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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.

Advocates host An Evening of Graceful Space

On Monday, Oct. 29, YWCA Walla Walla hosted what we hope is our first Evening of Graceful Space. Recognizing the tense atmosphere that currently surrounds sexual assault, an intimate group, several of them strangers to each other, gathered for respite and support.

There was no agenda for the evening, no goal beyond carving out some time to breathe in peace. In creating that space, people from diverse backgrounds were able to commune and enjoy each other’s company.

The YWCA provided a light supper and beverages. If you weren’t able to attend and would like notice of the next opportunity, please email YWCAWallaWalla@gmail.com.

Jessica Matthews named YWCA campus advocate

A new Sexual Assault Victims Advocate for Whitman College has joined the YWCA staff.

Jessica Matthews recently arrived from Seattle, where she worked for the Firland Northwest Tuberculosis Center at Harborview. Prior to that, she served as a Peace Corps Response Volunteer in Malawi, leading efforts to establish a men’s HIV and violence prevention program in the prison system. Her professional interests are focused in social justice and advocacy for marginalized populations.

Jessica earned her Master of Public Health degree at Oregon State University. During her Master’s she was the Peer Health Advocate Graduate Assistant, working with undergraduate students to institute educational health outreach programming on campus. She received her B.A. in Sociology and Education from Colorado College. In college, she helped organize “Take Back the Night” events and worked at a homeless shelter.
Jessica grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, and returns to visit family as often as possible. In her free time she enjoys traveling, skiing, and practicing yoga.

“I am really excited about advocating for the men and women of Whitman College to make the campus and community safer,” Jessica says. “I hope any student or staff member will feel comfortable reaching out to me, knowing that, as a YWCA employee, I’m not required to report assaults to the college. I can keep your stories absolutely confidential.”

Jessica, shown here on a visit to India, loves to travel.

You sent the Fun Factory rolling into parks

YWCA van takes games, library books, crafts to underserved neighborhoods in the Walla Walla Valley

This summer’s Fun Factory team touched the lives of more than 2,500 children all over the Walla Walla Valley. The team was especially excited about visiting Dayton, where no other summer park activities were offered, and the VA grounds, where formerly homeless veterans now live with their families.

“While I’ve loved all our teams, I have to say this Fun Factory group was one of the very best,” said Executive Director Anne-Marie Zell Schwerin.

Caleb Carter is a Walla Walla University senior majoring in education and Spanish. His goal is to be a bilingual elementary teacher. He was in Argentina all last year and comes to us with great experience working in summer programs at Broetje Orchards, Valle Lindo, and with preschoolers in a childcare center.

Chantell Lopez is a Whitman College grad who is currently working with Americorps and ETHOS in Madras, Ore., as a music teacher. ETHOS is an organization that brings music to children in underserved areas. She is the music teacher for an elementary school of 420 children. (Fall 2018 update: Chantell is teaching K-5 music right here in Walla Walla for Blue Ridge Elementary, where she has spotted a couple of Fun Factory kids!)

Hannah Siepmann just finished her first year at Whitman. She is a Mariposa leader, helping with our summer Mariposa group at Edison, and with Fun Factory the rest of the time. She’ll continue to lead Mariposa this fall.

Finally, meet Daphne Gallegos. She will be a Whitman College senior this fall majoring in French and biology. Just back from a semester in France, Daphne was awarded a Newman Fellowship. This national award honors inspiring college student leaders who have invested in finding solutions for community challenges all over the U.S. Newman Civic Fellows make the most of their college experiences to better understand themselves, the root causes of social issues, and effective mechanisms for creating lasting change. Also a Bill Gates Scholar, Daphne grew up in Pasco and has been a YWCA volunteer for three years.

Pictured in the Fun Factory van, from  left: Hannah, Chantell, Caleb,  Daphne

LINC graduate accomplishes a major milestone

An enthusiastic crowd turned out Thursday evening, June 14, to celebrate high school completion by some nontraditional students at Walla Walla Community College. Several students came through the STAR Project (Successful Transition and Re-Entry), a program whose mission is to provide persons being released from incarceration with tools to successfully re-integrate into the community. Others had faced different barriers to completing their education, including health issues, anxiety, and bullying. The graduates poured out thanks to their children, their spouses, friends, classmates, and to the teachers and WWCC staff members who mentored, encouraged, and stood by their sides through the challenging process of returning to the classroom.

