About 100 years ago, the term “Rest Cottage” referred to a modest house where the ladies of the Ebell provided solace for women who needed to convalesce before returning to their homes..
In the 1970s when Medicare came in, it provided a new insurance benefit to help women. The Ebell sold its last building in 1980 and the proceeds became the seed money for what is now the RCA [Rest Cottage Assn.] endowment. Once as high as $4 million, the endowment is now about $3 million and this year donated $120,000 to ten organizations serving women in need.
Former Chair Shan Suntherland explains, “Organizations submit applications and we review them based on many criteria. Then pairs of volunteers make a site visit to those charities. They come back and report and we vote on how much money to give to each.”
All of the charities supported do tremendous work for women and communities. Among this year’s recipients is Housing Works. Says Shan, “They provide permanent housing for women, including those with mental issues. They’re the ones who get the bag ladies off the street. They stabilize communities – you can’t imagine the ripple effect this organization has.”
Another recipient is Get on the Bus, which sends children to visit their incarcerated mothers. Haven House supports battered women and families. And the list goes on.
“This philanthropic activity really pulls on you,” Shan says. “There are a lot of people out there who want to help and they don’t know how. This is a great way to make a difference without a big investment of time and money because it’s already in place.”
This year RCA Women helping Women (as Shan refers to the Rest Cottage Assn.) has four strategic goals. First, Shan would like to identify mentors from some larger organizations like the Annenberg Foundation and the NEA to help provide guidance on how to take the program to the next level. Second is to increase the visibility of the good works being done. Third is to attract more committee members and volunteers. And fourth, “We want to lay the groundwork to be able to accept donations from other charities, public companies and individuals who believe in our mission.”