Women’s Giving Circle Inspires Giving Year-Round

As we celebrate Thanksgiving this week, being grateful and giving back to the community are at the forefront of many minds, but for one group of women in Wheeling, giving happens during more than just the holiday season.

women's giving circle ohio valley wheeling logoFounded in 2010, the Women’s Giving Circle aims to educate, inspire and increase the number of women involved in philanthropy in order to address the needs of women and girls in the Upper Ohio Valley community.

The Women’s Giving Circle has 132 unique and dedicated members and has reached females in Hancock, Brooke, Ohio, Marshall, Wetzel, Tyler, Jefferson and Belmont counties over its decade of service.

The scope of giving is wide and varied, and grant applicants must meet the criteria for funding: grantees must increase the life skills of women and girls through education, economic empowerment, physical and mental health, help victims of violence or crime, encourage the healthy development and personal authority of young girls, or raise awareness of gender disparity in our community.

One of the primary goals of the Women’s Giving Circle is to help women and girls achieve goals that may otherwise not be attainable without the support provided by the organization.


2020 will mark an important anniversary for the Women’s Giving Circle — the group will celebrate its 10th year of service and growth in the Upper Ohio Valley.

The idea for the Women’s Giving Circle originated with the female members of the board of directors for the Community Foundation for the Ohio Valley. The 17 founding members all shared a few things in common — a commitment to philanthropy and an interest in developing an organization that would create a permanent legacy in the community to address the growing needs of women and girls.

Impressively, since the group’s inception, more than $316,000 has been awarded to organizations that do work on behalf of females in the community. An endowment fund of nearly $300,000 has also been established to secure the legacy and longevity of the Women’s Giving Circle.

To be funded, organizations must be a non-profit tax-exempt organization with a certified 501(c)(3) and go through a grant application process. Grant applicants are first reviewed by a Grants Decision Sub-Committee comprised of Women’s Giving Circle members. All grants are reviewed, and then recommendations for funding are made to the general membership who will vote on the grant recommendations.

Members look for opportunities to fund grantees that focus on prevention and effective intervention, new ideas and untested efforts, and programs that have demonstrated results and impact.

Through its funding, the Women’s Giving Circle hopes the organizations they fund have sustainability, value and lasting community impact. Once grant applications are approved, funds are then administered directly through the Community Foundation for the Ohio Valley.

President of the Women’s Giving Circle Suzanne Rohrig-Gaiser said the group has had the pleasure of being hosted by some of the grant recipients at their quarterly membership meetings.

“At some of these meetings, we hear from the recipients themselves and see the work they are doing first-hand,” she said. “In the past, we have been hosted by Wheeling Health Right, The SMART Centre Market and the YWCA.”

SMART Centre Market is one of the WGC grantees, receiving funding for the GEMS (Girls Enjoying Math and Science) Camp, which is a week-long summer camp for girls. Statistics show that, in middle school, girls begin to lose interest in math and science, which is why this program is a favorite of the WGC. Robert E. Strong, co-owner of SMART Centre Market along with his wife Libby, is shown with some of the campers.

With a growing foster care crisis in the state of West Virginia, the transitional living program of Youth Services Systems has been a regular grantee of the Women’s Giving Circle to support young women who are aging out of foster care.

“This program provides housing along with mentoring to help these young women become independent members of society,” Rohrig-Gaiser said. “The program helps them enroll in college, get jobs and learn basic life skills to encourage their future success.”

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Other projects funded by the Women’s Giving Circle include the Crittenton Foundation Inc. for driver’s license accessibility for clients; the YWCA Wheeling for safe emergency shelter and program support for the Women Inspired in New Directions (WIND) program; a Female Empowerment Program through the Greater Wheeling Coalition for the Homeless; and support for a “Girls Who Code” group through the Children’s Museum of the Ohio Valley. (Grants awarded to organizations between 2017 and 2019 can be found here.)

Information for organizations interested in applying for a grant through the Women’s Giving Circle are asked to visit the CFOV website and are strongly encouraged to apply if their organization supports women or girls in the Upper Ohio Valley.


One of the goals of the Women’s Giving Circle moving forward is to retain and attract new members so the philanthropy can continue for many years to come. The Women’s Giving Circle holds quarterly membership meetings in January, April, July and October. The meeting each July is a social event for members to enjoy. The meeting locations vary, but members are always notified in advance of locations.

Members of the WGC Executive Committee are, front row, from left: Lea Ridenhour, Jeanie Prince and Kris Molnar; second row, Elsie Reyes, Sherry Hearne, Joan Stamp; third row, Sue Farnsworth, Bernie Smith, Suzanne Rohrig-Gaiser; and fourth row, Joelle Moray and Missy Ashmore.

The Women’s Giving Circle is funded solely through member dues, which are $500 annually or $250 for women under 40. Half of each donation is placed in a Grant Giving Fund, with the remaining half being placed in an endowment fund to ensure the longevity of the organization.

Members who wish to vote on the proposed grants each fall are asked to pay their dues at the end of each calendar year.

A large time commitment is not asked of members, and while contributions are valued, they are not a requirement of membership.

“As a Women’s Giving Circle member, you can be involved as your schedule permits,” Rohrig-Gaiser said. “We hope to continue to grow our membership through 2020 and beyond,” she added. “By increasing membership, we are able to award a greater number of grants that in turn benefit an increased number of women and girls.”


As 2020 marks the 10-year anniversary of the Women’s Giving Circle, the organization shows no signs of slowing down. Some exciting plans are in the works in the new decade, including a partnership with Wheeling Heritage through its Show of Hands event. The Women’s Giving Circle has pledged $3,000 to the January Show of Hands, which will showcase female entrepreneurs. The Women’s Giving Circle has also gifted $2,000 to the Co-Starters Program that will be utilized in partial scholarships for female participants.

Plans are also in the works for a 10th anniversary celebration and will be announced upon completion.

When asked what her favorite thing is about being involved with the Women’s Giving Circle, Suzanne said she loves being part of an organization of women that has made supporting, empowering and improving the lives of other women and girls as its main mission.

“Assisting these women and girls in achieving goals and experiences they may not otherwise have realized without the funding through the Women’s Giving Circle has been a great honor, and I am extremely proud of the work that we have done.”

To learn more or to become a member of the Women’s Giving Circle, call the Community Foundation for the Ohio Valley at 304-242-3144 or visit www.cfov.org and click on the grants tab.

• A former TV news anchor and reporter, Laurie Conway has always had a passion for telling stories. Laurie is currently the marketing coordinator at the Marshall County Family Resource Network, blending her love of storytelling with the ability to help others. A graduate of Bethany College with a degree in communications, Laurie lives in Wheeling with her boyfriend Josh, their senior rescue dog Max, and two cats Clover and Pumpkin.