Pictured left: Founder, Nina Corder and co-founder, Michelle Ansara. Pictured right: group photo.
Women of Toledo (WOT) is a local non-profit organization that encourages residents to celebrate diversity and promote inclusion in the Toledo area. Its annual fundraiser is the lively Intercultural Gala, where attendees are invited to sample foods and music from around the world. The event is a multi-faceted interactive learning experience appropriate for people of all ages.
Last year’s event was attended by more than 300 people, raised over $5600, and featured beautifully crafted ethnic costumes. The 2016 Intercultural Gala is dedicated to the language of dance. A plethora of dance troupes from the 419 will showcase their talents: The Aegela Centers for Middle Eastern Dance, El Corazon de Mexico Ballet Folklorico, The University of Toledo’s Indian-Bollywood Dance Group, Rocket Dhamaka, and dancers from the Chinese Association of Greater Toledo’s dance troupe. Katie Maskey, Toledo native and reigning Mrs. US Continental 2016, will serve as Mistress of Ceremonies, as she did the year before.
Attendees will also enjoy international food stations, an exhibition of dolls from cultures all around the world, and a silent auction. The fundraiser’s chief goal is to support the expansion of WOT’s robust roster of programs. The fee attendees pay for entry will support a multitude of initiatives.
The organization has established programming based on the “3E Model” – Educate, Empower, and Engage. The educational initiatives are aimed at providing community-based knowledge and information. The Women’s Connection is a mentorship program, offering guidance and support to women in transition – including issues concerning education, career, and relationships. The 419 Women in Action initiative is charged with building peer networking teams that collaborate with existing Toledo area women’s groups to host social events that are meaningful and productive. Finally, the newest program, slated for launch in 2017, is the Young Women of Toledo, a mentoring program designed for millennial women.
Building successful young women in our area will be a key point of focus in 2017 for WOT. The organization’s decision to work with young women was inspired by an old adage founder Nina Corder heard from a good friend: “A great mother raises a great woman.” However, the leadership soon discovered that many of the young women and girls they were encountering did not have solid familial structures in place for support. “When you struggle with transition from being a refugee or immigrant, come to Toledo as an international student, of maybe you’ve been in foster care or were raised by immediate family without maternal or paternal support, or faced juvenile incarceration, you learn to be humble and hold your head low,” Ms. Corder explained.
From hosting a dialogue night and listening sessions with 43 young women, Corder derived, “You learn the struggle, seek empathy, and long for belonging and second chances.” This feedback directly informed the strategic plan that launched Young Women Toledo.
Corder said, “I believe it is our responsibility to guide the youth in our community and share our wisdom. I believe women chose to participate in a group because of the significance of similarity to coexist, to feel belonging, to be mentor and a mentee to others. Our leaders at Women of Toledo enjoy challenging the status -quo and creating program that are specifically designed to be inclusive, diverse and inviting to everyone. And our hope as an organization for this strategy effort to be part of our legacy.”
Join the Women of Toledo for their 2016 Intercultural Gala, “Dance around the World”