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You can still watch YWCA Virtual Luncheon 2020

What do you do when a coronavirus pandemic forces you to postpone a luncheon that typically brings in more than $150,000 of your fundraising budget? How can you continue to provide essential domestic violence and sexual assault services to your community?

1. One answer is that you get by with a little (make that a LOT of) help from your friends!

Our sponsors (shown below and during the luncheon recording) and our loyal donors have rallied to help YWCA weather the virus. They’ve sent notes of encouragement and cards with checks tucked inside.

2. The other answer is that you take your efforts and your mission to the virtual realm. So on May 6, we had an online (Bring Your Own Lunch) luncheon!

The event, which you can view above, includes a message from one of our most loyal donors, a tour of the YWCA Domestic Violence Women’s shelter, updates from the Living in New Circumstances (LiNC) life skills program and a meeting with Mariposa leaders, who talk about their work with fifth-grade girls.

To add a little fun, we had a drawing for a YWCA Swag Bag, a post-quarantine lunch at the YWCA for the winner and a friend, and a 30-pack of Kirkland toilet paper, which you may notice Anne-Marie and Carol avoid mentioning by name on video.

More than 145 supporters attended the virtual luncheon LIVE, but it’s not too late to find out more about what your past support has made possible and what YWCA Walla Walla is planning for the future.

Also, we still plan to honor our commitment to the Marcus Whitman Hotel & Conference Center and its currently furloughed employees with an in-person 2020 YWCA Leadership Luncheon on Wednesday, Nov. 6. If gathering is safe by then, we look forward to seeing you to celebrate our community’s resilience!

YWCA Leadership Circle Members

Spanish group a survivor lifeline

Celia Guardado is the YWCA Community Outreach Coordinator who also offers a Spanish language support group.

It is a special space for immigrant survivors of violence. Celia Guardado, community outreach coordinator, said many of these women have low-wage jobs and live paycheck-to-paycheck. Some have been very nervous about not having the cash available to stock up on essentials with so much panic-buying going on. They need a calm, reassuring guide through uncertain times.

One woman said, “All week I couldn’t wait to come and talk about what I have been through.” Another said, “I can’t think of a friend or a family member that I could share everything I do here without being judged or criticized. Please don’t ever stop. We learn so much not only from the advocate but from each other. Thank you!”

Celia continues to connect with the group through phone calls.

Protection Order Clinic an essential service for survivors

While working from home is prescribed for all nonessential services, YWCA continues to offer the Domestic Violence Protection Order (PO) Clinic.

“I’ve been asked by family and friends if I am still working,” said advocate Jessica Matthews. “The need for protection and shelter for women fleeing from an abusive partner does not diminish during a global pandemic. In fact, we may see a rippling effect and an increase in need.”

The PO Clinic assists individuals filing for protection orders in Walla Walla County. YWCA Advocates can help fill out the necessary forms, and they accompany anyone having their requests for protection reviewed by a judge or court commissioner.

Advocates meet with clients in the third-floor law library, a secure location that offers privacy.

“These documents can be overwhelming on a good day, but even more so during a stressful time like this,” said Jessica.

Jacob Hafen is one of YWCA’s newest advocates and attended the PO Clinic as part of his job training. “During this tumultuous time in everyone’s lives, we are striving to hold even tighter to the flame of hope.”

A pre-crisis bright spot he experienced was receiving a donation of toys and activities.

“Walking in to the shelter with a big bag of goodies and seeing all of the children’s eyes light up felt like Christmas in March. It was wonderful seeing the mothers of these kids ease up. Someone was taking some of the weight off of their shoulders and helping them to take care of their kids.”

Moments like this, Jacob said, make shelter work rewarding. “Survivors need tender moments of support and giving even more now. It’s about being there with other people going through life with all its struggles and pains and aches, then helping them thrive and grow and move on with their lives.”

Advocates carry on

According to Director of Client Services, Mary Byrd, COVID-19 has done nothing to reduce the need for YWCA Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault services.

“The shelters are nearly at capacity,” Mary said. “We are seeing some walk-ins and doing advocacy by phone as well as daily Protection Order Clinics. We are carrying on with the daily demands of the job.”

Sexual assault calls continue as well, though COVID-19 protocols have made it more of an issue for advocates to accompany survivors during their exams.

