When Katie Bunnell suddenly lost her husband in 2005, she became a single mother with a 3-month-old baby. Picking up the pieces of her life, she chose to return to school to support herself and her daughter.
As Bunnell completed her degree at Utah Valley University in Orem, she experienced firsthand the difficulty of being a single mother who juggled education and parenthood alone.
With a growing desire to help other single mothers, Bunnell, along with her family, founded the Live Your Dream Foundation to provide scholarships to single mothers in Utah working to further their education.
Bunnell is one of six women to receive a Zions Bank 2015 Smart Women Grant, a $3,000 award for efforts promoting the empowerment of women or directly benefitting women of low-income and underserved populations. Since 2004, the Smart Women Grant program by Zions Bank has awarded 76 microgrants totaling more than $217,000 to organizations making a difference in Utah and Idaho.
“These women are making extraordinary efforts to provide valuable services and support to women in their communities,” says Lori Chillingworth, Zions Bank’s executive vice president of Small Business Banking. “We’re so impressed with the drive and selflessness of this year’s recipients and look forward to seeing them continue to make a difference through their endeavors.”
The 2015 winners were chosen from 85 applicants who underwent an extensive application process. Each of these Smart Women recipients is making a difference through their service in one of six grant categories:
Live Your Dream Foundation
Since 2010, the Live Your Dream Foundation has provided 30 scholarships totaling $45,000 to support education for single mothers attending college. Serving as the foundation’s president, Bunnell plans on using the $3,000 grant she received to provide three scholarships to single mothers.
“Each of the single mothers we’ve helped is working hard to further their education in order to give their family more opportunities,” Bunnell says. “It’s been rewarding to help other moms fulfill their dreams of a better future.”
Single mothers from all walks of life have seen a glimmer of hope through the Live Your Dream Foundation, including a mom who completed her law degree, another who overcame her substance abuse addiction to attend college and a mother of five children returning to school after a divorce.
Watch a video about the Live Your Dream Foundation.
Health and Human Services
Cache County Attorney’s Office Victim Services
Terryl Warner, director of victim services in the Cache County Attorney’s Office, and her team of advocates assist victims through the criminal court process. The team of advocates based in Logan, Utah, includes Joan Liquin and Jenny Nielsen, who ensure that victims are kept informed, remain free from harassment and are treated respectfully.
“We make sure that the victims’ voices are heard, that restitution is requested and that they are given the tools they need to leave a bad situation,” Warner says. “We also keep them aware of what’s going on in the criminal case and prepare them for testifying in court for a preliminary hearing, at trial or in a sentencing.”
Approximately 75 percent of victims they help are females and children in cases such as domestic violence, sexual assault or child abuse. The advocates plan on using the $3,000 grant to provide more resources to support female victims.
Watch a video about the Cache County Attorney’s Office Victim Services.
Boot Camp Strong
Pamila Balls of Boot Camp Strong is a business owner and personal trainer in Taylorsville, Utah. She motivates her clients to become physically fit through exercise, eating a balanced diet and improving their overall lifestyle. Through Boot Camp Strong, she helps women strengthen their body and feel confident and empowered in life.
Balls began her journey 10 years ago when she joined a fitness class and discovered the benefits of exercise and a healthy weight. She found that when she improved physically, she felt better mentally and emotionally. She started Boot Camp Strong in 2008 as a way for women to realize their potential, strength and value. The program began with 10 participants and has now grown to more than 50 participants for each session.
“My foremost mission is to help the women I serve to not only become stronger in their body but also in all aspects of their life and feel beautiful and valued in everything they do,” Balls says. “Whenever we can overcome the weaknesses in our body, we strengthen the mind and emotions of ourselves as well.”
Balls plans to use the grant to purchase equipment such as a deep muscle stimulator that will help her clients be less prone to injuries and have better stamina during workouts.
Watch a video about Boot Camp Strong.
Arts and Culture
County of Bingham School District
Kathy Malm plans to use her Smart Women Grant to bring the ancient art of storytelling to the Shoshoni and Bannock Native American students at Fort Hall Elementary School to educate them about their culture. Under her plan, professional storyteller Dr. Layne Gneiting will travel from Mesa, Arizona, to Idaho for a week to teach students how to create and tell their own stories and to show faculty how they can use storytelling to enhance learning.
“Hearing storytelling develops short-term memory connections in the brain and retelling it moves information to the long-term memory,” Malm says. “Storytelling is very much part of the children’s culture and will help them in remembering details longer and more accurately.”
Malm is planning the project during November’s Native American Heritage Month and plans to share Gneiting’s presentations with sister school Stalker Elementary.
“I feel this grant will advance the development of our work as educators by enthusing the students in their learning, enthusing the teachers in their teaching, and developing skill levels in public speaking and language arts,” Malm says.
ARCH Community Housing Trust
ARCH Community Housing Trust is dedicated to finding affordable housing solutions in a resort community. The Blaine County, Idaho, nonprofit developer focuses on providing housing for households earning 80 percent or less of area median income.
To date, ARCH has provided affordable housing for more than 50 individuals, 85 percent of which were women and children — all low-income and many female-headed households.
The organization employs an innovative approach through its Homes on the Move program, taking houses slated for demolition, relocating and renovating them, and creating affordable rental or ownership properties. The Smart Women Grant will be used to defray permit fees as part of a larger project to develop two townhomes.
“It is widely documented that women typically earn less than their male counterparts, which puts additional pressure on female-headed households,” says ARCH Executive Director Michelle Griffith. “Since housing often represents the largest portion of households’ financial expenditures, affordable housing goes a long way toward relieving the financial pressures faced by low-income households.”
Small Business Startup and Expansion
World traveler and outdoor enthusiast Tracy Crites and her husband, Jason, founded Outdoor Exchange consignment store in 2012 to promote an active lifestyle at a more affordable price for youth and adults. The Boise shop sells and consigns gear and clothing for a variety of pursuits, including biking, hiking, skiing, climbing, camping and kayaking.
“Due to the demands of our current culture and economy, families are finding it increasingly difficult to spend quality time together,” Crites says. “I think many young parents today are choosing to raise their children in healthy, active communities but are often limited financially on the activities they can engage in.”
Outdoor Exchange plans to deploy its $3,000 grant to promote women and children’s active lifestyle and education. That includes the purchase of snowshoe demo equipment to be used free of charge, as well as events at the shop such as Hot Wax and Wine (a ski wax and tune-up clinic) and the Women on Wheels Bike Forum and Fashion Show.
To watch videos about these grant winners, download the Zions Bank Community iPad app.