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Hansel & Gretel Houses a treat for kids

Children of all ages were invited to YWCA Walla Walla Dec. 12 to build Hansel & Gretel holiday houses using graham crackers, candy, and a sturdy white frosting from John’s Wheatland Bakery.

High school volunteers from Walla Walla Valley Academy were on hand to assist with construction, decorating, and cleanup, leaving parents to take pictures and enjoy the fun.
 The available spots were snapped up quickly, but a number of cancellations enabled us to open up space to our waiting list and even include a couple of last-minute walk-ins.

Each participant was charged $5 to cover supplies plus a food donation for the shelter. The dozens of items collected went straight upstairs or to the family shelter to be shared with residents.

More than 75 children and at least that many volunteers, parents, aunts and other family members made for a jolly, sticky, fun time for all. 

Thank you, Rollergirls, for September bout donations!

The Walla Walla Sweets Rollergirls recently donated 50 welcome bags for new guests of the YWCA domestic violence shelter brimming with toiletries and other necessities as well as little extras like candy and journals.  

“It’s wonderful to have these thoughtful packages filled and ready to go,” said Mary Byrd, YWCA Client Services director. “This is a huge help to staff and clients.”

Super 1 Foods customers gave $800+ for women’s services

Assistant Manager Eric Dean (left) and Store Manager Josh Hooker present check to YWCA representatives Jan Asher Dolph and Anne-Marie Zell Schwerin.

Real-life ‘Rosie’ living in Walla Walla valley

PROUD TO HAVE SERVED: Thelma Tryon bucked rivets for the Marines, and husband Robert was a cook for the U.S.Navy.

“Sometimes I tell people I was a Rosie the Riveter during World War II,” said 96-year-old Thelma Tryon. “Nobody has heard of Rosie the Bucker!”

While her partner held the rivet gun, she would crawl inside the pontoons of the amphibious vehicles they were building and hold a steel bar to the skin so the riveter would have a solid surface to work against. “I was 21 and real skinny, so it was easy for me to get into small spaces,” she said.

She attended boot camp and training at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. Because she had worked for Hughes Aircraft, it made sense to train her in manufacturing.

“It was a fun time for me, Thelma said. “Of course, after the stories came out from Auschwitz and other places in Europe, we found out it hadn’t been a fun time at all.”

YWCA leads out in cultural celebration

Maybe you’ve heard Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, described as Mexican Halloween. But according to YWCA Advocate Lorena Ault, it’s much more than that.

“In our culture,” Lorena said, “Dia de los Muertos is a way to celebrate and honor our departed loved ones. Because so many come together for this event, it is also a way for Walla Walla to build community.”
This year’s celebration took place the Wednesday before the two-day holiday that falls on Nov. 1, All Saints Day, which honors the saints and innocent children and Nov. 2, when all others are remembered. The festival is known for spectacular displays of bright flowers and beautifully decorated skulls.

Lorena and Celia
The Villalobos Brothers

Lorena, along with YWCA Community Relationships and Outreach Coordinator Celia Guardado (pictured), led out in the festival planning, assisted by Whitman College Community Fellow Daphne Gallegos. All three are bilingual and bicultural.

The event incorporated art, music (notably the Villalobos Brothers, pictured, who also performed with the Walla Walla Symphony), food, and dance.
Central to the Day of the Dead is El Altar, a display created to celebrate, remember, honor, and keep a connection with lost loved ones.

Traditional dancers

Lorena noted that memorial displays may not always be called “altars,” but every culture creates displays of love and remembrance in response to death or tragedy. After the death of a celebrity, a mass shooting, a fire, a natural disaster — whenever humans face grief or loss, especially a large, shared loss — displays of flowers, notes, toys, and more appear to comfort the grieving and honor the dead.

Central to the Day of the Dead is El Altar, a display created to celebrate, remember, honor, and keep a connection with lost loved ones.

Spanish-speaking cultures have learned that Art Heals (Cultura Cura). This belief makes the Dia de los Muertos celebration perfect for working with a population that has faced domestic violence and sexual assault. “When trauma and abuse happen to you, even if you survive, something inside you dies,” said Lorena. “Building an altar is a way to cope with that loss. In our support groups, I’ve had clients build altars as a healing ritual. Original pre-Columbian altars had levels to represent the different gods and the steps to the afterlife. Our healing altars can have levels too, to show the progress toward recovering from assault or from a dangerous relationship.”

The planning committee included representatives from many local organizations, including YWCA Walla Walla. In future years, the committee hopes to extend the building of healing altars to more groups who experience trauma, including perhaps veterans or first responders.

“The YWCA mission begins with eliminating racism and empowering women,” said Executive Director Anne-Marie Zell Schwerin. “When we gather to share and celebrate the power of Latin culture, racism falls away. And when ancient rituals are repurposed to heal the wounds of trauma, it has the potential to empower anyone in our community.”

AllState volunteers secure 5 grants for YWCA

Thank you to Allstate volunteers Machelle Colligan, Agency Owner, and Steve Skurka, Amanda Dross, Brianna Coffland, and Terri Collette, Personal Financial Representatives, for their generous support of YWCA Walla Walla.

 “Allstate challenged each of us this year to become involved in The Allstate Purple Purse Foundation,” said Machelle.  This foundation, established in 2005, is dedicated to helping end domestic violence and financial abuse.

