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Winner of the Avon Hello Tomorrow Fund - February 24, 2009

Cathy Schrader Honored with $5,000 Avon Hello Tomorrow Fund Award

February 17, 2009

Webster Springs, West Virginia Resident Wins Cash Award To Support Program To Create Craft Making Jobs For Low Income Women

(New York, NY, February 24, 2009) – Webster Springs, West Virginia resident Cathy Schrader, 41, is one step closer to fulfilling her dream of creating a better tomorrow for her community. Cathy was named this week’s winner of the Avon Hello Tomorrow Fund, a weekly $5,000 cash award program from Avon Products, Inc. to support individuals in their work to empower women. She is the first recipient of a Hello Tomorrow Fund award in West Virginia since the program launched in 2007, and was selected by an expanded panel of judges that includes Sarah Ferguson, The Duchess of York, and actress Phylicia Rashad. Cathy will use her award to support a crafts business she has named the “Comfort in Christ Bears” program that creates job opportunities for low income women in the rural community of Webster County.

Webster County has one of the highest poverty rates in the state of West Virginia. The area is predominantly rural, with a population of less than 10,000 people. Many women in Webster County have very little professional skills, making it extremely difficult to find a job that can support their families.

Cathy has been working as a community developer for over 10 years with a mission to help low income women make a better life for themselves and their families. She has collaborated with multiple organizations and established a variety of programs to assist women with housing, childcare, literacy, anger management and life skills. In October of 2007, Cathy started the Comfort program where she uses recycled materials and scraps to create homemade keepsake bears to donate and sell to women in need of comfort and inspiration. What started out as a personal mission has turned into a program that not only brings joy to the bear recipients, but the women Cathy has gathered to create the bears.

The Comfort program has functioned out of Cathy’s home in the last year and a half, but due to demand of the bears and the community’s response, will now become a fully functioning business. Cathy has secured a permanent space where there will be a recycling area, along with sewing stations and a gallery for the women to show their work. She will expand the offerings to include other crafts such as rugs, dolls, quilts and more. Cathy has also obtained a shredder to turn the recycled materials into stuffing for the crafts that they will sell or donate to people in need. She also is looking to make the business a Green Facility that will help to promote recycling and conservation within the community. Cathy’s next goal is to find the funds to help make the Comfort program more productive and offer a training program. This is what inspired her to apply for an Avon Hello Tomorrow Fund award.

With help from the Hello Tomorrow Fund, Cathy will be able to purchase necessary equipment for the Comfort program to function more efficiently and employ additional women in the community. The funds will go towards a die cutting machine, die cut patterns and eight sewing machines. In addition, workshops will be offered through the Workforce Mission of West Virginia and the Webster County Development Authority so the low income women can gain valuable skills to help further their career development. As new employees come in, the senior staff will train them and pass the knowledge forward, furthering the momentum of the program. The participants will learn that simple skills can produce results in their lives with income for their families. Cathy is helping these women develop pride and self esteem that will facilitate a greater investment in their community and make a difference for future generations to come.

Cathy’s winning application to the Avon Hello Tomorrow Fund met the criteria of clearly presenting unique and achievable objectives to empower women or girls and ultimately improve society. It was selected from a pool of strong contenders by an expert panel of judges, including personal finance expert Suze Orman, actress Phylicia Rashad, Sarah Ferguson, The Duchess of York, and experts in business and grantmaking. “This is very interesting because it taps into a woman’s ability and talent to create and produce goods that are marketable and in return, offers a source of income and pride,” commented Sarah Ferguson on Cathy’s proposal.

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