Marilyn Leland, Irene Ginat, Holly Leland and Donna Gillroy

FORT MYERS, Fla. (May 27, 2014) –The Women’s Legacy Fund of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation recently held its annual spring luncheon at St. Charles Harbour for its contributors and Prima Donors.

The luncheon began with facilitated discussions on this year’s WLF grant focus areas, which were violence against women, economic empowerment and literacy, so attendees could learn more about the areas up for consideration by the group.

Statistics shared with the group included that immigrant women are at a higher risk of being victims of domestic violence because many of them depend upon their abusive partners for legal and economic protection in the U.S., and there is a significant problem in Southwest Florida.

Financial illiteracy is widespread among the U.S. population, and studies show women who are less financially literate are also less likely to plan for retirement and be successful planners. Female-headed households with children younger than 18 years old have a poverty rate of 39.8 percent in Southwest Florida.

According to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Institute of Literacy, 32 million adults in the U.S. are illiterate, 21 percent of adults read below a fifth grade level, and that roughly 20 percent of Floridians are illiterate or lack basic reading skills. In Southwest Florida, 13.2 percent of women lack a high-school diploma and five percent of women have less than a ninth-grade education.

According to Community Foundation President and CEO Sarah Owen, through the WLF’s collective contributions and the endowed fund, the group of contributors will distribute approximately $20,000 in grants to local agencies that are developing innovative programs to address one of these issues.

In just six years of existence, the WLF has provided nearly $90,000 in grants to benefit people and communities in the Southwest Florida region. Currently, the Fund has more than $350,000 in endowed funds that will continue to grow and help fund local issues now and in the future.

The Women’s Legacy Fund is a fund of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, created to enable women in Southwest Florida to direct their giving in focused and strategic ways. The Fund’s mission is to engage women in affecting change in our community through collective philanthropy.

Prima Donors are local women who have contributed $10,000 or more to the Women’s Legacy Fund and are committed to making an impact in their community through collective charitable giving.

Founded in 1976, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation supports the communities of Lee, Charlotte, Collier, Glades and Hendry counties and also acts as the regional convener and leader with firsthand knowledge of community needs. With assets of more than $75 million, the SWFLCF has provided more than $57 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. During its 2013 fiscal year, the SWFLCF granted more than $4 million to more than 100 different organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services, including over $400,000 in regional community impact grants and $450,000 in scholarship grants.

For more information about the Women’s Legacy Fund, please call 239-274-5900 or visit

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