Our mission and goals

The Aurora Foundation serves 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 through a gender lens 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.

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 Hartford area organizations and by 2016 it reached a distribution of nearly $500,000 in grants.

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 office

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

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

(860) 881-4926

Our board and staff


Jennifer Steadman

Executive Director

Marie McNamara

Program Coordinator

Board of Directors

Evelyn Johnson

Senior Counsel, Hartford Insurance Group

Meghan Sweeney Burns

Vice Chair
Ruel Ruel Goings & Britt

Marissa Mounds

Vice Chair
Director of Personal Insurance, Travelers

Maureen Cooper

Chief Operating Officer, Fiduciary Investment Advisors

Carolyn Van Newkirk Hoffman

Community Volunteer

Elaine Leshem

Member at Large
Community Volunteer

Lindsay Baghramyan

Senior Manager, CSR & Philanthropy
CVS Health

Kathy Binder

Community Volunteer

Karen Binkhorst

College Career Pathways, Capital Community College

Isabel Ceballos

Head of the Middle School and Founding Executive Director
The Ethel Walker School and Horizons at Ethel Walker

Susan Clemow

Managing Partner
Clemow Consulting Group

Karen Diaz-Meaike

Ph.D. in Social Work Student

Laurie Goldsmith

Chief Philanthropy Officer
Baronet Coffee

Michele Maresca

Robinson & Cole, LLP

Jennifer Pennoyer

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

Ann E. Thomas

Consultant to Nonprofits

Nancy Woodward

Consultant to Nonprofits