Haley Freeman almost lost her battle with anorexia as a teen when months of self-imposed eating restrictions caused her organs to fail. Fortunately, the Utah woman survived and is now helping other girls avoid similar trauma through her company, Haley’s Heart to Heart, which tackles tough issues of body image and eating disorders.
“I feel a great sense of duty to help other women to avoid the heartache of not only eating disorders, but also problems with poor body image and self-worth,” says Freeman, an author and public speaker from Elk Ridge, Utah.
Freeman is one of six women to receive a Zions Bank 2014 Smart Women Grant, a $3,000 award for entrepreneurs in Utah and Idaho who empower women or other underserved populations. Now in its 10th year, the Smart Women Grant program by Zions Bank has doled out almost $200,000 in micro-grants.
“We’re so impressed with the drive and selflessness this year’s recipients have demonstrated with their endeavors,” says Chantel Chase, vice president and manager of Zions Bank’s Women’s Financial Group.
From programs that teach autistic children to ones that help mothers earn extra income by sewing, these Smart Women recipients exemplify the spirit of serving women by being everyday heroes in one of six categories:
Health and Human Services
Haley’s Heart to Heart
For Freeman, the $3,000 grant will help her publish a picture book for elementary-aged girls, who are often overlooked in the fight against eating disorders that almost claimed her life 15 years ago.
“From Head to Tummy: The Simple Truth about Food, Media Messages, Self-Worth and Real Beauty” follows a young girl as she navigates the confusing world of body image, food and peer pressure. The book concludes with tips and exercises parents can do with their children.
“My hope is that this book will be a tool for parents in helping them build a stronger foundation of truth for their young girls, giving them a shield of defense when faced with potentially damaging life situations,” Freeman says.
The Costume Collective
Sherene McClellan believes every woman in the Sanpete County Costume Collective business is a hero working to expand her skills and provide income for her family. From the young mothers to the more experienced members serving as mentors, the group includes seven women who create and sell unique costumes and dresses.
“We believe that it is empowering and enabling for women to discover that they can develop their individual creative skills and be profitable, even in our struggling rural area,” says McClellan, co-manager of the collective.
Only in its second year, the Costume Collective has already made a splash in the online market. In particular, the group’s tulle skirts became so popular that the women opened an online shop dedicated solely to the flowy, feminine bestsellers.
The Costume Collective will use the Smart Women Grant to expand online sales and buy new equipment. More than 90 percent of the group’s sales are outside of Utah.
“All of the women in our collective are extremely grateful for the ability to work from the convenience of their own homes and yet to still be part of a professional organization that is helping them to earn some additional income, and that supports their dedication to their families,” McClellan says.
Integrated Learning Strategies
When Alene Villaneda couldn’t find intervention for her struggling child, she decided to start her own program for children who need help beyond the school curriculum. Twenty years later, Integrated Learning Strategies is thriving and serving more than 50 students with anything from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder to dyslexia to autism.
Integrated Learning Strategies takes a holistic approach to intervention with personalized plans to help each child master lower level skills and then progress up to reading, writing and math.
“We provide students with the tools and resources they need to advance in everyday life while building a stronger and brighter future,” says Villaneda, founder and CEO of the Davis County company.
The number of students participating in the program increased by more than 20 percent in the last three years, and the group aims to grow by more than 50 percent in 2015. The Smart Women Grant will help the group maintain its level of service with this increase.
Arts and Culture
From handmade jewelry to one-of-a-kind Native American moccasins, Dunia Marketplace showcases an eclectic selection of handmade goods crafted internationally and by Idaho residents. Each piece sold furthers the company’s mission to provide vital income to artisans while also telling their stories.
“Dunia Marketplace strives to help women realize their full potential and receive the respect in their communities that they deserve,” says Anna Belt, director of Dunia Marketplace. “It empowers women through opportunities for education, leadership roles and scholarships so that girls can imagine a future where they can be their own bosses.”
Formerly called Ten Thousand Villages, Dunia Marketplace buys handmade goods from local artists who live throughout Idaho and on Tribal Reservations, and then retails the pieces in its store in Boise’s Historical Hyde Park. This year’s Smart Women Grant will help the company purchase equipment for travel to off-site sales locations through the state.
The Jesse Tree
Nearly 6,500 Idaho residents have remained in their homes, thanks to The Jesse Tree of Idaho Emergency Rent and Mercy Assistance Program, which began in 2001 to help families avoid losing their homes due to a financial crisis.
Half of the people served by The Jesse Tree are children whose parents may be struggling with a short-term financial setback such as job loss and illness, says Crista Beck, manager of The Jesse Tree of Idaho.
Through temporary rent assistance and case management with a social worker, 98 percent of people who contact The Jesse Tree are still in their homes six months later. The Smart Women Grant will enable the nonprofit group to continue keeping families throughout Ada County out of homelessness.
Child and Elder Care
Feed the Gap
Almost half of the children in Ada County, Idaho, who are food insecure don’t qualify for free and reduced lunch at school. These children of “the working poor” often just miss the income cut-offs for subsidized meals and end up hungry and unnoticed, says Anne Glass, founder of the nonprofit Feed the Gap.
Glass and a group of 23 community leaders are working to eliminate child hunger in Ada through Feed the Gap, which works directly with Boise School District teachers and counselors to identify students who may be falling through the nutritional cracks because of income level or because their parents are unaware of government meal services.
This year’s Smart Women Grant will help Feed the Gap provided more than 6,000 lunches and 900 breakfasts annually to such students in 27 schools throughout the Boise District.