Improving the lives of women and girls through philanthropy and collective giving is the mission of the Women's Giving Alliance.
Since its founding in 2001 through The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida, the organization has awarded more than $3.6 million in grants for 37 agencies that address the needs of at-risk women and girls. In addition, the organization has developed an endowment of more than $1 million to ensure its philanthropy is sustainable.
Sandy Cook, alliance past president, spoke Monday to the Rotary Club of Jacksonville at the Omni Downtown.
"There are lots of issues, but also lots to be glad about," Cook said.
The alliance's areas of focus include public education through grade 12, financial literacy, mental health, violence and crime, girls in foster care and juvenile justice.
Cook said hundreds of women have joined the alliance and pool their resources to support agencies and programs that improve the lives of women and girls.
Since 2004, educational attainment for females has improved in every North Florida county and the number of girls who graduate from high school is greater than the number of boys who graduate, she said.
The alliance supports programs for girls in foster care, with emphasis on ages 13-17.
"If you're in the foster care system and you're not adopted by age 13, you won't be adopted. You will age out of the system," said Cook.
Girls in that age group also are prone to eating disorders, self-injury and running away from home, which makes it difficult to stay in school.
Cook said the alliance has supported for three years programs at PACE Center for Girls aimed at individual therapy and education. "Our philosophy is to fund a program to establish it so it can attract other philanthropic supporters," she said.
While there has been improvement in education and a reduction in infant mortality, Cook said mental health care remains one of the greater needs in the community.
"There is a gap in mental health care for adolescent females and a lack of resources for women and girls who live in rural areas. We have focused on mental health for the past four years and have made more than $700,000 in grants to provide more resources," she said.
Two-year grants ranging from $20,000 to $115,000 were awarded last year. Cook said the organization is evaluating grant applications from 40 local organizations that provide mental health resources for women and girls. The winners will be announced in November.