Sandy in her photography studio.

Sandy and Stan Hale met while working in Hawaii, but they chose Windham in which to put down roots nearly 50 years ago when Stan established his medical practice.

Sandy loved the area for its wonderful parks and rivers, interesting people, and storied milling history. And she loved her job as a nurse practitioner providing reproductive health care to women and girls.

In the 1980s, the steep rise in teen pregnancy moved Sandy to try to understand young mothers’ lives more deeply. She took up her camera to photograph and listen to them and document their reflections. She later published a book that illuminated the dreams and motivations of ten young mothers.

She found that many girls couldn’t fathom a future for themselves. Self-worth ebbed with their family’s incomes. “Most of the girls were just looking for acceptance and love and wanted to accomplish something in life,” recalled Sandy. Pregnancy seemed like the answer. It often wasn’t.

A friend introduced Sandy to the fledgling steering committee for the Community Foundation’s Windham Women & Girls Fund. She jumped at the chance to join.

With collective wisdom, the group directs grants from the Fund to local nonprofits, giving Sandy a meaningful way to bolster the resources, strength, and confidence of the women and girls she so cherishes. The grantee organizations provide programs from legal aid to summer camps… and beyond.

But Sandy’s commitment to women and girls hasn’t stopped there. The Hales also established the Esther Sloan Mitchell Fund for Windham Women and Girls at the Community Foundation.

The Fund’s name memorializes Sandy’s mother. “She was an unsung heroine to me — a homemaker with five children who was such a caring person,” she said. “I wanted her name to be remembered beyond me.”

And it will. The Esther Sloan Mitchell Fund will forever provide grants to organizations strengthening the lives of Windham’s women and girls.