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.

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.

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!

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