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


 $5.5 million raised in donations


 135 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


 3,800 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


Chair, Women’s Initiative Leadership Council

Kerri-Melley-PhotoKerri Aleksiewicz Melley is a Financial Planner with Commonwealth Financial Group. Recognizing that today’s women face a unique set of challenges when it comes to their finances, Kerri is passionate about helping them grow and preserve their wealth, while building their confidence in planning and managing their financial lives. Prior to her career in financial services, Kerri honed her strategic planning and relationship management skills as a development professional for the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Eastman School of Music. Kerri began volunteering for the Women’s Initiative as a Dollar $cholar Mentor over 10 years ago and has remained active and passionate about the organization ever since. She is honored to Chair the Women’s Initiative Leadership Council.


Kerri Melley is a registered representative of and offers securities and investment advisory services through MML Investors Services, LLC. Member SIPC. Supervisory Address: 101 Federal Street, Suite 800, Boston, MA 02110. Tel: 617.439.4389. CRN202109-253338

Leadership Council Members

Member Position Affiliation
Joycelyn Augustus At-Large
Kathryn Behan At-Large UMass Memorial Health Care
Christine Cassidy At-Large Fallon Health
Filomena Cesareo Co-Chair, Financial Literacy Assumption College
Kathy Esparza At-Large City of Worcester
Jodie Gerulaitis Vice-Chair, Financial Literacy Country Bank
Patricia Hallberg At-Large Girl Scouts of Central and Western Mass
Connie Hamilton Co-Chair, Financial Literacy
Elizabeth Helenius At-Large Fallon Health
Katharine Jorgensen At-Large AbbVie
Echo Lahey Vice Chair, Community Impact Educator (retired)
Leah Lamson Chair, Governance New England High School Journalism Collaborative
Daniela Leblanc Vice Chair, Membership-Marketing Exsel Advertising Group
Kerri Melley Chair, Leadership Council Commonwealth Financial Group
Sherri Pitcher Chair, Membership-Marketing Fidelity Bank
Krishan Prosser At-Large Worcester Business Journal
Carol Seager Chair, Fundraising
Aarti Smith Madan Chair, Community Impact Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Elizabeth Vittum Vice-Chair, Leadership Council Seven Hills Foundation
Meridith Wesby Co-Founder MWesby & Associates (retired)
Pamela Zorge At-Large  Saint-Gobain


Emeritae Members

Member Affiliation
Pamela Boisvert
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
Samantha McDonald Bowditch & Dewey
Jessica McGarry Country Bank
Trisha Morris Walmart
Kathleen Myshrall Seven Hills Foundation
Wendy O’Leary
Phyllis Pollack Child Heart Associates
Carol Seager
Helen Shuster
Carol Sleeper
Lois Smith
Anne Wettengel
Stephanie Williams Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Elaine Wright