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Doris Buffett foundation endows scholarships
Local philanthropist gives $30 million to domestic abuse victims

Date published: 9/16/2008

BY AMY FLOWERS UMBLE

Last year, philanthropist Doris Buffett received 645 thank-you notes--one for each woman going to school on a scholarship she started.

Buffett, a Fredericksburg resident, wants to make sure those scholarships for domestic violence survivors continue after she dies. So she gave the Women's Independence Scholarship Program $30 million.

"It's a hugely generous gift," said Nancy Soward, executive director of WISP, a national organization based in Wilmington, N.C.

The money will help women go back to school after leaving abusive partners.

"Someone who goes from poverty to getting their RN and being able to work in a job that provides them with health benefits and a living wage is provided with hope for the future," Soward said.

Women apply for scholarships through WISP, which started in 1999 as a program of Buffett's Sunshine Lady Foundation. The grants can pay for tuition, books and school fees or for other expenses such as child care and transportation.

"Basically, whatever it takes to get these women into a life-changing experience," said Rebecca Curry, who volunteers with the foundation.

WISP has helped 900 women from all over America graduate from school. These graduates have gone on to be truck drivers, shoe designers, ministers and doctors, Soward said.

"This is really a premier program in the country, changing people's lives," she said.

Buffett has supported Soward's efforts from the beginning, giving money, advice and insight. The new donation has allowed WISP to form its own foundation outside the Sunshine Lady Foundation.

"The money will help to continue our work for about 10 years," Soward said.

sunshinelady.org and wispinc.org

Amy Flowers Umble: 540/735-1973
Email: aumble@freelancestar.com


Fredericksburg resident Doris Buffett has supported many area projects. Among them:

$1.1 million for a gym at Bragg Hill Family Life Center

$10,000 for the George Washington Foundation to buy belongings of Betty Washington Lewis

$2 million for a crisis- stabilization place for mentally ill adults

More than $250,000 in grants for Students Helping Honduras, a University of Mary Washington club, which is helping to educate orphans and help poor families in Honduras

Pledged $1 million toward the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation's youth baseball complex in Fredericksburg

$61,000 toward construction of the Dixon Park pool in 2006 and has continued to cover the cost of city residents' use