Joyce M. Johnson

The Women’s Endowment Fund of Akron Community Foundation announced plans to nearly triple its endowment at its annual dinner Wednesday night.

The For Women, Forever campaign’s goal is to raise $2.013 million by the fund’s 20th anniversary in 2013. Campaign co-chairwoman Karen Lefton said $1.1 million has already been raised through gifts and pledges from board members and longtime supporters. It also includes planned gifts, such as bequests, annuities and life insurance policies.

Founded in 1993 with $106,000, the fund has awarded more than $500,000 to Summit County nonprofits that provide resources and benefits for women and girls, including financial empowerment, escaping violent relationships, and helping women and their families stay healthy.

“At one time no one was interested in girls and women, and I was one of the original 100 contributors,” said board member and campaign co-chairwoman Dianne Newman.

The gala included a program about the importance of encouraging philanthropy in the next generation.

The event, held at the Hilton Akron/Fairlawn, was co-chaired by Judge Eve Belfance of the 9th District Court of Appeals and Eloise Mackus. It also honored two business leaders and philanthropists from GOJO Industries, Vice Chairwoman Marcella Kanfer Rolnick and Chairman and Chief Executive Joseph Kanfer.

Tracy Carter, president of the Women’s Endowment Fund, welcomed the crowd.

“The women in the community showed incredible vision years ago when they established this fund because now it continues to support the women and girls in our community,” said John Petures, president of the Akron Community Foundation.

Representatives of organizations that have received grants praised the fund.

“We are partnering with Summa and are working with refugee women to translate important health information with the grant money we received from the endowment fund,” said Debbie May-Johnson, executive director of the International Institute.

Sara Strattan, director of Legal Aid, said, “They gave us a grant for our medical and legal partnership to improve patient outcomes.”

To contribute to the endowment campaign, contact Laurel Held, Akron Community Foundation’s administrative assistant for development and donor services, at 330-436-5612 or lheld@?akroncommunityfdn.org.