While the virus hasn’t slowed demand, it has complicated group living.
“We’ve reviewed our facilities and have instituted new guidelines to increase the distance between residents by closing some shared spaces and using others one family at a time,” Mary said. “We have also added several additional sanitizing procedures to the daily cleaning routine.”

Residents are encouraged to stay isolated as much as possible. And new residents have their temperatures taken and receive a health screening before entering shelter.

A time to keep calm

A message from the YWCA Executive Director

What a roller coaster ride we have all been on! How are you doing?

Whether you are an introvert who has spent your life preparing for this worldwide quarantine, or an extrovert who craves constant social interaction, I think we can all agree that staying connected with the people we love is going to be more important than ever during this time of isolation. I hope you are making lots of phone calls and checking in on folks you care about.

At the YWCA, I’ve never felt so much like we are building the plane while we’re flying it. As soon as we make one adjustment, the rules change. How will we help the families that rely on us for childcare? Will we have more children to care for than we can handle, or will everyone be working from home, because everything closes that isn’t a grocery store or hospital?

Through all the changes, YWCA Childcare Director Tabitha Haney has been a rock. She’s spent hours on the phone with her early childhood licensing officials, applying for emergency waivers, and crunching numbers. She’s been brainstorming solutions with the phenomenal staff at College Place Public schools.

At the time our newsletter was written, March 20, we were continuing to provide care at My Friends’ House with extra attention to screening staff or children who might show any signs of virus. And, of course, this was an opportunity to practice singing the ABC song while singing the praises of hand washing, and lots of extra swipes with sanitizing wipes.

Now, Afterschool Adventure Club is closed until schools reopen, April 27.
My Friends’ House will temporarily close end of day March 31. We will continue to assess demand each week to determine when to reopen. Please direct childcare questions to Tabitha at 509-525-7034.

SHELTER NEVER STOPS
The domestic violence women’s shelter and family shelter led by the amazing Client Services Director Mary Byrd and her team continue to see heavy use. Today, there are 17 women and 7 children here, and we’re expecting someone else later today. We have to be here for the most vulnerable. We can’t put the women and children — who are staying here for their safety —out on the street. We cannot fail to show up when the crisis phone rings. And when sexual assault advocates go out on rape calls, they need more safety equipment than ever to protect their health and avoid spreading infection.

LIVING HEALTHY
In addition to our standard, required breaks and meal period during this high-stress time, I’ve asked all staff members to take an additional break to get outside every day for fresh air. They are a fantastic team who are handling this time of extreme, moment to moment change, with grace and ingenuity. With all the virus-related closures, I’ve lost one of my favorite times to destress — my workout at the YMCA! So now, I’m using that time for my fresh air fix.

We’re also reminding each other to breathe, stretch, and drink lots of water. And we’ve formed a a staff wellness committee, and they’ve already jumped in with daily lighthearted reminders to take care of ourselves so we can take care of others. I believe that good things may come out of this health scare!

ONWARD
There’s a lot we don’t know about the future right now. Here are some things we do know:
• Violence is never acceptable, even during a pandemic.
• We can’t run a shelter remotely at any time.
• We still have to show up at court with survivors to help secure their safety.
• Stress and isolation — exactly what we are all experiencing right now — increases risk for people living with abuse.
• YWCA Walla Walla provides essential services.

We’ve had to reschedule our No. 1 fundraiser, which is scary. And all of our fundraising — representing almost one-third of our budget — is at risk in this time of economic turmoil, which is even scarier.
I am not scared when I remember this: that YOU believe in the work of the YWCA and YOU expect us to keep showing up for women and families EVERY DAY. I believe that YOU and our community will keep showing up for the YWCA, just like you’ve been doing year after year. We know that when we reach out to you for something we really need, you’ll be there for us, as much as you can.

Peace and grace,

Anne-Marie Zell Schwerin
Executive Director

LiNC 2.0 group goes online

“My LiNC 2.0 class,” said Deana York, YWCA LiNC educator, “was making real progress when we got the news that gatherings of 10 or more should be cancelled.”

The class had been growing close, acquiring skills and knowledge, and was helping meet each other’s needs outside of class.

“I knew it would be terrible to lose all this wonderful momentum,” Deana said. So she began breaking the LiNC 2.0 curriculum into daily email messages with lessons and assignments attached. The 11 group members, who had already formed an impromptu support circle via group texting, were thrilled to officially continue their progress.

