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Over Coffee Jan. 24, 2008
By Penny Fletcher
Jan 24, 2008 - 8:50:20 PM

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It’s being done by women, for women and in honor of women.

Yet the idea was conceived by a man.

When I met with Vicki Elsberry, Grace McKee and Evelyn Lunsford Jan. 18 at the Panera Bread coffeehouse in the new Big Bend Shopping Center, it was hard for me to believe it had been more than a year since I first heard about the idea of a new fund dedicated to helping women.

Time sure flies when you’re having fun. And writing about the huge contributions of time and talent (as well as money) being given by South County residents like these is certainly fun.

The Women’s Fund is under the umbrella of the Community Foundation of Greater Sun City Center. The idea for it was conceived by Bob Mohr, a Sun City Center attorney and former chairman of the Foundation’s 13-person board.

The board’s members and grants, however, are not restricted to that community, but include all the communities in South County. 

“We knew we wanted to do something to help women, but we weren’t sure just what,” said Lunsford, who now chairs the Foundation’s board. “If you remember, the Women’s Fund was originally Bob’s brainchild.”

Those who made it happen didn’t waste any time.

Less than 18 months after the idea was born, the Women’s Fund had been created; a nine-woman board with members from each community in South County had been put in place; Elsberry had been elected to serve as its chairwoman; and the first grant - $15,000 worth- had been given to the Tampa branch of The Ophelia Project, a national nonprofit organization committed to helping girls and women with issues like building self-esteem and recognizing relational aggression.

Elsberry, McKee and  Lunsford asked me to meet with them over coffee because their organization wants to give more money, more often.

You’ve probably heard the expression, “she has a brain and she knows how to use it,” or some other variation – like “she has a camera and she knows how to use it.”
Well, the Women’s Fund has the money and they know how to use it.

 “We want to be creative,” said Elsberry. “We’re up for anything that impacts girls or women. Anything that will help make their lives better. Age and income aren’t relevant.’

Before the fund even got off the ground, it had more than $300,000 in its coffers. And this is only part of the Foundation’s $30 million, Mohr said.

Like the Foundation’s other causes, the Women’s Fund is always seeking both donors and recipients.

Penny Fletcher Photo Vicki Elsberry of Ruskin, left, and Grace McKee of Apollo Beach, meet at Panera Bread in the new Big Bend Shopping Center Jan. 18 to discuss plans for the newly-formed Women’s Fund advisory board which Elsberry chairs. The fund is under the umbrella of the Community Foundation of Greater Sun City Center and is currently seeking both donors and charitable organizations as potential recipients. Any nonprofit organization that works for women’s issues, causes, or provides help specifically to girls or women of any age in South County may apply for a grant.
“With Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day coming up,” McKee said, “maybe someone wants to give in honor- or memory - of a wife or mother. Money can always be given in the name of, or dedicated to, a loved one.”

Elsberry discussed recipients. “When we help women, we help everyone,” she said. “Helping women is helping families, and the community, and the society they live in.”

Individuals and businesses may not apply for grants. Only nonprofit, 501 C (3) tax- exempt organizations already in place may receive money.

Surely there are people all over South County who need this money.

I was sitting there thinking, “Come on, grant-writers, get on the ball.” I could name at least a dozen organizations that help women every day.

Another important point the volunteers wanted to make was that the women your organization helps don’t have to be abused, neglected or poor. They just have to have a need you can fill.

Maybe you’re a member of an organization helping widows learn how to handle their finances, or how to invest; or you work with a girl’s club that needs sports equipment, or tutoring help or maybe even a building in which to meet.

I see single moms every day hustling to find good childcare and obtain extra help for their children when they fall behind in their studies. I know there are nonprofit groups formed to help them.

Well, now the helper-agencies have a place to go for that help. So don’t wait until the lines for help get long, like they do around the Christmas holidays when your cupboard is bare. Come forward now. The doors won’t open until you knock.  

People may submit a detailed request for a grant or make a donation earmarked for the Women’s Fund to the Community Foundation of Greater Sun City Center, P.O. Box 5914, Sun City Center, FL 33571. (Or they may ask for a grant from the Foundation’s general fund for something that will benefit both sexes.) Anyone wanting to know more about the Women’s Fund, or request a presentation to a civic group, may call Elsberry at 645-5518 or McKee, 641-7280. Elsberry will also take e-mail requests at

* “Over Coffee” isn’t always about having coffee, although this week’s at Panera Bread was a treat. It’s a chance for you to talk about what’s on your mind, ask for help or tell a  heart-warming story. I believe every person can make a difference in their community. It may be your story someone needs to hear. So shoot me an e-mail at and maybe we can get together soon- and have coffee (or not)!

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