The Wisconsin Women of Color Network (WWOCN) will hold its annual scholarship and fund-raising brunch and general meeting Saturday, Dec. 5, 9 a.m-3 p.m. at the DoubleTree Hotel, 525 W. Johnson St.

The Wisconsin Women of Color Network (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; thus enriching the lives of women of color, their families and their communities.

Once a year WWOCN appeals to its members, family and friends to raise money for the Wisconsin Women of Color Network Scholarship Fund.

“WWOCN started in 1980, but we officially incorporated in 1983,” says WWOCN founder Agnes Cammer. Back then, it was called Wisconsin Minority Women’s Network and the official focus was on employment. “At the time, I was working with the Wisconsin Department of Employee Relations and what prompted me to help organize the group was when I realized that there were very few women employed in the professional area and the ones that were there were mostly just ‘window dressers.’”

The WWOCN was needed at that time to help women of color stand on their own as productive members of society by successfully finding and landing good-paying jobs as well as promoting equal rights for them in the workplace.

Cammer was very intensely involved in Madison’s minority community and she knew that they were seldom involved. “I knew that was something that we needed to change. Being a minority woman myself and being an immigrant from the Philippines, I knew how hard it was to climb up the ladder,” Cammer says. “It was so hard for us to get a job no matter how many degrees or how successful we were previously.”

Over the years, WWOCN expanded its focus to include cross-cultural awareness, leadership training, political participation, health care, social activism, entrepreneurship, continuing education and providing scholarships to young women of color who wanted to purse vocational, technical, or college education.

“We have all four major groups of minority women involved – Asian, American Indian, black and Latino,” Cammer says. “We have really grown since the 1980s and as a statewide organization we have over 100 active members.”

WWOCN founder Agnes Cammer (left) presents a gift at a previous WWOCN Annual Scholarship Fund-Raiser.
WWOCN founder Agnes Cammer (left) presents a gift at a previous WWOCN Annual Scholarship Fund-Raiser.

The 2015 Wisconsin Women of Color Network (WWOCN) Annual Scholarship Fund-Raiser will be a day of spreading cheer, strengthening connections, and shopping for a cause as community members will gather for eats, treats, sharing, a silent auction, and entertainment.

The event will feature a sumptuous buffet brunch and a silent auction with lots of donated merchandise and services including gift cards. “We usually have 80-100 great items up for bid at our silent auction,” Cammer says. “We have our vendors who are women of color or women-managed businesses and this is a great chance for us to introduce these women to the community.”

At the event, more than a dozen women of color and other vendors will sell a variety of arts and crafts such as ceramics, clothing, fabrics, purses, jewelry and other accessories including cosmetics. The event will kick off with networking and a business card exchange. “This is just a great chance for women to network and find out about other women in the city,” Cammer says.

Each year, WWOCN awards the Mabel Smith Memorial Scholarship to a student pursuing a two-year technical/occupational skills or industry related degree; Cammer-Hill Grants to assist students with expenses not generally covered by other scholarships; and the Future Leaders Fund to enable middle and high school students to participate in educational opportunities that focus on the development of individual skills in communication, fellowship and leadership. The Hattie J. Hilliard Award is for students interested in pursuing a career in art.

“I’m almost 90 years old,” Cammer says. “I’m excited about the children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren who are coming up that will continue to make WWOCN strong. The younger ones are also reaping the fruits of the older pathfinders and I like to see that, too.”

For more information and to make your reservation for the 2015 Wisconsin Women of Color Network (WWOCN) Annual Scholarship Fund-Raiser, contact JoAnn Moore at (608)334-1013 or P.E. Kiram at (414) 899-2329 or pekiram64@gmail.com.