As it has for everyone, the virus-related changes have been major stressors.
One member, Deana said, has a 7-year-old that she is taking with her to work every day and has no place to keep isolated. Those who started community college are no longer on campus with teachers and mentors. Single moms who have to take the kids along for grocery shopping worry about exposing them to the virus.

“I couldn’t be more proud and amazed not only of their progress, but also of the resilience and grace with which they’ve met these new challenges,” Deana said. “I’m very impressed with their strength and stamina.”

Advocate working with Whitman community, shelter during shutdown

Jessica Matthews, YWCA advocate and sexual assault victims advocate (SAVA) for Whitman Campus, continues to work as more businesses and activities shut down to slow the spread of COVID-19 infections.

Available during Whitman shutdown

Although many Whitman students left for Spring Break and will not be returning to campus, Jessica remains available to students, faculty, and staff.  She is able to meet in person (provided they are not sick and social distancing is observed), talk over the phone, or meet via a secure videochat platform. 

We know that healing does not happen in a linear fashion, Jessica said, and perhaps there are certain stressors or triggers that are coming up for survivors at this time.  She is spreading the word to the Whitman College community that all students, faculty, and staff are still able to work with her as a resource in healing from intimate partner violence, sexual harassment, discrimination, or violence. 

“Whether you need help connecting to other resources, like receiving a rape kit at the hospital, filing a protection order, filing a Title IX claim, filing a police report, help getting connected to a counselor … or if you just need someone to talk to about past events,” Jessica said, “I’m here for you.”

Jessica has a SAVA Facebook page. You don’t need a Facebook account to see this page. During April, Sexual Assault Awareness Month, you can find information about healthy relationships and consent on this page.

Shelter will remain open

Jessica will continue to spend part of her time with the YWCA domestic violence shelter so that it can stay open.  She tells her family and friends who ask if she is still working that the need to shelter women fleeing from abusive partners does not diminish during a global pandemic.  In fact, we may see an increase in need as stress and isolation increase for many families. 

 Jessica recently had a resident come to her panicked about the possibility of the shelter shutting down. “I assured her we have extra precautions in place, and that we’re not going away.”

To keep the shelter as safe as possible, Jessica said, we have had all residents sign a document with protocol to follow regarding the coronavirus, including social distancing measures, hand washing, sanitation and cleanliness procedures, and an agreement to notify staff if they are showing symptoms.  Additionally, we have shut down non-critical areas, including the TV room and the play room, and request that only one family use the kitchen at a time. 

Any new survivors will have a temperature check and answer four screening questions before admittance to the shelter.

“Our residents,” Jessica said, “are already facing incredibly stressful situations and are dealing with trauma, on top of trying to find housing, take care of medical needs, feed their families, find jobs … and now with the additional stressors of children out of school, layoffs from jobs, uncertainty in social programs slowing down or stopping, and fear of getting the virus, needless to say it has been a stressful time for many.”

She pointed out that she has seen a lot of solidarity and helping spirit as well, and that we often see this in our residents who are going through different yet similar experiences.  “The virus brings a whole added layer to that comradery and connectedness that our residents feel with each other in facing a crisis,” Jessica said. “We will get through this, together.”

COVID-19: Caring for our community

News & Events at the YWCA

To our community and our program participants:

Your safety, and the safety of our program participants and staff, is our highest priority. Please continue to take care of yourself, and thank you for isolating for the good of our community.

YWCA Walla Walla leadership continues to respond to the COVID-19 virus (Coronavirus) pandemic with measures designed to both address the safety of our program participants and our staff, and to continue to provide the essential services for which our community depends upon YWCA.

*At this time, we intend to run all programs and functions as normal, particularly the domestic violence shelter, an essential service, with the following exceptions:

Meetings and Meeting Spaces

Support Group Sessions and LINC classes: We will not be holding in-person support groups due to the risk of transmitting this virus within a group. We are working to offer these services through conference calls facilitated by each group’s regular YWCA staff member. Advocates will provide group members with more information.

My Friends’ House remains open:  For the present time, we are operating My Friends’ House childcare. We know how important this is to your family. However, if you have a child in our program, and your child – or parents or other family members – are sick, please do not bring them. If you do, we will have to ask you to take them home. Tabitha Haney will be in contact with families.

