New initiative aims to help women business owners on Route 66

The Route 66 Road Ahead Partnership over the weekend announced the launch of its Route 66 Extraordinary Women Initiative that seeks to aid women business owners on the historic highway in the run-up to Route 66’s centennial in 2026.

According to a news release from the partnership:

The Route 66 Extraordinary Women Initiative empowers women to support Route 66 and create a bigger impact than they could on their own. The plan is to support businesses and attractions along The Mother Road that are owned and/or operated by women facing dire times. The initiative is looking for at least 66 women in each of the states through which the historic highway runs to become Route 66 Extraordinary Women by making a tax-deductible gift of $1,000. The gift can be paid in one lump sum or over the five years leading up to Route 66’s centennial year, 2026. That breaks down to just $200 a year, or approximately $18 per month.
The timing of this fundraising effort is just right for holiday gift-giving. Women can be nominated by other women, by men, by organizations, clubs and even by themselves – for the woman who has everything. To nominate an Extraordinary Woman – and be one of the first 66 from your state – go here.
The Route 66 Extraordinary Women Initiative is the first step in a larger strategy developed to improve the lives and livelihoods of the 5+ million people living and working along Route 66. Funds raised through the initiative become part of a larger Visionary Fund, established by the Road Ahead. The Visionary Fund will be used to award grants through a
Route 66 Centennial Grants Program. The grants program is being established in consultation the National Park Service – Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
The Route 66 Extraordinary Women program has the potential to generate more than a half-million dollars for this popular tourist destination that was commissioned in 1926 and decommissioned in 1985.

The website, which contains images of several women who own businesses or properties along Route 66, contains options for giving donations one time, monthly or yearly. It also contains the option to pay for the donation fee so the nonprofit keeps more of the money.

More from the website:

Women who own or operate small businesses and attractions along Route 66 face challenges every day – from maintaining their historic properties to competing with large, chain store operations. Still, they persevere – because that’s their nature. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has brought travel along Route 66 to a near standstill – greatly increasing the challenges for these women. Many struggle to stay open. Some have closed. Others are on the brink. Once the pandemic passes, it will take considerable time for recovery. […]
We’ve set a goal of raising $528,000 for the Visionary Fund to support women-owned or operated Route 66 businesses and attractions. You’re invited to join a select group of 66 women from each of the 8 states through which Route 66 runs [66 x 8 x $1,000 = $528,000]. A $1,000 pledge over five years equals just $200 per year or approximately $18 per month. Donations to the Road Ahead’s Visionary Fund are fully tax-deductible. Men are also invited to donate in honor or memory of a woman who is important to them.
When you donate, your name (or the name of the woman you want to honor or remember) will be listed on the Route 66 Road Ahead Partnership’s website and on signage at 100th Birthday Party events – including the official Route 66 Centennial Gala. You’ll also receive an exclusive Route 66 Extraordinary Women Birthday Party gift with the official Route 66 Centennial logo.

On the Route 66 Extraordinary Women task force are:

  • Sharlene Fouser, coordinator of Arizona’s Historic Route 66 All-American Road
  • Nikki Seegers, director of operations, Historic Route 66
    Association of Arizona
  • Beth Murray, photographer, preservationist and California Historic
    Route 66 Association board member
  • Jo Murray, journalist
  • Teri Ryburn, owner and operator of Sprague Super Station
  • Casey Wichmann, executive director of Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway
  • Renee Charles, president of Kansas Route 66 Association
  • Ruth Keenoy, community development specialist, City of St.
  • Jill Sullivan, director of Post Art Library in Joplin, Missouri
  • Audra Bellmore, associate professor for The Center for Southwest
    Research, University of New Mexico
  • Emily Stovel, director of Bernalillo Community Museum
  • Melvena Heisch, retired deputy of Oklahoma State Historic Preservation Office
  • Elizabeth Ellison, president and CEO of Lobeck-Taylor Family Foundation in Tulsa
  • Kathy Taylor, former Tulsa mayor
  • Dora Melroney, owner and operator of Texas Ivy Antiques in Amarillo

The support team for the group comprises Nancy Finegood, consulting associate of The Sweeney Group; Jodi Sweeney, president of The Sweeney Group; and Bill Thomas, chairman of the Route 66 Road Ahead Partnership.

(Image of Marie Ryberg, owner and operator of the Trail of Tears Memorial & Herb Garden in Jerome, Missouri, by David Schwartz via the Route 66 Extraordinary Women website)

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