Grant Sets in Motion Pilot Program for deaf Women Support Group

The Women’s Fund Distributes Nearly $40,000 in Grants to Local Nonprofits

September 9, 2018— Sitting at her desk, immersed in the day’s tasks and responsibilities, WHOLE ME, Inc. executive director, Christine Kovar, was approached by two employees, one right after another, who both expressed the need to form a support group to help other deaf women.

They expressed that they had been consistently hearing real-life stories from their female hard-of-hearing clients of oppression and discrimination in education, employment and in everyday interactions. These stories were constant reminders to the WHOLE ME staff that this underserved population needed additional support.

Those spirited conversations ultimately led to the organization receiving a $7,500 grant from the Women’s Fund of Central New York to pilot a deaf women support group. The group, which put the wheels in motion in September, offers bi-monthly meetings that allow women from all walks of life, including those who are senior citizens, refugees, single moms, LGBTQ, young adults, those facing isolation, domestic and sexual violence as well as those needing addiction and mental health referrals to talk openly and gain insight into precious resources and, at the same time, strengthen their bond within the deaf community. WHOLE ME emphasizes this as an opportunity to find peer support while benefiting from the knowledge and resources the organization has to offer.

“When the women come to WHOLE ME, Inc.,” said Kovar, “they have access to many professional deaf women who understand firsthand the overarching communication issues that are all too common.”

For Elizabeth Quilter, chair of the Women’s Fund Leadership Council, and the many others that participate with the Women’s Fund, there is an overwhelming feeling seeing everything come to fruition.

“It is such a privilege to be able to steward the gifts of so many women to help organizations making a dramatic impact in the lives of women and girls in our region,” said Quilter. “Donations of all sizes are pooled to amplify the gifts any of us could give individually.”

Pamela Mabee, WHOLE ME’s American Sign Language instructor and afterschool program assistant, outreach and advocacy specialist, Lindsay Ryan Anthony, and assistant director and transition coordinator, Joelene Orlando, are just a few women working at WHOLE ME, Inc. that are blazing the path with their expertise and personal  journeys  of  frustrations, successes and learning experiences.

The women are extremely hopeful that this group will build confidence and self-esteem, inspire women to speak out and bring awareness to the deaf culture. Kovar couldn’t agree more, too.

“This Women’s Fund grant will enhance WHOLE ME’s ability to reach women who are looking for support in a deaf-friendly environment with their true peers and in turn, helps us to fulfill what we are set out to do,” said Kovar.

WHOLE ME, Inc., whose name is derived from an acronym: Work, Health, Organizational skills, Life experiences, Entertainment choices, Math and English (WHOLE ME), aims to provide specialized services and programs that are geared specifically towards the unique language needs of individuals who are deaf and/or Hard-of-Hearing.

“The beauty of WHOLE ME, Inc. is that every deaf person that works here has their own journey,” said Kovar. “Any deaf person that walks into our organization can relate to someone who works here.”


The Women’s Fund awarded the following grants to local nonprofit organizations:

Auburn Public Theater received $5,000 for two productions by in-house acting troupe, the Tubman Troupe. The productions aim to increase the artistic capacity and skills of nine amateur African American actresses in the Troupe, engage new audiences at Auburn Public Theater and better serve women of color.

Calvary Food Pantry received $1,500 to provide feminine hygiene supplies and sanitary products to female food pantry clients.

CNY Arts received $4,150 to develop Arts for Female Hearts, a comprehensive program that helps girls and women find their voice through the arts, take charge of their destiny and live lives that matter.

Crouse Health Foundation received $2,300 for educational and emotional support programs for parents who have infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

InterFaith Works of Central New York received $7,500 to support Thrive, an empowerment program for refugee women which will address the emotional and practical needs of victims of domestic violence and build community and self-esteem through peer support.

North Side Learning Center received $4,250 to support comprehensive S.T.E.M. and college/career-readiness programming for newcomer refugee and immigrant women and girls.

Rise Above Poverty received $1,000 to purchase storage cabinets for storing feminine hygiene products, personal care items and clothing for the homeless and poverty-stricken students at Danforth Middle School and Edward Smith K-8 School during the 2018-2019 academic year.

Syracuse Habitat for Humanity received $2,000 for the Women Build program, which aims to encourage women to participate in all aspects of building a Habitat House, create volunteering spaces that are women-led and provide them with personal and construction skills training.

Whole Me received $7,500 to pilot a deaf women support group, which will offer a safe place for deaf women with common experiences and concerns. The program will include deaf women from all walks of life, including: senior citizens, refugees, single moms, LGBTQ, young adults, those facing isolation, domestic and sexual violence as well as those needing addiction and mental health referrals.

In addition, Lockheed Martin provided funding for a program that serves female veterans and/or science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education:

Wells College received $4, 678 in support of a STEAM workshop for ten high-achieving female high school students in Cayuga County.

The Women’s Fund of Central New York is an affiliate fund of the Central New York Community Foundation. The fund supports, empowers and recognizes the advancement and full participation of women and girls in Central New York through an endowment fund, grants and initiatives. Since its inception in 1998, the Women’s Fund has awarded more than $325,000 in grants, and has grown its endowment to more than $1 million. For more information or to make a donation, visit:


About the Central New York Community Foundation

The Central New York Community Foundation was established in 1927 to serve as a permanent community endowment built by the gifts and charitable legacies of individuals, families and businesses for the betterment of the region. It is the largest charitable foundation in Central New York with assets of more than $272 million. It has invested more than $190 million in community improvement projects since its inception. As a grantmaker, civic leader, convener and sponsor of special initiatives, the Community Foundation strives to strengthen local nonprofits, encourage better understanding of the region and address the most critical issues of our time.  Its vision is to create a vibrant Central New York community that provides opportunity for everyone and builds a hopeful, prosperous region for future generations.

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