Emerging Empowered Amid COVID-19
Domestic violence is an issue that plagues women and families in Arizona at exponentially high rates. For many women, being victims of domestic violence brings significant impacts to different aspects of their lives. Domestic violence affects women in a multitude of ways from their health, safety, and economic stability. Realizing the tremendous need for women-focused philanthropy work, Marilyn Seymann established the Arizona Foundation for Women in 1995. Since then, the foundation has led the charge in developing programs and providing grants to local non-profits that focus on addressing the issues that affect women the most.
Using research to help inform and drive their strategy, the Arizona Foundation for Women established the guiding principle of S.H.E. Counts. This principle is founded on the idea of Safety, Health, and Economic Empowerment. These three pillars help inform the foundation on which grants to provide and what programmatic work is needed to address the numerous issues with which women are faced. To effectively move this critical work, the foundation operates their work through research, advocacy, and philanthropy. As the organization has evolved through the years, advocacy and research have become critical components to their efforts in making a significant impact. Their work in these spaces is a driving force to help inform and drive key policy issues.
As the foundation was gearing up for their biggest annual fundraiser, current C.E.O., Mesha Davis, was also preparing to welcome a new employee to their mighty team of three. The foundation was making strides in philanthropic giving, and impact in the community. However, at that same time, COVID-19 was also gearing up in Arizona. With word of a government-issued stay at home order, Mesha had no choice but to cancel their awards luncheon three days before the event. However, this was just the start of what ended up halting the organization’s vital work.
COVID-19 didn’t just present issues to the organization internally. As the stay-at-home order was issued, cases of domestic violence in Arizona spiked. Mesha knew that their work was more critical than ever, but was dealing with a decline of funds which led to a freeze of grant-making. To compound matters, Mesha was worried that if the situation worsened, she would need to consider downsizing. This was a heartbreaking thought for her, as her staff is comprised of all women, which could make them vulnerable to reenter the cycle of poverty.
As March turned into April, Mesha felt little hope for what the future held for the Arizona Foundation for Women. With the announcement of the Payroll Protection Program (PPP), Mesha felt her first glimmer of hope in the COVID-19 crisis. Without a second thought, she reached out to her board from which she received a referral to apply through a well-known financial institution. Unfortunately, she confronted what many small business owners experienced seeking PPP funding, rejection. Three times Mesha reached out to big banks, and three times, she was denied for not being an existing client.
Mesha, like many, began to feel hopeless, frustrated, and not sure where to turn for help. One Saturday morning, while looking through her emails, Mesha came across a subject line that gave her hope. That email came from U.S. Representative Ruben Gallego (D-AZ 7th District). Reading his email, she came to a portion where he urged small businesses and organizations to apply for the PPP through Prestamos CDFI. Without hesitation, Mesha clicked on the link, which took her to the application site. She anxiously filled it out but figured she would not hear back from anyone, as it was a Saturday. To her surprise, she received a call from a Prestamos staff member within minutes of hitting submit.
Mesha was utterly taken aback by the care and attention she received from Prestamos. As she recounts, “Krystal [Prestamos Business Advisor] was absolutely wonderful. She answered all questions and maintained communication constantly.” Receiving her acceptance of PPP funds, a huge weight was lifted from Mesha’s shoulder. These funds helped give the foundation the push they needed to resume all operations. From being able to pay all four staff members to resume grant-making efforts, the PPP funds were crucial to the organization’s operations.
“I am so grateful for Prestamos. As a C.E.O., one of the biggest worries is payroll because it directly impacts the livelihood of people. I would have been forced to lay off staff, and it would’ve impacted the very thing we are trying to combat, economic empowerment for women. For any C.E.O. having to downsize when the community needs services the most would’ve been devastating,” said Mesha.
Prestamos is a mission-driven lender, we are proud to deploy our loan products and services to help protect our local business landscape during this crisis. If you are interested in learning more about our COVID-19 resources please visit this page.