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postpartum Yael SaarYael Saar

When Yael Saar was 6, she lost her mother to postpartum depression. Thirty-three years later, after the birth of her first son, Saar nearly lost her own life.

After recovering and having a second son, Saar felt compelled to support other women suffering from postpartum depression. So in 2012, she started Mama's Comfort Camp to offer peer-to-peer emotional and social support to mothers in the region through group meetings and an online Facebook forum. Now with two grants totaling $11,000 from the Community Foundation of Tompkins County, Saar and a team of volunteers have begun to transform the group, which serves more than 2,300 mothers locally, into a professionally run organization.

"Right now, we don't have the capacity to grow our services and make sure that our volunteers are well trained to meet the growing needs of women in our region," Saar said.

The foundation's second grant of $1,000 to Mama's Comfort Camp — following a previous $10,000 gift from the Lane Family Fund — is one of seven awards the Community Foundation recently made to organizations that serve women in Tompkins County. This year, the foundation's Women's Fund distributed more than $20,000 to non-profit groups.

"We are so excited to reach this milestone of supporting the amazing work carried out by many organizations over the past decade," said Janet Cotraccia, program officer for the foundation. "We know that they have had a strong positive outcome on all women in Tompkins County."

The Women's Fund, which began awarding grants in 2007, brings together gifts made by numerous donors who want to address the needs of local women. Over the past decade, the fund has granted more than $110,000 to 30 organizations and leveraged $32,000 from other Community Foundation funds. The fund was started in 2004 with a gift from Beverly Baker, a 1954 Ithaca College graduate who launched her own travel agency, Baker Travel, and was involved in numerous community organizations. Baker's commitment to the community continues to be honored by the fund as donors who make gifts of $1,000 or more become members of the Beverly Baker Society.

One of this year's recipients is the Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes, which received $1,800 to buy wigs for women being treated for cancer. This is the second year the Women's Fund has provided a grant for this program, which offers wigs, scarves, turbans and hats at no charge to women experiencing cancer-related hair loss.

"This grant allows us to purchase additional wigs to increase the inventory and selection for women who visit our boutique," said Megan Crowe, executive director of the center. This year's grant will pay for 30 more wigs of various styles, lengths and colors.

Another program that received a grant this year is a teen and women's empowerment group based at the Greater Ithaca Activities Center (GIAC). Since 2014, the group has worked with girls and women who are struggling to enroll in college, who are living on the streets or who are looking for a job, said Samantha McBean, a GIAC program leader.

McBean plans to use the grant money to take the women in the group to a center in New York City that helps women who have been victims of sexual exploitation or domestic trafficking. "I think it's important that the young women of Tompkins County get to meet these other women just so we can know that we can build our lives together and we don't have to go down that road," McBean said. "We can empower ourselves."

The other four Women's Fund grants, announced at a luncheon at Ithaca College on Oct. 19, include:
  • $3,500 for Groundswell Center for Local Food & Farming to engage women farmers and food producers in building a produce wash and processing station at the Groundswell Incubator Farm.
  • $3,500 to Ithaca Health Alliance to underwrite diagnostic and medical testing costs associated with providing health care, pre-employment physicals and chronic care services to uninsured and underinsured local women.
  • $3,500 to Child Development Council to provide transportation to clients enrolled in council programs to meet their medical, educational and employment needs.
  • $3,500 to Catholic Charites of Tompkins/Tioga for A Place to Stay, a program that combines short-term residential stays for women with increased access to local resources and services.

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