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Feature

Libby Sharrow

Libby Sharrow, University of Minnesota varsity assistant rowing coach.

Making connections with Minnesota charities

By Naomi Scott

From Brief, Nov. 29, 2006

The University of Minnesota's Community Fund Drive improves lives--and it helps build connections between the U and its broader community.

About 30.5 percent of the faculty and staff on the University's Twin Cities campus contributed $1,176,057.19 to the Community Fund Drive, as of Nov 28. That's the second highest amount ever. That funding reaches people around the state through several federations of charities.

The bridges connecting the U and these charities are more than financial, however. Beginning last summer, varsity assistant rowing coach Libby Sharrow applied her University education to her work at Melpomene Institute for Women's Health Research, an organization that promotes health, well-being and physical activity in young women and girls. Melpomene is a member of the Community Health Charities of Minnesota, one of the seven charity federations in the fund drive. (For more information on the Community Fund Drive federations or to contribute, go to www.umn.edu/cfd.)

Sharrow, who is pursuing a master's degree in public policy from the Humphrey Institute, became involved in Melpomene just as the group was making major changes to its mission and purpose. The institute began 25 years ago with a pioneering journal on women's sports and physical activity. Five years ago, the founder retired and the institute downsized.

Now, Melpomene wants to connect college students with its organization to teach them a skill they can bring to their next job: knowing how to work with underprivileged populations. The institute seeks interns, like Sharrow, to help it find local groups that promote women's health and are in need of leaders or financial assistance. The Melpomene student interns also identify other college students around the Twin Cities area to lead and facilitate these groups.

Sharrow now sits on Melpomene's board of directors, where she observes focus groups and helps facilitate discussions. She says Melpomene's goal to nurture student interns and encourage other college students to become involved in nonprofit women's exercise groups is like "bringing academia to the (Melpomene) institute."

The result: more understanding, deeper relationships, better health, and stronger leaders. Sharrow's experience with Melpomene illustrates that, for essential financial support, and for less tangible needs that are just as important, Minnesota charities count on the U.

Writer Naomi Scott is a senior in journalism