Art Van Charity Challenge – Help us WIN!

Help us raise 10,000!

Are you up to the challenge? The Art Van Charity Challenge is officially underway – we have until April 25, 2017 to raise as much money as we can. It’s a healthy competition against other charities, and we’re in it to win it. The charity that raises the most money will receive $100,000, second place receives $50,000, and third place receives $10,000 from Art Van.

In 2015 we raised just over $6,000. Can you help us beat that and get to $10,000? 

DONATE AND VIEW OUR CAMPAIGN HERE

Why should you donate? 

Economic self-sufficiency is the backbone of American society. Being able find and keep a good paying job is the dream of the women who come to the Women’s Center.  Breaking Barriers for Economic Independence will help achieve those dreams for women who face overt obstacles in their lives. The community served by this project are women who are 1) survivors of violent crimes such as domestic violence and sexual assault, 2) homeless, 3) recently widowed, separated or divorced, or 4) are living with cancer.

The Women’s Center offers services to women that help promote success in achieving their potential, economic self-sufficiency in a safe and welcoming environment. Our main goal is to help our clients achieve and maintain employment through one-on-one counseling, career counseling, mentoring, providing access to effective therapies and support and life coaching. The need for this project is an extension of our employment program. From our cancer support survivors, we have learned one of the most significant hardships they face after a cancer diagnosis is staying employed. This project will focus on helping women who are living with cancer to return to work sooner or stay employed while going through treatment for their cancer. We will do this by providing them access and financial support for mental health care and for complementary and alternative medicine therapies, specifically reflexology, massage and lymphatic massage (for cancer survivors who have lymph node involvement). This treatment allows survivors to get back on their feet sooner.

The self-empowerment achieved through education allows for economic independence, as the survivor becomes an active participant in her own physical and mental health goals.

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Celebrating Women: Carolyn Cassin

Thirty years in the hospice industry, and Carolyn Cassin, CEO of the Michigan Women’s Foundation, is still captivated.

“My father died at 16 and my child died at 4 days old,” said Cassin. “I was acquainted with death, but not too much. I didn’t understand how devastating it was because nobody talked about it.”

The themes that run through her professional life were “to make things better than they were yesterday,” she said. So hospice seemed like the direction to go in, and provided an opportunity to change something significant and important.

“When I was in graduate school, it made me think about how badly we handle death,” she said. “It happens to everyone, but us. And when it does, we move on.”

Hospice, then, began to encompass her career. Cassin and her colleagues helped create in the hospice industry, especially in Washington–working tirelessly in 1982 to get it expanded so that it was covered by Medicaid and Medicare for everyone, and making it a household name.

“It was very exciting, and I wanted to continue to do things that make significant changes,” said Cassin. “So I sold my last company and came back to Michigan, decided I needed something different to get excited about.

At the time, her daughter was having her first child and was up for a big promotion, Cassin said. She told her mother she couldn’t tell her work, which was a fortune 50 company, because she might not get the promotion. Cassin was shocked.

“I thought, this is terrible,” said Cassin. “She did it, she worked hard to conceal it and got a promotion, but I thought ‘this isn’t over yet’ and I got my energy to make important change.”

Shortly after, she took over the Michigan Women’s Foundation, deciding that it was something a little broader and ‘much more significant’ to work on.

“My first job was to get the organization to focus,” said Cassin. “The foundation’s history was basically to stand for anything involving women. While interesting, it was too broad, and not actionable. We can’t act on everything, so it took a couple years but we found our focus.”

The three pillars that were decided upon were accelerating women’s entrepreneurship, developing the next generation of women leaders and the creation of the state and women’s agenda, Cassin said.

“I wanted to stop giving away grants to people and invest in women’s businesses, so we started a micro loan program worth 1.5 million dollars,” said Cassin. “We also want to build a pipeline of women leaders, and try to focus on womens issues as well.”

If the problem does not fall into these three issues, Cassin said, they do not entertain it. This is in an effort to re-tool and be ‘smarter’.

“The fundamental advice when I look back and say what motivated me was always doing something that mattered to me,” said Cassin. “What I cared about, whether or not I got paid for it, I wanted to do this regardless. I never stopped focusing on things that mattered to me.

