Windham Women & Girls Fund meets Ossen Challenge

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Raises $67,000 in 2013; enables extra $27,000 for grants

WINDHAM, CT -- Thanks to 99 gifts it received in the last month of 2013, the Windham Women & Girls Fund increased its permanent endowment to $275,000 and directed another $27,000 in grants to social concerns in the region.

Six grants went to:

  • Covenant Soup Kitchen, $1,400,  to provide food assistance to women and children.
  • Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, $4,500, to provide access to health care for uninsured women and teens.
  • Windham Area Interfaith Ministry, $5,000, for its Partners in Independence Program which engages community mentors to work with low-income adults.       
  • Windham County 4-H Foundation, $1,000, for camperships for middle school Latina girls.
  • Connecticut Legal Services, $10,000, to provide assistance to local residents.
  • Windham Region No Freeze Hospitality Center, $5,000, to help shelter women and assist the shelter meet the needs brought on by this extraordinarily cold winter season.     

They are in addition to 13 grants totalling $39,000 announced in December (available at

Grants are a result of the “Ossen Challenge”

The grants were decided by the Women & Girls Fund, a program of the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut, and made possible by the Jeffrey P. Ossen Family Foundation.

“Eileen Ossen gave us a very generous challenge,” noted Fund Co-Founder Lee Terry. “Her foundation is matching every dollar the Women & Girls Fund raises for endowment with another dollar for grants. People have a wonderful incentive to grow the endowment for stability, and we’re able to ensure the most grant dollars in the Fund’s history.”

“The Jeffrey P Ossen Family Foundation is pleased to help the Windham Women & Girls Fund raise funds for their endowment,” Eileen Ossen responded. ”The Women & Girls Fund is making a difference in the lives of women and girls in this area. We are proud to be part of the work the Fund is accomplishing.”

Now starting its third and final year, the “Ossen Challenge” promises a maximum of $200,000 in matching funds, or a little over $66,000 per year, Terry explained. The Fund met the match in the first year as well.

Gifts represent donors of all types; many honor memory of Louise Guarnaccia

Though the 99 gifts in December made the difference, donors to the Windham Women & Girls Fund gave at all levels and throughout the year, said Kip Parker, the Community Foundation’s Division Director.

“In all, 255 separate individuals, couples, and families contributed a total of $67,615 in 2013. One in four gave twice or even three times during the year. We received gifts every single month. I’m particularly pleased that people gave what felt right to them,” Parker reported. “The number of gifts are almost the same at $25, $50, $100, $250, and even $500.”

Parker added that five donors contributed $1,000 each, two of the Fund’s founders donated $3,000, and an anonymous donor gave $6,000. She also pointed out that 45 gifts totalling nearly $4,500 were made in memory of Louise Guarnaccia of Mansfield, who passed away in late October.

“Louise was a model for the Women & Girls Fund,” said Lee Terry. “In 1975, she was the first woman to be elected City Clerk and Treasurer in Willimantic, and then Windham’s first woman First Selectman. She was Superintendent of Sanitation for Manchester, managed the Clean Water Project for Hartford, taught government and political science at UConn, and consulted on recycling, all while serving on many local boards and commissions.”

Parker added, “We were very honored that Louise created a fund during her lifetime at the Community Foundation to support women’s education, and that her husband Jack encouraged people to send memorial donations here.”

Third year of Challenge has begun; contributions welcome

Terry is optimistic the Women & Girls Fund will meet the approximately $67,000 goal in 2014, the final year of the Ossen Challenge.

“It’s not only about the joy of volunteering with friends to support the Women & Girls Fund, and connecting with hardworking and goodhearted people in our local nonprofit agencies. I think people are driven to contribute by their passionate commitment to alleviate the difficult conditions with which too many single mothers, aging women, and young girls have to cope. We are thrilled and proud to have an opportunity to make a difference in actual lives right now,  right here.

“Everyone associated with the Windham Area Women & Girls Fund is grateful for the generous response to the Jeffrey P. Ossen Family Foundation challenge. We deeply thank Eileen Ossen for her decision to challenge us and encourage philanthropic giving to benefit our community, and thereby increasing our capacity to make more meaningful change each year,” Terry concluded.

People wishing to contribute to the Windham Women & Girls Fund can visit the Community Foundation’s website (, or mail a check to Kip Parker, Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut, 68 Federal Street, New London, CT 06320.  They can also contact Parker at or (860) 442-3572.



Kip Parker
Division Director
Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut


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