April 23, 2018
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Craft fair to benefit Women, Work and Community

By Joni Averill

Much has changed since Maine Centers for Women, Work and Community was founded in 1978 as the Displaced Homemakers Program, but what hasn’t changed is the need for women experiencing life changes to have resources available to help them begin life anew.

When she began working for WWC on Nov. 1, 1985, Jane Searles told me the program was helping “traditional homemakers who had left high school and-or college, got married, and had no work experience” when they found themselves facing divorce or widowhood.

Women in those situations today “may have more work experience, but it is a much, much tighter workplace, so you have to have the best resume and work skills,” Jane said.

WWC, according to a recent news release, is the only statewide, comprehensive women’s economic development organization in Maine. It has grown from one site to 18 sites serving all 16 Maine counties.

As the regional manager for the North Central-Down East Region of WCC, based at University College of Bangor and part of University of Maine-Augusta, Jane points out that “the computer and the technology world has completely changed how we work and how we think.”

But, through three decades, it hasn’t changed the WWC mission of helping women improve their economic lives “by increasing their income, assets and earning potential and their overall quality of life.”

WWC offers four programs to help in that process: Building a career, starting a business, managing money and building assets, and becoming a leader.

Some special women have been helped by WWC and they, in turn, extend their support through a popular fundraiser.

The 16th annual Designing Women Fine Arts and Crafts Show is 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 6, at the Dyke Center for Family Business at Husson University in Bangor.

The suggested donation at the door is $2 for visitors to view and purchase the work of female artisans from throughout Maine whose outreach efforts such as these assist organizations that benefit women and girls in the community.

With operating expenses for the show coming from the artisans, proceeds from donations, raffles and the sale of food made by volunteers and staff directly benefit WWC.

Last year’s show generated $2,500 from those donations, food sales and raffles.

Additionally, Designing Women donated items for a basket raffle valued at $200 that brought in $750.

This year, the event will feature three raffles, including items donated by Designing Women, WWC graduates and a locally handcrafted Adirondacks chair made by Crystal Kane.

The goal of making $1,500 to $2,000 from those three raffles, this year, has a special purpose, Jane said.

Raffle proceeds will enable WWC to supplement minigrants it will fund with “a small grant we received from the Maine Women’s Fund, whose mission it is to work with artisans in a creative economy.”

The hope is that, in addition to those two or three grants of between $300 and $400, WWC will be able to make a few more grants available for women in Penobscot and Aroostook counties.

The first grant application is due in mid-January, Jane said, and is available for someone who is a “fabric artisan, a graphic artist or even for smaller art groups that may want to become nonprofits.”

Grant application forms will be available at the show, she added.

Among the 23 Maine women offering their unique, handmade crafts will be Chris Leith, owner of Eggemoggin Textile Studio in Sargentville.

According to her website, she makes “one-of-a-kind weavings for the body and the home, made of hand-dyed silk, wool and alpaca.”

Her creations are “based on color studies from nature that reflect places, moments in time, seasons and, of course, the incredible light that we experience on the coast of Maine.”

Leith was one of those women who, when she moved to Maine in 2002, found her way to WWC.

The program, according to the WWC release, not only helped her network with others but prepare a successful business plan as well.

“Women, Work and Community is a treasure of resources for anyone contemplating a business venture,” she said.

That is why Leith will be participating in the Designing Women show, joining other artists in supporting each other and the work of WWC.

Joni Averill, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402; javerill@bangordailynews.com; 990-8288.

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