“My office staff and I had a donation drive to collect items such as shampoo, hair dryers and baby clothes” for YWCA Walla Walla, Machelle said. Then Machelle and four employees applied for and received on YWCA’s behalf five Allstate Foundation Helping Hands Grants, each for $1000.

Machelle and Steve visited YWCA Walla Walla in December to present a check representing the five awards.

“Allstate really believes in helping communities and sponsors annually our ‘Purple Purse Foundation’ for women who are trying to be safe and start over,” said Machelle. “I am so happy to represent such an awesome company.”  

Mariposa girls take campus field trip

On a December Saturday, nearly 60 fifth-grade girls from across Walla Walla came together for the Mariposa fall field trip.

These girls have spent the past three months learning leadership skills in small groups with their classmates. The field trip allowed them to meet the other girls in the program for a day of fun. They rotated in groups through three different stations: a slime-making experiment, a planetarium show, and a martial arts class. 

After the activities, the girls ate pizza and toured KWCW, Whitman’s radio station, which included a chance to talk and even sing on air!

It was a great day that allowed the girls to have fun and create a community with other girls in the district who are also learning how to be successful female leaders.

Kirsten Schober joins team to coordinate events, engage donors

We have a saying at YWCA Walla Walla: “We never say goodbye at the YWCA.”

In the mid-1990s Kirsten Schober worked for YWCA’s Gourmet Gifts program. It wasn’t one of her favorite jobs; she claims to be fairly terrible at gift-wrapping. Fortunately, we have found a place for her this time that is a great fit for her experience and skills.

A little over twenty years after she left YWCA Walla Walla to finish her degree in Anthropology, Kirsten has come back to what she calls her “homey home.”

She most recently spent seven years managing Dayton’s historic Liberty Theater and has an extensive background in museology and historic preservation.

“As much as I enjoy working with arts and culture, I felt a pull to get more involved with an organization helping people transform their lives,” says Kirsten. “The nonprofit world is known for having committed employees who go above and beyond, but the team at YWCA Walla Walla is truly exceptional and I am grateful for the opportunity to work with them.”

Kirsten will plan and organize YWCA events, from the Year-in-Review lunch that kicks off each year to the December holiday favorite, Hansel & Gretel Houses – and everything in between, including our largest event, the annual Leadership Luncheon. She will also work closely with the Executive Director and Communications Coordinator, who make up the rest of the development team.

YWCA and volunteers Take Steps Against Domestic Violence

“On Main between 2nd and 3rd,” says YWCA Executive Director Anne-Marie Zell Schwerin, “a past YWCA board member came out of an office with tears in her eyes and told me how amazing the shoe displays were.”

This was only one of many responses to the stories and corresponding shoes distributed downtown by YWCA Walla Walla with help from Walla Walla University student volunteers on Wednesday, Oct. 17. Part of Domestic Violence (DV) Action/Awareness month, the 52 stories were compiled by the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence from published news accounts of all the fatalities, a total of 70, attributed to DV in Washington state during 2017.

Our past board member watched several people see the shoes and react to them, says Anne-Marie, and said it made her feel proud to be part of the YWCA.

“These stories are never easy to read,” says Jan Asher Dolph, YWCA Communications Coordinator. “Going through the 52 narratives, I felt oddly  grateful that this year included no law enforcement officers and ‘only’ one child, a 5-year-old boy whose father killed him and his mother before killing himself. Holding a child’s shoes and knowing they represent an actual little life lost — there are no words.”

“A woman came up to me and thanked me for bringing attention to this most important issue,” says Mary Byrd, YWCA Client Services Director. “She wanted a purple ribbon and a button to take back to work since she couldn’t join us.”

The “Take Steps Against Violence” walk took place over the lunch hour, starting at Land Title Plaza and marching through downtown to the Walla Walla County Courthouse.

Most walkers — and even a couple of dogs — wore purple, the color of domestic violence awareness. At the courthouse, county commissioners read a proclamation making October Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Also at the Courthouse was Don Estes, uncle to one of 2017’s fatalities, Tina, a beautiful young  mother to four small children, who was murdered by her boyfriend on Thanksgiving. Don spoke movingly about the kind of woman Tina was and shared how much her family misses her. Five of Tina’s relatives participated in the walk wearing special shirts to celebrate a remarkable life tragically cut short.

View Tri-Cities television coverage here.

“Hansel and Gretel” house event coming to YWCA

Kids of all ages are invited for a sweet afternoon of building holiday houses from graham crackers, super-stiff icing, and lots of fun candy at the YWCA on Wednesday, Dec. 12.

The cost of this holiday tradition is $5 plus one non-perishable food item per child to share with the YWCA domestic violence shelter. Space is limited, so registration is required.

Parents can sign up their child for 45-minute slots at 2:30, 3:30 or 4:30 p.m. by calling the YWCA at 509-525-2570. For children 5 and younger, an adult is kindly asked to stay for the duration of the event.

The YWCA will provide plates, graham crackers, and lots of decorative treats for kids to build with. And after your children have completed their creations, you can leave the sticky mess for us! Best of all, since the food collected from “Hansel and Gretel” goes to our shelter, the afternoon offers a fun way to remind children about the importance of sharing and caring during the holiday season.

YWCA Walla Walla is located at 213 S. First Ave.