Ever since Silverland Bakery was established in 1983, charity was always a cornerstone of how we run our business. Our founder, Athena Uslander, has carried this value with her throughout her life ever since she was a young girl growing up in Iran. Raised in the Islamic faith, Athena learned zakat at a young age. This is the Islamic practice of donating at least 2.5 percent of a person’s income to the poor. Already applying this practice to her personal finances, Athena incorporated zakat into her business, and made Silverland a sponsor of World Vision, primarily to support development work in communities in Cambodia.
As a nascent business, Athena was unable to grow Sliverland’s impact in a meaningful way until 2008, when a call from a friend changed her life. A friend was looking for women over 50 who would be interested in modeling for Dove, the international personal care brand. Dove was running a groundbreaking advertising campaign at the time called the Campaign for Real Beauty. The campaign made waves with commercials and billboards featuring average women, untouched by photoshop, bearing their bodies in white bras and underwear, promoting ideas of self esteem and less restrictive definitions of beauty. The success of the campaign led Dove to set its sights on a broader audience that included older women.
One thing led to another and Athena was hired to participate in Dove’s Pro Age campaign, becoming the face for the tagline that “beauty has no age limit.” During the campaign, she represented Dove on Oprah, the Today Show, and many other media outlets around the world. During her time with Dove, Athena was able to give voice to a long held conviction: that women should be empowered and independent, and that they should not be hindered by arbitrary societal standards that have no bearing on their character or abilities. Although she may not have articulated it when she was younger, this belief is what motivated her to leave the male-dominated workplace where she began her career and instead start her own business on her own terms. Talking about this on the world stage, she developed a passion and decided that she wouldn’t let it end with her work on the Pro Age campaign.
Fortunate to be running a successful business while traveling for Dove, Athena decided that she would use the extra income she earned that year to establish a charity, known as Athena’s Fund for Women and Girls. The goal of it was broad: to provide material support to any worthy organization dedicated to helping and advancing women. Thanks to the Oak Park and River Forest Community Foundation, Athena was able to make this goal a reality and the Fund was established, offering annual grants to fantastic organizations including genEquality, Girls and the Game, and Harmony Hope and Healing.
Over a decade later, Athena’s Fund continues its mission, seeking out new organizations to benefit and shine a spotlight on annually. Are you connected to an organization whose mission aligns with Athena’s Fund? Click here for a link to our 2021 application.