Unsung Women in History: Artists

Although Women’s History Month is coming to close, today is one more opportunity to share stories about the women who paved the way and opened opportunities for women today and even further in the future. As discussed in other “Women in History” blog posts, women have always struggled and continue to struggle for equality career fields like STEM, politics and more. However, one debatably less talked about of these career fields is in the arts. We’ve profiled women with different mediums of art and how they made an impact in the fields of their areas of expertise:

Georgia O’Keeffe

Living in a variety of different locations including Wisconsin, Chicago, New York and New Mexico, Georgia O’Keeffe painted canvas works of flowers, skyscrapers, southeastern landscapes and more. As a young girl, her mother, who was a doctor, encouraged her to get an education. O’Keeffe developed curiosity for nature and painting at an early age and later took her mother’s advice and studied art at the Art Institute of Chicago and later, the Art Students League in New York. Later in her life, O’Keeffe received the Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of Arts. Her work today is displayed in museums across the country. As a pioneer in painting and art in general, O’Keeffe left a legacy of being a successful women and an icon in art.

Lee Miller

Lee Miller was introduced to photography at a young age by her father. Her career in the arts began with modelling, however, after she met Conde Nast, the publisher of Vogue, which launched her into being the cover model for an issue of the magazine in 1927. Miller travelled to Paris just a few years later to pursue photography. Arguably one of the most incredible aspects of her career was when she began working in photojournalism as the official war photographer for Vogue. During this time, Miller photographed many women in wartime including female officers and nurses. In 1932, Miller stated in an interview that photography was a profession perfectly suitable for women, encouraging females to pursue the art. Her legacy lives on today as many of her works gained even more recognition after her death and as many have been or are currently on display in exhibitions across the nation.

Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde was a poet whose work revolved around themes of race, gender and sexuality. Starting out her career as a librarian after studying at Columbia University, it wasn’t until she was 34 that she published her first volume of poetry titled First Cities. The following volumes of poetry she published each centered on different topics and issues. From identity issues and global issues to discussion of her African heritage, sexuality and feminist views, Lorde’s influential work undoubtedly made an impact on her audiences and critics, having won numerous awards including an American Book Award. For women of all sorts, Lorde’s work and legacy emphasizes that success in art and poetry is not limited to who you are based on age, race, gender, sexuality, or other factors.

Celebrating Women: Courtney Maki’s Journey to Success

By Emily Cervone on March 22, 2017

“Start Each Day with a Grateful Heart”, a framed picture reads in the corner of Courtney Maki’s office, founder of Glow Social Media in REO Town Lansing. Maki is the 2017 recipient of ATHENAPowerLink, a mentoring program that honors women business owners in the “growth stage” in the Lansing area.

“I get advisement from a panel of volunteers–financial and legal– and I get to meet with experts and have quarterly team meetings all free of cost,” said Maki. “They want to help you to succeed.”

Although Maki now owns her own business, she never thought she would be interested in that field, she said. However, she was drawn to social media because of the spike in its relevance after she graduated college.

“Social media was the onset of the personal branding phenomenon,” said Maki. “Since MySpace, Black Planet, etc., I used to update my media every day and I was interested in the personal branding side of things. I could never see myself in anything else.”

Graduating from Lansing Catholic Central in 2003, Maki made her way to Florida A&M where she received a full academic scholarship to a 5-year MBA program.

“I had, and still have, a hard time spending other people’s money,” said Maki. “So I figured I would go where they were giving me money. I didn’t even go to the orientation [program]. I figured if I go and don’t like it, there’s nothing I can do anyways.”

Since the program was rigorous and required students to do at least three internships (each three months long, two without classes), she thought her resume was more than ready for the real world — until she graduated.

“Of course, it was during the economic downturn in 2009,” said Maki. “So I found myself as an assistant manager at a mall boutique. I resigned myself to being a retail employee for the rest of my life.”

However, her plan changed in the form of a call from Disney, who hired her on a contract-basis. Three weeks later she found herself in Orlando, FL. Amongst the many hats she wore, including working on social media for Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings & Honeymoons, she still focused primarily on personal branding.

“It was the best place to learn about social media with all of the resources I had,” said Maki. “We launched every form of social media there was available at the time: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest…it was an ideal scenario.”

Unfortunately they did not have a contract to renew for her, so she ended doing social media for a small network in Atlanta called UpTV in 2010. This was a pivotal experience in her growth as a small business owner.

“As a sort of ‘faith based’ ABC family-type network, it was a huge change because I went from a huge company [Disney] to maybe 30 people running this whole network,” said Maki. “It was a learning opportunity, and set me up for solving problems, learning about the company.”

Maki continued until she was laid off in 2012, which was an “extremely devastating” time. After a conversation with her dad, she decided to email all of her previous employers of her situation; she ended up getting in touch with the editor in chief of CocoFab.com.

