Who We Are

Our vision is to be the premier women’s philanthropic and leadership group in Central Massachusetts funding programs that improve the lives of adolescent girls. Women’s Initiative groups are part of a national trend of women engaging in philanthropy, organized to create a powerful force to effect change in society.

The Women’s Initiative was established in 2002 by Lois Green and Meridith Wesby who joined forces with other influential women leaders in Central Massachusetts to raise funds to prevent and reduce violence in the lives of adolescent girls in the community.

Working with volunteer committees of community leaders, the Women’s Initiative has engaged more than 1,000 members and 2,000 donors.

Funds raised support programs that improve and empower the lives of girls, ages 10 to 14, through mentoring, educational opportunities, and financial literacy. Grants are awarded to organizations which build, strengthen and support the development of healthy, safe and confident girls. With support from area colleges and local women volunteers, the Women’s Initiative runs biannual financial literacy conferences for teen girls, called Dollar $cholars.

Impact Since Inception

  • $5 million raised in donations
  • 125 grants made to programs that support safety, well-being, healthy relationships, education, and financial literacy among girls ages 10-14
  • 13,000 adolescent girls helped through WI-funded programs
  • 3,700 teen girls from 12 middle schools located in central Massachusetts participated in Dollar $cholar Financial Literacy Conferences
  • 1,200 women mentors volunteered at Dollar $cholar Financial Literacy Conferences for teen girls

Meet the Women’s Initiative Leadership Team

Director, Women’s Initiative

Emily McCann PhotoEmily McCann joined the Women’s Initiative as Director in September, 2018. Emily has an extensive background in corporate philanthropy and non-profit development, community relations and program management, most recently at Staples and The TJX Companies. At Staples, where she was the Senior Manager of Community and Giving, Emily developed and launched the Staples Foundation’s employee-driven grant program, managed national and local charitable partnerships, disaster relief efforts, and community service activities. emily.mccann@unitedwaycm.org

Vice President of Community Impact, UWCM & Women’s Initiative

KerryConaghan200Kerry Conaghan has led Community Impact efforts for the Women’s Initiative since joining the United Way in 2006. She engages a committee of Women’s Initiative volunteers to review, evaluate, and recommend grant funding to programs which aim to reduce the incidence of violence affecting girls ages 10-14 in Central Massachusetts. Kerry also serves on the Steering Committee of Investing in Girls Alliance.

Chair, Women’s Initiative Leadership Council

LeahLamson-200Leah Lamson, a media professional, is currently the managing director of the New England High School Journalism Collaborative and former editor of Worcester Telegram & Gazette. She spent 36 years at the T&G, starting as a reporter and working her way up to being named the first woman to serve as editor at the newspaper. Leah, a resident of Bolton, is a founding member of the Women’s Initiative and a member of the United Way of Central Massachusetts Board of Directors.

Leadership Council Members

Member Position Affiliation
Leah Lamson Chair, Leadership Council New England High School Journalism Collaborative
Kerri Melley Vice-Chair, Leadership Council Commonwealth Financial Group
Joycelyn Augustus
Kathryn Behan UMass Memorial Health Care
Christine Cassidy Fallon Health
Kathy Esparza City of Worcester
Marianne Fini Vice-Chair, Membership/Marketing Unum
Elizabeth Helenius Fallon Health
Echo Lahey Vice-Chair, Community Impact Educator (retired)
Meghan Maceiko Unum
Farah Majid
Samantha McDonald Chair, Fundraising Strategies Bowditch & Dewey
Jessica McGarry Country Bank
Trisha Morris Walmart
Sherri Pitcher Chair, Membership/Marketing Fidelity Bank
Krishan Prosser Worcester Business Journal
Helen Shuster Liaison, Investing in Girls Alliance Worcester Polytechnic Institute (retired)
Aarti Smith Madan Chair, Community Impact Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Elizabeth Vittum Seven Hills Foundation
Elaine Wright Chair, Governance Webster Five Cents Savings Bank (retired)


Emeritae Members

Member Affiliation
Pamela Boisvert, Chair, Emeritae MassEdCo, Inc.
Linda Cavaioli YWCA
Lynne Flanagan Tsombakos You, Inc.
Eve Gilmore Edward Street Child Services
Maureen Gray
Rose Hayes Edward Street Child Services
Frances Jacobson
Karen King Central Mass Housing Alliance
Cheryl M. Lapriore UMass Memorial Health Care
Patsy Lewis
Kathleen Myshrall Seven Hills Foundation
Wendy O’Leary
Phyllis Pollack Child Heart Associates
Carol Seager
Carol Sleeper
Lois Smith
Stephanie Williams Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Meridith Wesby, Co-Founder of WI MWesby & Associates (retired)