Our mission

The Aurora Foundation formed to serve as a catalyst for change in the lives of women and girls in Greater Hartford, with the intended effect of unlocking the potential of their families and surrounding communities.

  • We conduct research and convene the community to promote understanding of gender issues, and to foster collaboration for effective solutions.
  • We educate and engage men and women in the power of philanthropy to improve social and economic outcomes for women and girls, along with their families and communities.
  • We implement strategies — including targeted grantmaking — that take aim at obstacles to empower women and girls in Greater Hartford.

Aurora also encourages women and girls to engage in philanthropic efforts that benefit their communities. We offer advocacy, annual structured learn-by-doing training in grantmaking, and recognition of their efforts.

Our vision of philanthropy

Effective philanthropy is strategic.

Philanthropy means love of humanity, in the sense of caring, nourishing, developing, and enhancing human conditions.

While charity relieves the pains of social problems, philanthropy attempts to solve those problems at their root causes.

Our history

In 2000, a group of community leaders came together to lift up women and girls through focused philanthropy. Knowing that women and girls funds had succeeded in creating meaningful progress in other parts of the country, founders Leah Bailey Moon, Felice Gray-Kemp, Eileen Kraus, Paddi LeShane, and Marie O’Brien drew together with other women to establish the Aurora Foundation.

The growing foundation organized itself and raised funds, established priorities, and identified program opportunities. Aurora grew consciously and deliberately, building bridges in the community and delving into the issues to develop a deep understanding of both the potential and the challenges in our area. In early years, a “by women, for women” golf tournament hosted by Nykesha Sales supplemented community donations. In 2005 the foundation launched the Signature Breakfast, which became an important annual fundraiser.

In 2004 Aurora started distributing micro-grants to programs that could make a big difference with a small boost in the budget. With the 2016 awards, Aurora reached nearly $500,000 in grants, an important milestone for a young local foundation.

Due not only to the fundraising and grantmaking but also its groundbreaking research on the status of women and girls in Hartford County, the Aurora Foundation has become a powerful vehicle in addressing the needs of women and girls to ensure a level playing field for all.

Thanks to the vision of early believers and their discipline in building a solid financial base, Aurora today has a growing capacity to realize the founders’ dreams.



Our research

In pursuit of the twin goals of strategic grantmaking and community collaboration, since 2013 the Aurora Foundation has worked with partners to collect and evaluate data on the status of women and girls in Hartford County. Aurora’s influential findings detail current demographics and the status of women and girls in education, economic security, leadership, crime and safety, and health and wellbeing.

Not only did the results convince the Aurora board to focus on education for the next few years of grants, but the report also provides powerful evidence that helps other agencies and organizations in the region identify key areas of need.

Our donors and supporters

From the beginning, Aurora Foundation supporters have been a diverse group. The 2016 annual report recognized about 400 individual and family donors, plus nearly 100 companies and organizations that contributed to our work.

Our supporters include men, whom we welcome to collaborate in making a difference in our communities by investing in women. Gender issues affect us all.

The  Signature Breakfast is Aurora’s annual fundraiser  and is also an opportunity to celebrate our grant recipients, awardees, and donors.

We cannot thank Aurora’s supporters enough. Together we empower women and girls, unlocking the potential in their families and communities.

Our office

The office is located on the University of Saint Joseph campus in West Hartford.

Aurora Women and Girls Foundation
1678 Asylum Avenue, Lynch Hall, St 216
West Hartford CT 06117

(860) 881-4926

Our board and staff


Jennifer Steadman

Executive Director

Laurie Robillard

Program Coordinator

Board of Directors

Karen Jarmoc

Chief Executive Officer, CT Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Eileen Lagasse

Vice Chair
Retired Vice President, Strategic Initiatives, Travelers

Evelyn Johnson

Vice Chair
Claims Counsel, Tokio Marine HCC - D&O Group

Maureen Cooper

Chief Operating Officer, Fiduciary Investment Advisors

Carolyn Van Newkirk Hoffman

Community Volunteer

Marissa Mounds

Member at Large
Director of Personal Insurance, Travelers

Lindsay Baghramyan

Vice President, Philanthropic Fiduciary Manager
U.S. Trust, Bank of America

Kathy Binder

Community Volunteer

Kathleen Bromage

Chief Marketing and Communications Officer
The Hartford

Isabel Ceballos

Spanish Teacher and Founding Executive Director
Horizons at The Ethel Walker School

Susan Clemow

Managing Partner
Clemow Consulting Group

Carolyn Gitlin

Community Volunteer

Laurie Goldsmith

Chief Philanthropy Officer
Baronet Coffee

Moraima Gutierrez

Assistant District Director for Economic Development
U.S. Small Business Administration

Dana Keller

Community Volunteer

Elaine Leshem

Community Volunteer

Michele Maresca

Robinson & cole, LLP

Jennifer Pennoyer

Jennifer W. Pennoyer, M.D., LLC
Medical, Cosmetic and Laser Dermatology

Rise Roth

Vice President, Philanthropy
Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Hartford

Meghan Sweeney

Ruel Ruel Goings & Britt

Ann E. Thomas

Consultant to Nonprofits

Nancy Woodward

Executive Director
Girls on the Run Greater Hartford