“It was a freelance job, I needed money so during it I just applied to other jobs,” said Maki. “But I didn’t receive any offers. I didn’t know it, but there was something better in the works.”

Family and friends started asking her for help with personal branding during this time, which turned into a couple of “gigs”, she said. From this, her first LLC, ‘Courtney Lane Maki’ was born.

“Over a glass of champagne with my friend, I got the name Glow Social media,” said Maki. “I think because of my effervescent personality and passion I bring.”

Within the course of her first year, there were many ups and downs: inconsistent numbers of clients, moving into her mother’s cousin’s basement, and selling her clothes for a little extra cash. But she doesn’t want this painted as a “hard-knock-time” story.

“I had about $10,000 of clothes in my closet,” said Maki. “I learned that it’s stuff, it’s fluid. And in your journey, yes, people will push you to question yourself – and not in a good way.”

Her “small” misfortunes were met with a few positives: she dabbled into acting and booked a national Ford commercial, with a check containing money she had “never seen before.”

“I was a 20+ single woman, so I spent it all,” she laughed. “I bought clothes, went to Paris…but I also bought stocks.”

Still, she felt she had no direction until her mom became diagnosed with cancer in 2014 while visiting her family for the holidays. From networking through Craigslist and LinkedIn, she booked her first “gig” with a PBS hunting show, virtually as a personal brander. The rest is history, she says.

“I joined the chamber here, and in the first year I was at every single event they had,” said Maki. “I took advantage of all of the resources given to me. I really attribute my success to going away during my career, it really made an impact on me.”

Maki’s eccentric career helped her serve the variety of clients now at her job, she says. Remaining transparent and open is one of her biggest mantras. She has a large posterboard of 1, 3 and 5 year goals – which have altered slightly due to her new engagement.

“You never know who walks in and asks what your goals are,” she said. “So they are right here, for everyone to see.”

However, as a woman business owner, she has faced some unfortunate backlash, and offers advice to any women pursuing owning their own business.

“Assert yourself,” she said “Watch your body language, keep it in mind. I think because I’m bright, people never labeled me ‘aggressive’, but as a young woman you have to be. Remain acutely aware of your physical language and actual language.”

Nevertheless, Maki continues to plan for her upcoming wedding, expanding her business, and the excitement of starting a new family.

“I am so confident in this: if you are organized, well-documented, and have a good plan: you don’t have to worry,” said Maki. “Listen to God, the Universe…whatever you call it. Trust your gut.”

Unsung Women in History: Scientists

By Leah Boelkins on March 20, 2017 

Women working in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) today are few and far between. While approximately 48% of the United States workforce is comprised of women, only 24% of the STEM field consists of women. Even today, Marie Curie is one of the only female scientists in history who has become a household name. While women have been making strides in these fields for years, there is still a long way to go. Check out these three unsung women heroes in the past who have paved the way for women and girls who want to pursue careers in STEM fields:

Dr. Mae Jemison

Mae Carol Jemison made history in September of 1992 when she became the first African-American female to travel to space. Jemison had been interested in science since she was in grade school as she spent much of her time reading about astronomy in her school’s library. She later in high school decided that she wanted to become a biomedical engineer and then furthered her education at Stanford University on scholarship. In her career, she, along with six other astronauts, flew into space conducting several experiments over a span of eight days. After her experience, Jemison emphasized how much minority groups could contribute to science and society if provided with the right opportunities.

Edith Clarke

Edith Clarke paved the way for women and girls looking to enter the STEM fields today as she was the first female electrical engineer in the United States. Before finding a job at General Electric, Clarke struggled to find work as engineering was not a “typical” or “normal” job for women during the early 20th Century. She worked as a “computer,” essentially performing extremely complicated mathematical equations during a time in which calculators and computers as we know today did not exist. After her career in the field, Clarke became a professor of electrical engineering, further serving as a model for women who were passionate about working in the STEM fields.

Cecilia H Payne-Gaposchkin

Cecilia H Payne-Gaposchkin was an American astronomer born in Great Britain. She began a successful career in astronomy in the United States at Harvard after receiving a fellowship to study there. Much of her work revolved around researching the Milky Way Galaxy and stars, as she made the discovery that stars are made up mainly of hydrogen and helium. In addition to this, Payne-Gaposchkin was the first woman to be a full time professor at Harvard and was the first woman to be a department chair at Harvard after she was appointed to this position at the Department of Astronomy.