‘Women Helping Women’ launches fund

BY STACI WILSON

After decades of working in the health care industry, running a business and managing rental properties, all while raising a family, one Montrose area woman quietly set about working to make a difference for other women in her community.

The last year of Judy Albert Ventresca’s professional career was spent working for women; saving up every paycheck to use as seed money that inspired the creation of “Women Helping Women” – a fund managed by the Community Foundation of the Endless Mountains.

At a “Women Helping Women” kick-off breakfast held Saturday, Foundation Operations Manager Christine Clayton said many of the issues faced by women in the community stem from financial dependence.

Clayton said the Foundation is looking to raise a $1 million endowment which would serve to perpetually finance the fund.

Fund grants will be used to help vulnerable women who are making a sincere effort to improve their lives, with an emphasis on education and entrepreneurial endeavors.

Clayton said, “There’s so much need for assistance, we would like to provide that little leg up.”

Adding perspective to the goal of the fund was guest speaker, Angela Shelton.

Shelton, a writer, documentary film maker and public speaker who now resides in Susquehanna County, spoke frankly to the group of women about her life experiences of abuse and healing.

In her documentary, “Searching for Angela Shelton,” she crossed the country interviewing women who shared her name. Through her interviews, she discovered 70 percent of the women had been victims of child sexual abuse, rape or domestic violence.

She also met one “Angela Shelton” who tracked sexual predators in the same city where the filmmaker was born leading to Shelton’s on-film confrontation with the man who molested her when she was a child.

In the making of the film she said she realized she was “definitely not alone. There truly is a problem. A lot of people are hurting.”

After making the film, Shelton also experienced a financial crisis.

“We’ve all been through something,” she said. And the making of the documentary made her confront her own issues and begin the healing process – a process she now shares with other women.

Shelton also lauded the Women Helping Women fund’s intent.

“You’re going to help someone with this fund and they’re going to say they’re not worth it,” Shelton predicted. “(Abuse) is so prevalent, it’s so important that we help each other.”

She said that when she was “broke,” it was women showing up to give her a car ride or make her dinner that helped.

“I believe you can transform a life with a little help. That’s why I love this fund so much,” Shelton said. “A little help can change a community.”

She told the women gathered for the kick-off event to not think of the fund as helping people “on the other side of the tracks” or kids that they don’t know.

“I’m telling you, I am the person you’re helping. I’m the kid hiding under the bed. My mom is the one who needed a ride… It’s not women you don’t know, it’s me. It’s the women standing next to you in line at Price Chopper.”

To get involved or more information about Women Helping Women fund can be found on the Community Foundation of the Endless Mountains website, www.community-foundation.org or by calling 570-278-3800.