A Message From The President

April 2022

An intriguing discussion is reverberating across Athena: How should we use our money?

First, chair Jessica Muroff asked her Philanthropy Committee: For what, if anything, should Athena raise money?  Should the cause be mental health-related, in keeping with this year’s focus?  ERA-related?  Or something else?

The immediate consensus: As Betty Castor put it, we don’t give as much as we could to our own programs, so let’s focus on our flagship Phyllis Marshall Career Assistance Grants and Dr. Sylvia Richardson Young Women of Promise programs before extending efforts outward.  Especially since our Community Foundation funds can be used for tuition only, not living expenses, the committee strongly felt that, this year especially, Athena needs to raise extra.

Meanwhile, separately, the Community Action Committee was discussing potential financial gifts to organizations which uphold Athena’s position statements.  Then the committee reversed course, drafting the following letter:

Dear Philanthropy Committee Members,

When our CAC committee met in February, we discussed philanthropy.

We have identified several wonderfully worthy projects embodying our values of social justice and lifting-up women in our community.  However, I believe that raising money for these causes is not the best use of our energy and resources.

The social and political capital of Athena Society members allows us to impact worthy causes in a manner that no single individual could.  Other organizations raise funds and make direct financial contributions while our members can make connections and make things happen.  Networking for the public good among our members and in the larger community is what we do best.

An example of Athena’s ability to support & impact community causes is the help we provided to the UACDC.  Athena members used our members’ connections and clout to get both city and county governments to address this problem and ultimately secured $5 million to create water and sewer infrastructure to help the residents.

Athena’s unique strength is our members’ capacity to collaborate on community issues not just as individuals, but under the umbrella of Athena – no individual can do that alone, no other organization has this strength.

I propose that we invest more robustly in our existing programs, Young Women of Promise and the Phyllis Marshall Career Assistance Grants.  Let’s not focus on fundraising [for outside programs.]


Mimi Stamps
Bonnie Saks
Kathleen Heide
Linda Saul-Sena

Fortified, the Philanthropy Committee now suggests revising Athena’s Policy and Procedure Guidelines to raise money only for internal causes. “We recognize that members already contribute substantially to other organizations,” the proposed language reads, “and our priority is our Society’s philanthropic programs; therefore, outside requests are not considered.”

“When I created the Career Assistance Grants program in 1996, we started with just tuition,” Athena’s past president Paddy Moses says.  “But small things prevented [recipients] from getting to school.  We can give them money for books and tuition but often their babysitter can’t come, or their car breaks down, or they don’t have money for gas to get to school.  These are little things to us because we find a way, but they don’t have the way.

“We tried to set aside at that time $200 to $300 where if they ran into a problem, we had the money to give them.  If they came to the chair of the CAG Program and said, look I’ve spent my money on gas and I have another week to go, can you help?  It was never a big amount of money — $100 for the light bill — they were trying to make it work.  We told the women, if you run into a problem, call us first so we can help.  It just breaks my heart that no one knows this anymore, and it was dropped by the wayside.  That was my gift to Athena during my presidency.”

Under its proposal, the Philanthropy Committee would also prepare and share an annual report, providing an overview of funds raised and where they were invested.  The Bylaws Committee will vote on these changes later this year.

This week, as we celebrate Young Women of Promise honorees for the 41st year in a row, how uplifting to watch Athena rally resources in exclusive support of our signature programs.  Kudos not only to those who make change, but all who, year after year, decade after decade, make our programs so eminently well-deserving.