Updated March 29 at 12:28am

Women’s Fund of SE Mass. names leader, to embark on new project

The Women’s Fund of Southeastern Massachusetts has named Valerie Bassett of Westport its new executive director.

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Women’s Fund of SE Mass. names leader, to embark on new project


NEW BEDFORD – The Women’s Fund of Southeastern Massachusetts has named Valerie Bassett its new executive director.

Bassett succeeds long-time Executive Director Kate Fentress, who retired at the end of 2013. Bassett has spent most of her career in public health policy, with a special interest in leadership development.

“I am excited and honored to lead the Women’s Fund at this critical time, when we are poised to strengthen our impact on equity for women and girls in the region,” Bassett said.

“We are funding an important new endeavor, the LifeWork Project, a pilot leveraging higher education and wraparound supports as a bridge to self-sufficiency for low-income women, while also preparing to sharpen our focus with a new strategic plan,” she added. “Right now, my job is to do a lot of listening, but you can expect me ultimately to work with others to examine policy solutions to the challenges for women in this region.”

Bassett, who started Feb. 24, has been holding Friday office hours at the Community Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts, 63 Union St., New Bedford, at 1 p.m. in the first floor conference room throughout the month of March, which is Women’s History month.

The Women’s Fund, which is an endowed fund of the Community Foundation, is a fundraising organization with a mission to advance the educational attainment and economic security of women and girls in southeastern Massachusetts.

“On behalf of the Women’s Fund Leadership Council, we welcome Valerie as the steward in the next phase of our journey,” said Darlene Spencer, leadership council chairwoman. “We look forward to partnering with Valerie to secure and leverage the resources needed to further the outcomes for women and girls in our region.”

The Women’s Fund is one of three Community Foundation funds, said Craig J. Dutra, Community Foundation president.

“The Women’s Fund has made great progress since its inception in southeastern Massachusetts,” he said. “We look forward to working with Valerie to further that mission.”

Bassett began her career as a day care teacher and also worked for a battered women’s sheltering organization. She went on to lead intergovernmental relations for the Boston Public Health Commission, was director of policy and research at the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation, and served as executive director of the Massachusetts Public Health Association, an education and advocacy organization.

For the past two years she’s consulted, including locally with the South Coast Healthy Housing and Workplace Initiative, a project of Voices for a Healthy South Coast.

Bassett graduated in 1990 from Brown University with a BA in American Civilization and from Emerson College in 1997 with a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing.


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