Perhaps the graduate with the most supporters attending was our own Ronnikka, who was featured at the 2018 Leadership Luncheon with the members of “the Diamond,” four women who bonded during their YWCA LINC classes and continue to support each other as friends and chosen family. Like her fellow students, Ronnikka took an atypical path to graduation; hers was derailed by horrific childhood abuse followed by ongoing intimate partner violence from her husband of 15 years.

WWCC GED Instructor-Facilitator-Encourager Beverly Miller-Jantz calls Ronnikka “a dedicated woman who puts her whole heart into what she does. Her determination and ‘I can do’ attitude is inspiring!”  She notes that  Ronnikka overcame many personal challenges to complete her high school education. Beverly was especially impressed by the way she faced her most challenging subject, math. “She stayed focused, she got the help she needed, she did not quit, and she kept on encouraging others. On the final day of GED testing for this quarter, she retook her GED Math test and passed. Hallelujah!”

It was a challenge to get to Ronnikka after the ceremony, as she was surrounded by members of her Pioneer United Methodist Church family, her Diamond friends, and representatives of the YWCA staff and board, in addition to well-wishers (including WWCC President Derek Brandes, pictured) congratulating her on the speech she gave as one of three student speakers.

The day before that speech, she texted YWCA staff: “I’m pretty nervous and getting more so as the time draws near. LOL!”  She added,  “God’s got me this far; He will continue to take me all the way through my lifetime. That I’m certain of!”

Like everyone who knows Ronnikka, her instructor Beverly says she is “excited for her and her next endeavors — to write her life’s stories, publish, volunteer.”

We can’t wait to see what this fearless woman will achieve next.

Nancy Butler named 2018 YWCA Leader of Distinction

Nancy receives her award, including a crown for the “Queen B”

At the YWCA Luncheon May 2, 2017 award-winner Claire Siegel presented the 2018 Leader of Distinction Award to longtime educator and YWCA staff member Nancy Hendricks Butler.

The text of Claire’s presentation follows:

This year’s Leader of Distinction is a teacher who got involved with the YWCA in 1980.  She would want this to be cheerful and brief, so I will just hit a few highlights. The YWCA had made it a priority to build an afterschool “Latch Key” program to keep kids safe and occupied in the hours before parents got off work. This program was the precursor to Adventure Club, a thriving program that still serves kids year-round with care during school breaks and after school.  She worked with Peggy Sanderson, YWCA Executive Director at the time, to increase attendance and funding for the program. Peggy calls her “a natural” with children and thinks they loved the director so much they often were a little sad to go home. While working in the afterschool program, she was introduced on a blind date to the love of her life and married him in 1985.

Nancy at the YWCA in the early 1980s with Peggy Sanderson

In 1987 she left YWCA and became Executive Director for Campfire until 1989 and for the Walla Walla Hospice until 1991. They started a family in 1990, so she spent several years doing in-home childcare and teaching preschool at Walla Walla Community College and Assumption Catholic School.

She made her way back to the YWCA in 1997 where she sold “Gourmet Gifts” and later became the Director of My Friends’ House until 2008.

From 2008 to 2014, she worked as director of the Columbia County Community Network. She coordinated the placement of high school students with local merchants as part of the school internship program. She was instrumental in helping to write and secure a federal Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) grant for Columbia County, allowing the county to set up a drug and alcohol resistance program for the youth of the community.

Proving Anne-Marie right that “we never say goodbye at the YWCA” she returned as events coordinator in 2014 and retired last year near the end of YWCA Walla Walla’s centennial to focus on being Grandma to Damien, Domenik, and Diego.

By now you know, of course, that I am talking about Nancy Hendricks Butler, our 2018 Leader of Distinction, in recognition of the significant difference you’ve made in the lives of women and children in the Walla Walla Valley and in appreciation for your years of service to YWCA Walla Walla.