First grants from Women’s Giving Circle total $20,000

The Women’s Giving Circle awarded a $7,500 grant to St. Francis Home at the Pastoral Center in Richmond on Tuesday, May 3, 2022. Three grants totaling $20,000 were awarded to three local nonprofits including St. Francis Home. (Photo provided)

Three Richmond-area nonprofits benefit from pilot program


Children will have beds in which to sleep, seniors will have an opportunity to stay connected with family and friends, and children who are victims of abuse will be able to speak about it in the language with which they are most comfortable, thanks to the first grants, totaling $20,000, awarded at the Pastoral Center, Tuesday, May 3, by the Women’s Giving Circle — Richmond.

The giving circle, a pilot initiative of the Diocese of Richmond’s Catholic Community Foundation (CCF), had been under consideration by the CCF for several years, according to Maggie Keenan, director of planned giving for the CCF.

“Research shows that women in households make decisions about charitable giving, and that they like to do things collectively,” she said. “The model for Women’s Giving Circles across the U.S. has always been successful — secular or otherwise — so we felt this was the right time with our foundation and the relationships that have been built since the foundation has been around, and it just piqued the interest.”

The Women’s Giving Circle is composed of 18 members who received personal invitations or who read about it in one of the 19 parish bulletins in which the invitation appeared. Members under the age of 35 pay $600 a year to belong, while those over 35 and older pay $1,100. That money is placed into a fund with the CCF. Grants, decided upon by membership, are awarded to nonprofit organizations whose programs and services meet the needs of local communities and adhere to Catholic Social Teaching.

‘Magical moment’

The Henrico Chapter of Sleep in Heavenly Peace, Inc. (www., which has no paid employees, received a $7,500 grant to provide 27 fully furnished twin beds for children, 3-17 years old.

According to Curtis Marshall, chapter president, they receive requests for beds from children’s parents, advocates, teachers and social service agencies, including Commonwealth Catholic Charities.

“Once you make a delivery for social services, you get legitimacy and they call you again,” he said.

Noting that Sleep in Heavenly Peace is “the only organization providing handmade beds,” Marshall, a retired law enforcement officer, said that because they are mobile, they provide service opportunities for schools, businesses and organizations.

“Volunteers are necessary, and we need good referrals,” he said.

Marshall said that making a delivery, setting up the bed with mattress, sheets, comforter and pillows, and having the child walk into the room is a “magical moment.”

“Not only do these kids not have a bed of their own, some are on the floor, some are on the couch with their siblings, some are with mom and dad,” he said. “A lot of kids don’t have a lot to call their own, so to have a bed to call your own, that’s your own little safe space, that’s a big deal.”

Marshall said the organization is “about 50 beds in the hole” because the number of requests they receive is always greater than how many beds we have in stock.

“When people find out what we’re doing,” he said about potential donors, “it tends to tug at their heart strings a little bit.”

Combating social isolation

Fajr “Faja” Mills, program director at St. Francis Home (www., was “super excited” when the home was awarded a $7,500 grant to purchase the iN2L (“It’s Never Too Late”) Mobile Flex System — technology for a seniors and caregiver efficiency program.

“Our purpose and hope for residents is to bridge the gap between technology and seniors and technology and the rest of world,” she said. “We’re attempting in some small way to combat social isolation.”

Mills noted that because St. Francis Home serves a low-income community, residents might not have tablets, cellphones or computers.

“I wanted to find a system I could introduce to our residents where they can gain independence and the social aspect where they can connect with family members and their loved ones,” she said. “They will be able to touch the screen and tap on a photo and see relatives and friends. It also has Skype abilities so they can tap on a contact list and have interaction with them as well.”

The mobility of the system provides Mills with options for working one-on-one in a resident’s room, as well as using it with small and large groups.

“When we were awarded that grant, it just meant everything because I knew that we were moving in the right direction,” she said. “Our residents will be able to have that connection through technology that they were missing.”

Children are priority

Its name — Greater Richmond- Stop Child Abuse Now (SCAN), Inc. ( — makes it clear that protecting children from abuse is its priority. At the heart of its mission, SCAN emphasizes compassion, humility and respect in services, according to Jeanine Harper, executive director.

The $5,000 grant it received from the Women’s Giving Circle is being used to enlist “highly trained interpreters to be present during child forensic interviews and/or family advocacy appointments with non-offending caregivers,” according to Harper.

Among the services SCAN provides through its two Child Advocacy Centers are child forensic interviews, trauma focused treatment, referral to medical services and victim advocacy.

“If we have a child or adolescent from a Latino community and their caregivers coming to the Child Advocacy Center, oftentimes the caregiver may only speak Spanish or have limited English,” Harper explained. “In the context of us wanting to be welcoming and sensitive to that, interpreters are important.”

This is particularly true in the forensics interviews of victims.

“You want to make sure, even if they speak English, because it is about a trauma, interpreters are available,” she said. “It is important that the child can describe feelings and talk about what that experience was.”

Harper noted that they have worked with Commonwealth Catholic Charities in providing interpreter services for the interviews.

“We need interpreters that are sensitive to the child and the caregiver,” Harper said.

Expressing gratitude for the grant, she noted it connected the “sense of ministry and justice to vulnerable children.”

With the interest and success generated by the Women’s Giving Circle — Richmond, CCF envisions circles being established in other areas of the diocese.

“We hold the vision that next year the Women’s Giving Circle — Richmond will grow in membership,” Keenan said. “We also have an expressed interest right now to start one in the Williamsburg area. Ideally, we would like to see one in Roanoke, Virginia Beach and different geographic areas.”

Editor’s note: For further information about Women’s Giving Circles, contact Maggie Keenan at 804-359-5661.

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