By A. David Dahmer,   Published Dec 02, 2016 at 5:02 PM

The Wisconsin Women of Color Network is a local organization of women who believe in helping each other to achieve their fullest potential and once a year they host a big annual luncheon to make an appeal to their members, families, and friends to raise money for the Wisconsin Women of Color Network (WWOCN) Scholarship Fund.

"This is a great fundraising event for WWOCN that we do once a year," new WWOCN President Nelia Olivencia tells Madison365. "We have the silent auction and we also have vendors who come and sell their wares. Of course, we have the luncheon portion which will start at 11 a.m. this year. It is one of our most popular events."

This year, it will be held on Saturday, Dec. 3, at the Double Tree hotel in downtown Madison.

"It’s a great chance for sisterhood and for networking and people have a chance, through the auction and silent bidding, to raise enough money for scholarships throughout the coming year," Olivencia says.

At the 2016 WWOCN Annual Scholarship Fund-Raiser, vendors (mostley women of color) will sell a variety of arts and crafts such as ceramics, clothing, fabrics, purses, jewelry and other accessories including cosmetics. Traditionally, it has been the ideal place to do some Christmas shopping. There will also be a silent auction with lots of donated merchandise and services including gift cards.

WWOCN, through statewide collaboration, assists women of color in accessing educational resources, health care, social services, and political participation; promotes leadership, cross-cultural awareness, and spiritual and economic well-being in an effort to enrich the lives of women of color, their families and their communities.

Established in 1980, WWOCN brings together women of color through a variety of regular and special programs held around the state. Olivencia is one of the founding members of WWOCN. "I love this group because they represent all of the different minority women’s groups and these women have done exceptional work in their areas," Olivencia says. "It’s nice for us to have a forum to get together with one another."

The WWOCN Scholarship Fund is an umbrella for several specific awards given each year with the goal of assisting women in their pursuit of education, employment and economic independence. The Fund includes the following scholarships:

  • Mabel Smith Memorial Scholarship: open only to Wisconsin graduating high school seniors and recent GED/HSED graduates who plan on attending an accredited Wisconsin community, vocational, or technical college;
  • The Hattie J. Hilliard Scholarship: Wisconsin residents applying for admission to accredited Wisconsin colleges and universities in pursuit of degrees in Art, Graphic Arts or any other art-related field of study;
  • The Cammer-Hill grant from the Wisconsin Women of Color Network Women’s Fund: for Wisconsin residents applying for admission to accredited Wisconsin post-secondary education institutions.

"This fundraiser will be a big thing for us because we want young women to have an education," Olivencia says. "As you very well know, that is what is needed in order to get anywhere in this society."

WWOCN hosts many activities throughout the year, but this Saturday will be their big event.

"We still have room and we are always very excited to see new faces at this event. It’s a great luncheon. It’s a great chance to network with wonderful women in our community and to also learn a little bit more about WWOCN," Olivencia says. "The history that these women bring to WWOCN is incredible as well as what they have accomplished over their lifetimes. We also have young people who are accomplishing much, too. This fundraiser is a chance for us to recruit new members to the organization who might not know much about us."

Entertainment is always a big part of the WWOCN Annual Scholarship Fund-Raiser and will include the WWOCN traditional Holiday Sing-Along of classic holiday songs from various cultures.

"It’s a low-key, informal event. It’s fun. It’s a friendly atmosphere," Olivencia says. "No classism. No racism. We talk about our commonalities that we all face. We’re not judgmental. We’re very warm people. I’m very impressed with the women in our group."

The Wisconsin Women of Color Network, Inc. will host its annual scholarship fund-raising event on Saturday, Dec. 3, 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. at the Double Tree Hotel, 525 W. Johnson St., in Madison. There is still room if you wish to attend. For more information, click here.