Karen Rowley, Dining For Woman Matching Grant Philanthropist ~By Betsy Teutsch
Karen Rowley, a Chestnut Hiller active in Weavers Way Thursday Dining For Women chapter, is full of surprises: she herself is surprised to be a philanthropist. A retired nurse, she worked in the ICU while she and her husband Jim were raising their seven kids. From a humble Irish Catholic family and raised in parish and schools, she has evolved into a fierce advocate for global women. And she is a venture capitalist—an early backer of BioRealize, her daughter Karen’s biotech company incubated at PennDesign.
Karen’s Kensington family was large—her dad was one of 17 kids. As a student at Bishop McDevitt, Karen and her high-school sweetheart Jim were shaped by the social justice and spirit-of-service Catholicism of Dorothy Day along with Pope John XXIII’s Vatican II reforms.
Karen pursued her studies at Germantown School of Nursing when nursing programs were still stand-alone schools. At age 21, she was married to Jim and running an ICU. They settled in West Philly and she went to work at Penn. They enjoyed their exposure to international students and faculty and expanding their worldview.
Over the next eleven years they welcomed Monica, Rachel, Alice, Karen, Hannah, Abigail, and Peter and moved back to Mt. Airy, then Andorra, and ultimately to Chestnut Hill. Instrumental in organizing St. Vincent’s Soup Kitchen, they remain close to Brother Al Smith. Jim and Karen now have 11 grandchildren. While each grandchild is miraculous, grandson Marcus has a special status. His mother Alice was one of the first melanoma patients treated with immunotherapy; Marcus is among the United States’ first offsprings born to immunotherapy treatment survivors.
Karen joined Dining For Women at the invitation of Debbie Britt, a leader of Abington’s DFW. Karen was profoundly touched by that month’s program. The grant recipients had learned English and written thank you notes to DFW, explaining the ways the DFW-financed program had given them hope and helped them improve their lives.
At that very first meeting Karen heard about an upcoming DFW trip to Kenya visiting grant recipients as well as sight-seeing. Karen had only traveled abroad once, to Ireland, but had a lifelong dream of seeing Africa. Her daughter Alice was in remission from grueling melanoma treatment… it was Karen’s time to embark on an adventure.
That trip cemented Karen’s passion for Dining For Women’s work and also yielded a bonus daughter, Caroline Kashinian. This bright, determined Maasai participant in a DFW-funded school program dreamed of a nursing career. They bonded instantly. Karen had received a scholarship to nursing school and she was thrilled to help Caroline pursue her goals. Fast forward: Caroline has been admitted to the University of Nairobi’s Institute of Tropical and Infectious Diseases.
She is pleased to serve as a role model, encouraging other women to share their resources with global women for whom it can have so much impact. Karen continues, “We all have a purpose in this world. I did not expect to find myself in a position to be a philanthropist. When you have an opportunity, you should go for it. You get back far more than you give.”
Karen has stepped forward to celebrate Weavers Way Dining For Women’s Fifth Birthday with a $5,000 Matching Grant. Karen observes that women have always provided family and community sweat equity—working quietly without recognition. She admires this work, and surely does it herself, but she thinks it is important for women to stop being shy about public philanthropy and step forward. Let’s face it: giving money commands attention!
Here’s how to contribute to our 5th Birthday/ $5000 Match!
We are so grateful to Karen Rowley for matching all contributions to the Dining For Women 13th Month Fund up to $5,000.
DFW’s 13th Month Fund is DFW’s Annual Appeal. We raise money for one grantee each month of the year; the 13th Month campaign funds infrastructure so we have the resources to run our wonderful organization, expand our membership, and grow our impact.
Karen’s match will run through December 31, 2016, but our dream is to raise $5,000 to celebrate our 5th birthday and announce a total at our October 26th celebration.
- The easiest way to contribute is by credit card at our dedicated link:
Click Here to Donate
- You can pay by check and give the check to your Chapter Leader. Checks need to say “13th Month Fund” in the memo line. (You can mail your check to your chapter leader if you’re not able to attend.)
Please do not mail checks directly to Dining For Women; they are not set up to credit checks to the Karen Rowley Match.
- You don’t have to be a Dining For Women participant to donate! We encourage you to invite others to attend the 5th Birthday and contribute by using the link above!
Questions? Lynn Doerr (Chapter Leader/Monday) will be happy to answer – LotusLassie@gmail.com