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North Allegheny Women’s Association: Uniting Women through Service

Apr 30, 2018 04:57PM ● Published by North Hills Monthly magazine

NAWA members meet for a pottery painting night at Dots & Doodles.

Gallery: North Allegheny Women’s Association: Uniting Women through Service [2 Images] Click any image to expand.

By Sarah Tuthill

Four years ago, Ronette Blake and Kristen McCabe were enjoying a ladies’ night out with a group of friends when a question occurred to them: Why weren’t there any groups for women in the community to get together like this, but with a purpose? And thus, the North Allegheny Women’s Association (NAWA) was born.

Soon after that dinner, Blake and McCabe were distributing flyers to neighbors, hoping a few ladies might show up for the association’s first official gathering. “We didn’t think anyone was going to come,” Blake admitted.

But soon, 11 like-minded women had joined forces around her dining room table, united by the common purpose of supporting other women in need. “Some of us got emotional,” she recalled. “We recognized that we’d been craving that organic sense of community and purpose, and we were all grateful to gather in that way.”

The emotion and excitement of the 11 founders translated into immediate action. Within its first year, NAWA provided school supplies to children, created a “meal train” for a neighbor, donated winter coats to needy adults and children, and spent a day with seniors at The Wexford Healthcare Center.

Today, with about 25 members, NAWA is a thriving organization that continues to empower women through service projects and personal and professional connections. And with social events held throughout the year, they have fun doing it!

Members must be over 21 and live in the North Allegheny School District, but the group is a unique mix. “We have women of all ages—doctors, lawyers, professors, some raising kids, some retirees,” said Blake, who believes that the range makes the group more dynamic. “I’ve been lucky to have female mentors, professionally and personally. This group provides an opportunity to mentor or be mentored by other women.”

This year, the organization’s focus has been on the formation of the NAWA scholarship. “The fund is dedicated to helping service-minded women in the North Allegheny School District who are continuing their education in college or training programs,” said Jennifer Willford, NAWA’s scholarship committee chair. “Our goal is to help deserving women achieve career and educational goals and engage in community service, an objective that has the benefit of strengthening the North Allegheny community at large.”

NAWA’s first scholar is Hannah Glasser, a North Allegheny Senior High School (NASH) student who received $500 toward her pursuit of an undergraduate degree in psychology/neuroscience. “Hannah has extensive service, advocacy and leadership experience including work with the Save the Children Action Network, Project Water, volunteer hours at UPMC Passavant, and many activities through her membership in Key Club at school,” Willford said. Glasser eventually plans to pursue her MD/Ph.D. to become a psychiatrist.

“We had 10 outstanding applicants,” Blake added. “It was difficult choosing, so in the end we gave a second scholarship.” A $250 award went to Allison Bergeron, another NASH student who plans to pursue environmental studies at Bucknell University in the fall.

“The scholarship will help assure positive educational outcomes are accessible to all women regardless of economic circumstance,” Willford said. 

To apply for the scholarship, recipients must be living in the North Allegheny School District and plan to further their educations or engage in training opportunities in the next academic year. 

Looking ahead, NAWA is pursuing incorporated nonprofit status. “Being a 501c3 will open up a lot of opportunities for our organization,” Blake said. They are also focused on growing their membership, particularly widening the breadth of membership within the North Allegheny community.  

“Our goal has always been to get as many members from all of our municipalities to come together socially and purposefully,” she added. “When we grow, who knows what we could accomplish!”

For information about NAWA, visit www.nawomen.org.

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