Last Tuesday, August 14, we kicked off our Women Helping Women planning with our first committee meeting. Woman of Hope, Jan Richards, generously hosted the event at her home. While we enjoyed homemade quiche, pastries and coffee, we learned about the 21-year history of Women Helping Women.

Jan Richards spoke of her time as a Woman of Hope. She talked about how personal the program became when she was faced with a cancer journey of her own. Jan’s story is similar to those that we hear from many of our past Women of Hope.

A national Women of Hope movement, complete with a traveling display, inspired our Women of Hope award. Instead of recognizing prominent women from across the US, we wanted to create a locally-focused award that acknowledges women in our community who can then serve to inspire women who are embarking on their own journeys.

One of the original visionaries and current co-chair, Debbie Rouse, spoke to the committee members about how Women Helping Women has evolved throughout the years. At its time of inception, Hendersonville had the highest rate of breast cancer for both women and men in the state. This fact was attributed to the many women who did not have the funds required for a yearly mammogram. The idea was to host a luncheon where the cost of a ticket would cover the cost of a mammogram for an uninsured or underinsured woman. In its inaugural year, the Women Helping Women luncheon sold out.

What started as an initiative solely surrounding breast cancer, has expanded now to include women’s complete health. A common misconception about Women Helping Women is that it is a single day event, rather than a year-round program. Although our annual luncheon in October is our greatest fundraiser for this program, we strive to make women’s healthcare an important topic year round.

Over the years, this program has grown to include women from neighboring counties and to cover all types of women’s health, including mental health. Women Helping Women seeks to provide healthcare services to the uninsured or underinsured that will make their lives whole and happy.