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Local

Surprise donation seeds new loan program

Money will help women handle job-related costs

ROCK FALLS – When Carol Fitzgerald, executive director of YWCA of the Sauk Valley, accepted Tuesday’s lunch invitation, she didn’t know she was going to receive $3,500 to help start her dream program.

Fitzgerald’s Fearless Future Microloan Fund will give loans to women in Lee and Whiteside counties so they can improve their lives. The money will pay for GED test fees, job uniforms, computer training and the like. Loan payments will go back into the fund.

“We’ve had women go back to domestic violence situations because they couldn’t get a job even at a store or gas station without computer training,” Fitzgerald said.

Royal Neighbors, based in Davenport, Iowa, donated the money through its Nation of Neighbors program.

Rita Toalson is managing editor with Royal Neighbors.

The microloan fund is “all about empowering women, and that’s what Nation of Neighbors is all about,” she said. “It empowers other women who will go on and when they start a new job or open a new business, they in turn will empower other women.

“It’s what we call neighboring it forward.”

Royal Neighbors gave money for a different YWCA project recently, so when he was invited to the luncheon meeting at Candlelight Inn in Rock Falls, she thought she was being invited as a past recipient, she said.

Click here to see video

“Oh, my goodness,” she said when she was told the news by John Espinoza, who nominated her.

“This is amazing,” she told the group. “As you can see, I’m just dazzled.”

Fitzgerald, 62, said the loans might be given only to women it already is serving through its existing programs. The YWCA serves thousands a year, she said.

“It’s been a need that we’ve been identifying for a long time.”

To help

To donate to or learn more about the Fearless Future Microloan Fund, call YWCA of the Sauk Valley Executive Director Carol Fitzgerald at 815-625-0333, or stop by the YWCA, 412 First Ave. in Sterling or 115 W. First St. in Dixon.

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