Field trip highlights impacts of The Women’s Fund

Author: Laura Christman

Programs to help women gain confidence and job skills were showcased March 22 during a field trip for  members of The Women’s Fund of the Shasta Regional Community Foundation.

Promising Smiles, which provides restorative dental work, and Non-traditional Employment for Women (NEW), which promotes jobs in welding, firefighting, automotive and other fields, were featured. The Women’s Fund has given grants to both. Promising Smiles received $10,000 in 2011 and another $10,000 in 2016. NEW was awarded $5,000 in 2013.

Sixteen Women’s Fund members participated in the afternoon tour. First stop was Shasta Community Health Dental Center in the Shasta College building in downtown Redding. Linda Freitas, center manager, shared how missing teeth means missing out. Women with tooth loss or damaged teeth feel self-conscious and often are in pain, which holds them back in employment and life.

Promising Smiles is a signature program of Soroptimist International of Downtown Redding. The program provides bridges, crowns, dentures and other restorative work to low-income women committed to progress in their lives. More than 45 women have been helped since the program was established in 2010, Freitas said. It provides not just a new look, but a new outlook.

“It has a major impact on oral health and boosts self-esteem,” Freitas said. “… They’re happier. They walk more confidently.”

Field trip participants toured the dental center and had a chance to view a display with before-and-after photos of Promising Smiles participants. “Now that I have front teeth and a beautiful smile, I am out of pain and have my confidence back,” one testimonial said.

Next stop on the tour was Shasta College. Eva Jimenez, associate vice president of Economic and Workforce Development, talked about the NEW program, where Women’s Fund dollars launched an ongoing, hands-on career event for high school girls. The spring gathering showcases automotive, welding, firefighting, heavy-equipment operations and other Shasta College programs leading to good-paying jobs in careers where women are under-represented. The annual spring event has had an impact on enrollment choices at the college, Jimenez noted.

“I’ve seen a huge change in terms of numbers of young ladies who come to our nontraditional programs,” she said.

Jimenez is the force behind other programs that partner with the community. She shared information about those programs too, such as dual enrollment, where high schoolers earn college credit; Youth Entrepreneurship Program, which encourages teen entrepreneurship; and VEX Robotics Competition in Redding.

She also spoke about Step-Up for low-risk offenders sentenced or on probation. They enroll in Shasta College and work toward certificates or associate degrees in heavy-equipment operation, fire technology, welding, business/office administration and automotive. The program began five years ago and has become a state model for offering opportunity to those who have been incarcerated.