Two Berks County organizations that empower girls have received $31,000 in grants thanks to the donations of 33 local women.

The Power of the Purse in Berks County Fund at Berks County Community Foundation is awarding $18,000 to Co-County Wellness Services for its Berks Teens Matter program and $13,000 to Reading Recreation Commission for its Girls Leadership Program.

The Girls Leadership program also received $13,000 in 2015 from the Power of the Purse Fund.
That money was used to start a Girls Leadership club at Northwest Middle School, in addition to the one at the commission’s headquarters at 320 S. Third St.

“That program was so successful that we will be using this funding with a goal to add clubs at the three other middle schools and the intermediate high school,” said Daphne Klahr, executive director.

Each club’s 30 members attend a weekly meeting. Throughout the program, they are introduced to colleges, cultural events, business leaders and values that are necessary to become successful adults, Klahr said.

One of the girls in the program was seen 90 times in one year by a school disciplinarian before she entered the program, Klahr said. Now the girl is hardly ever seen for behavior problems.

Klahr said a teacher asked the girl what had changed her behavior and she answered: “It’s the Girls Leadership Program. I like coming to a place where I know people care about me.”

“Changes like this will affect the siblings and friends of these girls,” Klahr said. “It’s ripples in a pond that just keep going.”

The weekly meetings include dinner from October through May.

The grant to Co-County Wellness Services is for its Berks Teens Matter program, which is developing and implementing a plan to sustain programs and practices to reduce teen births in Berks County by 40 percent by 2022.

A major component of successful teen pregnancy prevention initiatives is youth-friendly healthcare services, said Jen May, program manager.

Youth-friendly services are based on a comprehensive understanding of what young people want and need, rather than being based only on what providers believe youth need, she said. Youth-friendly services attract young people, respond to their needs, and retain young clients for continuing care.

With funding from the Power of the Purse, Berks Teens Matter will work with six healthcare sites in Berks County to assess their levels of youth-friendly services, increase youth-friendly practices at each site and subsequently promote these clinics to the youth population.

The sites are:
All About Women
Berks Community Health Center (downtown and Oakbrook locations)
The Children’s Health Center
Penn State Health St. Joseph (Downtown Campus)
Planned Parenthood
Co-County Wellness Services

A group of women started the Power of the Purse in Berks County Fund in 2012 to improve the lives of local women and children, said Chiara Renninger, one of the group’s founders.

“The fund functions as a women’s giving circle, where our donations are pooled to create a bigger impact together than we could alone,” she said.

Each year, group members review grant applications, visit nonprofits and vote to determine which programs will receive grants. Members are encouraged to attend four meetings per year.

The group now has 33 members and is seeking more. Members commit a minimum of $1,000 per year if they are over age 35, and a minimum of $500 per year if they are 35 and under.

Since the group began, it has awarded almost $110,000 in grants to local organizations.

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