Women’s Initiative

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


 $6 million raised in donations


 153 grants made to programs that support safety, well-being, healthy relationships, education, and financial literacy among girls ages 10-14


 14,500 adolescent girls helped through WI-funded programs


4,000 girls from local middle schools and agency programs participated in Dollar $cholar financial literacy sessions


 1,400 women volunteered as Dollar $cholar financial literacy mentors for middle school girls



Meet the Women’s Initiative Leadership Team

Interim Director, Women’s Initiative

Echo Lahey has been named interim Director of the Women’s Initiative while a search is conducted for a new Director. Echo joined the United Way team last year as Program Manager for the After School & Out of School Time Rebound grant.  She has been a WI member since 2014 and has served as Chair of the WI Community Impact Committee, 2018-2022 and the WI Leadership Council, 2018-2022.  Echo can be reached at: echo.lahey@unitedwaycm.org



Chair, Women’s Initiative Leadership Council

Elizabeth Vittum is the Assistant Vice President of Development for Seven Hills Foundations & Affiliates, a $350M health and human services network currently offering program sites at 190 locations throughout Massachusetts and Rhode Island and employing nearly 4,900 professionals. Seven Hills offers a continuum of clinical, educational, and community-based supports to 65,000 children, adults and seniors with disabilities and other life challenges through its 14 affiliate organizations that are part of the Foundation. Seven Hills serves an additional 17,000 women and children in developing countries aligned with our diverse workforce. Elizabeth has over 20 years of experience serving as an Advancement professional in the non-profit health and human services sector and is passionate about using her skills in organizational development, program management, strategic planning, and fundraising to help improve the lives of underserved populations living in Massachusetts. During her 11-year tenure as a proud member of Women’s Initiative, Elizabeth has served as a Dollar $cholar Mentor and as the former Chair of the Women’s Initiative Community Impact Committee. She is honored to Chair the Women’s Initiative Leadership Council.



Leadership Council Members


Member Position Affiliation
Joycelyn Augustus Chair, Diversity Committee JCassand, Inc.
Kathryn Behan Co-Chair, Marketing-Membership UMass Memorial Health
McKenzie Belanger Vice Chair, Financial Literacy
Patricia Flanagan Vice Chair, Community Impact Colonial Figure Skating Club
Jodie Gerulaitis Co-Chair, Financial Literacy Country Bank
Erin Giza At-Large The Hanover Insurance Group
Patricia Hallberg At-Large Girl Scouts of Central and Western MA
Kayanna James At-Large U.S. Department of Labor
Katharine Jorgensen At-Large ElevateBio
Michelle Kile Co-Chair, Financial Literacy bankHometown
Daniela Leblanc Co-Chair, Marketing-Membership Exsel Advertising Group
Kerri Melley Chair, Governance Commonwealth Financial Group
Michelle Mulkern Chair, Community Impact Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Melanie Perreault-LeBouef Vice Chair, Marketing-Membership WICN Public Radio
Domenica Perrone Vice Chair, Diversity Clark University
Sherri Pitcher Chair, Fundraising Strategy Fontaine Bros., Inc.
Aarti Smith Madan Vice Chair, Leadership Council Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Elizabeth Vittum Chair, Leadership Council Seven Hills Foundation


Emeritae Members


Member Affiliation
Kay Bassett
Pamela Boisvert MassEdCo (retired)
Filomena Cesareo Assumption University
Christine Cassidy Fallon Health
Linda Cavaioli YWCA Central Massachusetts  (retired)
Sen. Harriette L. Chandler Massachusetts State Senate
Patty Eppinger
Dr. Marianne Felice UMass Medical Center (retired)
Lynne Flanagan Tsombakos You, Inc.
Mary Fletcher
Eve Gilmore Edward Street Child Services
Maureen Gray
Elizabeth Helenius
Kathleen Jordan Seven Hills Foundation
Karen King Central MA Housing Alliance
Echo Lahey United Way of Central MA
Leah Lamson New England High School Journalism Collaborative
Cheryl M. Lapriore UMass Memorial Health
Patsy Lewis
Jennifer Luisa The Hanover Insurance Group
Stacey Luster Worcester State University
Samantha McDonald Bowditch & Dewey
Jessica McGarry Country Bank
Dr. Sarah McGee UMass Chan Memorial Health
Kerri Melley Commonwealth Financial Group
Trisha Morris Walmart
Kathleen Myshrall Seven Hills Foundation
Alicia O’Connell Rogers Worcester Housing Authority
Wendy O’Leary Mindfulness Educator & Author
Phyllis Pollack Child Heart Associates (retired)
Krishan Prosser Worcester Business Journal
Carol Seager
Helen Shuster Worcester Polytechnic Institute (retired)
Carol Sleeper
Lois Smith LAS Consulting Pro
Tina Sullivan Sullivan Travel Insurance
Meridith D. Wesby Women’s Initiative Co-Founder
Anne Wettengel
Stephanie Williams City of Worcester
Elaine Wright Webster Five (retired)
Pamela Zorge Saint-Gobain