTSD, sex trafficking victims, first responders, and Parkinson’s patients. A horse can feel a person’s heartbeat from 6ft away and can greatly help to alleviate stress!
Four SMART volunteers accompanied Rebecca: three extraordinary teenage girls (Lilly, age 17, Claire, age 13, and Elizabeth Blitz, Rebecca’s daughter, age 14) and Jackie, a registered ICU nurse and Lilly’s mom. All four share Rebecca’s love of SMART horses and helping people in need!
Svetlana Ivashchenko, Executive Director, Children’s Guardian Fund, explained that CGF immediately responds to the needs of children removed from abusive or neglectful homes and showed a moving video that featured two loving grandparents who are raising four grandchildren.
With the help of CGF, they are able to provide a secure and happy home for the children. CGF partners with the Guardian ad Litem program and provides funding to meet emergency needs of 1200 children in foster and state care in Florida’s 12th Judicial Circuit. CGF provides beds, cribs, summer camp and activities, academic tutoring, birthday and holiday gifts, clothing, and other essentials to enable normalcy and enrichment in the lives of children.
Peggy Kerwin, Executive Director, Solve, accompanied by Angie, a courageous young mother, told how SOLVE Maternity Homes offers an oasis for pregnant women in need by providing safe housing, a structured program customized for each woman, and the tools needed to be successful in life.
In her deeply moving remarks, Angie described the trauma of being pregnant and homeless. Google became her friend and the salvation that led her to Solve. Angie credits Solve with “loving her back to life” and saving her baby! She was expecting a homeless shelter but Solve offered her a home. Angie is now part of the Evolve program for new mothers pursuing a higher education. SOLVE has been assisting pregnant women in need and their precious babies for over 45 years and just welcomed their 1,410th baby, Angie’s 8 lb,13oz. boy.
The final speaker, Laurel Lynch, has been the Executive Director of Hope Family Services for 25 years! HOPE is in the business of saving lives and offers a safe place 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, for victims and survivors of domestic violence. In addition to Emergency Safe Shelter, HOPE provides advocacy, counseling, children’s services, and parenting support. Last fiscal year, HOPE provided 2,403 people with help. Throughout the pandemic, HOPE had to pivot to address the needs of victims who were literally trapped with their abusers. Accordingly, HOPE provided a way for victims to speak without saying a word by texting the word Survivor to 69922. Quoting lyrics from the Grateful Dead, Laurel said “what a long, strange trip it’s been” but we survived. Laurel emphasized that we are all in this together and thanked the LWRWC for their amazing support.