Empowerment, education focus of talk

Philanthropist Malaak Compton-Rock will be the keynote speaker Oct. 24 for the Women Helping Women Fund Tri-Cities 11th annual benefit luncheon.

The lunch begins at noon at TRAC in Pasco. Compton-Rock's message is expected to focus on youth, women's empowerment and education, all key points in Women Helping Women's mission statement.

The organization was founded in 2000 and has an all-volunteer board.

"No one gets paid," said Jody Oxenford, president of WHWF-TC.

They have only one fundraising event a year, the luncheon. Everyone attending is asked to donate $100, and some give more.

"We typically raise $100,000. In the past 11 years, we've funded more than 50 grants totaling over $775,000, all going to nonprofits in the Tri-Cities," she said.

Last year brought a bumper crop of applications.

"We received 25 to 30 and awarded eight. The dollar amount of requests ran about $400,000," Oxenford said.

Recipients of this year's grants will be announced during the luncheon.

Oxenford said WHWF-TC is willing to fund start-up programs, whereas similar organizations fund only existing nonprofits.

"We meet needs not yet addressed," said Rochelle Brunsdon, WHWF-TC secretary. "We look at who will receive services and how best to help the most people."

They also fund programs, not organizations. One program WHWF-TC helped get off to a good start is Columbia Basin College's Don't Quit.

Another aspect of the Women Helping Women Fund is to help women find a voice in philanthropy.

"We try to empower women to open their pocketbook and see what a financial difference then can make in the community," Oxenford said.

To help get women fired up, WHWF-TC brings in speakers who wouldn't typically come to the Tri-Cities.

"People who will bring a new way of thinking, new ideas, who will empower women to go off and do what they're passionate about," Oxenford said.

Compton-Rock is a good example. She is the author of If It Takes A Village, Build One: How I Found Meaning Through a Life of Service and 100+ Ways You Can Too and a judge on Ophrah's Big Give. Compton-Rock also founded the Angel Rock Project -- www.angelrockproject.com -- an online community that promotes volunteerism, social responsibility and sustainable change. She is the wife of comedian Chris Rock.

Despite the name, men are welcome to donate to the Women Helping Women Fund and attend the luncheon.

Reservations are required and due Oct. 10. Call 786-1946 or go to www.whwftc.org.