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Arise Trust helps women achieve their full potential

Nonprofit helps pay for tuition, rent, child care

Twenty years ago an anonymous Whidbey Island woman did a remarkable thing; she proposed giving significant money to programs that benefit local women in the form of scholarships to individuals and grants to social service agencies.

Since the non-profit Arise Charitable Trust was formed, more than $3 million has benefited more than a thousand women and numerous organizations.

Women like Carol Krez.

“I wanted to go back to school 15 years ago but I didn’t have the means,” Krez said. “The Arise Trust people really helped me a lot.”

Today, after completing a second degree and getting her certificate she teaches at a middle school in Everett.

“They were a Godsend for me and my life.”

Chuck Edwards, a certified public accountant in Freeland, has managed the trust for a board of directors since the trust was formed.

“The donor’s primary focus was to help women attain the skills needed to help themselves,” Edwards said.

Arise trustees — who also prefer to stay out of the public eye — meet twice a year to administer the fund and determine which applicants will get help. Non-trustee volunteers process the initial applications before scholarships are awarded.

Grants are also given to charity organizations that benefit women including the South Whidbey Children’s Center, the Family Resource Center, Planned Parenthood and Skagit Valley College’s Women in Transition program.

Edwards noted that since each woman’s story is different, no common thread exists.

“We don’t do follow-ups,” he said. “The money we give must be spent for the purpose requested and we require proof that tuition is paid. We control the funds but how things turn out for the individual is beyond the trust’s scope. And we do that intentionally.”

Women benefiting from the Arise Trust include teenagers, young mothers, middle-aged homemakers, senior citizens and administrators of tax-exempt groups that help women.

“You have a goal, are determined to reach it, but you just need help,” Edwards said. “Money for tuition, child care or rent while you pursue educational or vocational goals. Maybe there’s a way for us to make it a little easier.”

From 1994 to 2005, more than $1.9 million was given away. Last year alone, 128 women applied for and received varying amounts of money to further their educational goals.

Sara Pierce-Magdalik graduated from South Whidbey High school in 2003.

She wanted to go to a good college, had the grades and was searching for scholarships.

“The high school publicized packages of available, local scholarships,” she recalled. “I applied to the trust but didn’t hold out much hope.”

She received a renewable $1,000 grant for her first year and has received $3,000 since then, based on her progress.

In June, she graduated from Whitman College in Walla Walla with a degree in business.

“The amazing thing about Arise is that the money they give can be used for living expenses, transport or books,” Pierce-Magdalik said. “I have a lot of options now; I’m considering market research position leading to a business consulting career or I may get a master’s degree.”

She added that if she can she will “pay it forward” to help other women as her life unfolds. Her long-term plan has her joining a non-profit that deals with women’s issues or child adoption.

“What they do, what they did for me, is a wonderful thing,” Pierce-Magdalik said. “Without their assistance I don’t know how I would have made it.”

Jeff VanDerford can be reached at 221-5300 or jvanderford@southwhidbeyrecord.com.

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