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Originally published: 2014-03-04 18:42:02
Last modified: 2014-03-04 18:42:47

Women's Fund of the Blue Ridge

by Jeff Eason

"All for one, and one for all," was the battle cry for the Alexander Dumas' legendary Three Musketeers.

That slogan is also applicable to the new union of organizations dedicated to bettering the lives of women and children in Western North Carolina.

It was announced this week that the Appalachian Women's Fund and the High Country Women's Fund are in the process of merging into one unified organization.

"A continued commitment to serving the needs of impoverished, disenfranchised women and girls remains the core mission of the new group now known as Women's Fund of the Blue Ridge," Cathy Williamson, a spokeswoman for the Appalachian Women's Fund, said.

"Representatives from both groups began the merging process with the expectation that very little would change with regards to the grant funding priorities and goals. Focusing on the strength of each fund, the combining of efforts will make for a very strong presence throughout the counties being served," she said.

According to Williamson, both boards voted last week to unanimously approve the transition.

Karen Sabo will head the newly merged organization. Previously, Sabo was the director of the New Opportunity School for Women, based at Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk.

The newly created Women's Fund of the Blue Ridge will support nonprofit organizations benefiting women, girls and children in six or seven mountain counties, including Alleghany, Ashe, Avery and Watauga, according to Williamson.

A long-standing relationship between the High Country Women's Fund and the United Way is where one of the biggest changes will occur. An initiative of the United Way, the HCWF was formally established in May 2006. Between 2006 and 2013, the HCWF has allocated more than $500,000 to nonprofits serving women and their families in Watauga and Avery counties.

"Being under the auspices and guidance of the United Way has enabled us to grow our membership each year," said Grace Palacios-Will on behalf of the former HCWF. "Their support provided us with a strong and steady foundation for raising both money and awareness for women's issues.

"We remain very grateful for the years of support and encouragement from the United Way," she said.

Previously, the High Country Women's Fund's primary fundraiser was the Power of the Purse Luncheon and the Appalachian Women's Fund's primary fundraiser was the Women of Vision of Luncheon. Those events will be merged into one charity luncheon, scheduled for Thursday, June 26,  at the Linville Ridge Country Club.

The luncheon will utilize the Power of the Purse title with Women of Vision as the subtitle.

According to Williamson, the two groups will have a joint meeting in the near future so that all of the members can meet and plan this summer's fundraising luncheon and choose a speaker.

For more information or to join the Women's Fund of the Blue Ridge, go to (info@womensfundoftheblueridge.org) , or call (828) 264-4002.