Adventure Club: We may operate a full-day option for school-age kids, depending upon the needs of our families. Call the office at 509-525-7034 for the latest information or to express your care needs. We are also waiting to hear if any additional business closures are mandated. (updated 3-18-20)

Large gatherings canceled: In keeping with the statewide ban on gatherings of more than 50 people, the YWCA Leadership Luncheon has been rescheduled to Wednesday, Nov. 4. The Believe event is less than six months away, and we don’t yet know if it may be affected. (updated 3-18-20)

Stand Against Racism events between April 23 and 26, including guest speaker Timothy Golden’s presentation, will be held at a later date.

Community rental of YWCA facilities: We will not be renting out any of our spaces for external groups or for staff use.

Visiting YWCA office

Our office hours: The office will be open during this time from 9-6 M-Th and 8:30-5:30 Fridays.

Donations: Due to potential staffing issues and the possibility of infection, we have decided to take a break from receiving clothing donations. Thank you for continuing to think of us during this time.

Appointments: Some staff may be working from home. If you have an appointment with a staff member, please confirm that the person will be in the office. If you do not know their number, please call our office at 509-525-2570.

If you are sick: Please do not come to our offices if you or anyone in your family or friend circles are already sick or are showing flu-like symptoms. If you need assistance, please call our office at 509-525-2570 and you will be directed to someone who can address your concerns.

In case of crisis: Our 24/7 Crisis Line continues to be available. To talk to an advocate, please call 509-529-9922.  

 *Subject to change as we receive further directives.

YWCA responds to coronavirus concerns

COVID-19 UPDATE
Dear YWCA Friends and Partners:

Thank you for helping people face challenges every day with dignity and peace. In this time of uncertainty, we want you to know that your investment in the empowerment of people is working. Here’s what we’re doing to keep critical services to women and families going in the midst of COVID-19.

Daily, we monitor the health information and guidance provided by our local and state public health agencies. Our state domestic violence coalition, in partnership with the King County health department, is providing excellent support specific to shelters.

We are currently operating programs and services as usual. (See update.) At this time, we are fortunate that there are no reported confirmed positive COVID-19 cases in Walla Walla County. However, we urge those considered most vulnerable due to age or health concerns to take every precaution to protect your health. 

We are continuing to follow our very thorough housekeeping and janitorial protocols and have increased the number of cleanings daily. Our staff is disinfecting all hard surfaces, including stair rails, counters, door handles, etc.

Disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer are available in the lobby. Like most homes and organizations, we will run out of hand sanitizer shortly, and all supplies are back ordered for months. Fortunately, the best and most effective defense remains frequent and thorough hand washing with plenty of water and soap.

Throughout the YWCA we have posted information from public health agencies on how each of us can help to prevent the spread of illness, practice proper hand washing, and cough/sneeze etiquette.  We thank each of you for “self-quarantining” at home if you are sick.

We will continue to monitor the situation locally and will update you about any changes we make to our services. You can also stay current on what’s happening in our community at the Walla Walla County Department of Community Health website. 

Visit the CDC website for more information on hand-washing procedures. 

  

Gesa and Life Church part of amazing community

Denise Shives, 2019 Board President, presented two community awards at the Year in Review.

The first went to Gesa Credit Union, our Business Partner of the Year. Gesa invited Denise and Executive Director Anne-Marie Zell Schwerin to their regional meeting to educate 500 Gesa employees about domestic violence, a great YWCA opportunity.

Gesa employees raced to assemble care bags for women in their communities who have experienced domestic violence.

The meeting concluded with a memorable Gesa give-back. Large tubs were brought in to the room filled with toiletries such as full-size shampoos and conditioners, deodorants — all the basics a woman would need for personal care. Then employees at each table grabbed Gesa tote bags and raced to fill them with one of each toiletry item as well as a note of encouragement.

In 15 minutes, 500 employees assembled 2,500 care bags that each Gesa branch could deliver to the shelter in their community.

Life Church was named our 2019 Community Partner.

Life Church members prepared a dizzying array of desserts to complete a meal of assorted roast meats, salads, veggie sides — even mac and cheese for the little ones in shelter.

Several weeks ahead of the holidays, the church began working with YWCA staff to host a Christmas party for families in shelter and former residents.
Eighty-five church members arranged activities planned with extreme care for the comfort and dignity of shelter families, some of whom needed confidentiality for their safety.

Thank you, Gesa and Life Church!