YWCA Walla Walla staff and clients are regularly joined by volunteers who give their time to lighten the load and cover some of the tasks we can’t always get to.
Fashion warriors Volunteer Kathy Jones has donated more than 220 hours over the past five years to sorting donations for our emergency clothing closet, making sure that fresh items are there each week that are seasonally appropriate and in the most in-demand sizes, a continually moving target. New family responsibilities mean that Kathy will be taking a break for a while, and we will miss her smile every Tuesday!
Volunteers have already been stepping in to help fill the gap of Kathy’s break. Her sorting partner Debbie Mallard continues the Tuesday visits, and Carol Lee has made a routine of stopping in on Fridays for end-of-the week tidying up and lending her practiced eye to ensure that new donations look good and are well-organized.
Groups on board Organizations also pool their resources to help us. Pioneer United Methodist Church, our neighbor across Colville Street, is a wonderful partner. We co-hosted a neighborhood block party, and YWCA’s Adventure Club uses the church’s side yard for outdoor summer play. The church is a regular Fun Factory stop, and when we ran short on open meeting spaces, LiNC 2.0 set up shop in the church basement.
Life Church hosted a Christmas party for YWCA residents with free (and confidential!) photos with Santa, games for kids, and more. We have unique opportunities for people who want to help further our mission, and we’re receptive to your ideas for projects.
At the YWCA Leadership Luncheon, you heard from two young YWCA women who empower fifth-grade girls to grow as leaders. And we shared our dream of seeing Mariposa, Spanish for butterfly, in every elementary school in Walla Walla.
Thanks to the overwhelming response from our luncheon guests, we were able to begin this school year by adding the fourth staff position we needed to make that dream come true.
Meet this year’s Mariposa leaders (above, l to r): Leah Samuels, Aliza Anderson-Diepenbrock, and Amara Killen, and Anne Elise Kopta (right) all Whitman College students.
Thank you for opening the Mariposa opportunity to all — sending more girls on their way!
Adios, dear Lorena: Advocate to fight human trafficking
Lorena Ault, a bilingual/bicultural YWCA advocate for 17 years, has a taste for fun and fashion (including a stunning shoe collection) that belies a deep and passionate commitment to helping others.
Lorena and fellow advocate Celia Guardado have worked hard to help immigrant domestic violence survivors navigate the complex legal system to safety. Their bond extends beyond work. “Translating our clients’ stories to judges so that they feel the immediacy can be taxing,” Celia said. “Having Lorena at my side in the courtroom has been invaluable. She has become my sister.”
Lorena and Celia have ensured that YWCA is at the table with other agencies working to eliminate barriers for immigrants. Her well-earned reputation at the state level led API Chaya, a Seattle-based organization, to offer Lorena a position empowering survivors of gender-based violence and human trafficking to live in health and safety.
We know that Lorena’s deep understanding of cultural barriers and her years of training will be a tremendous asset to their work.
Lorena’s unique mix of humor, heart, and passion to make the world better have made her an ideal advocate and a treasured friend to us at YWCA Walla Walla.
In 2017, YWCA began a series of free classes for clients. Designed to build confidence and uncover hidden strengths, LiNC, short for Living in New Circumstances, helps survivors of domestic violence step ahead in strength with plans in place, connected to their community from Day 1.
The first LiNC class graduated, having formed strong bonds with each other and hungry for more. Thanks to YWCA supporters and renewed funding from DSHS through the Victims of Crime Act, we added a new series of classes, LiNC 2.0. In the new series, LiNC graduates receive ongoing support and more in-depth information to further their goals.
The first round of LiNC 2.0 addressed Healing Trauma, How to Write Your New Life Script, and Money and You. Community members with specialized expertise led classes. Deana York (above right), helped launch LiNC and coordinates LiNC 2.0, “The women can’t wait for each class to begin!”
New staff member Beki Buell (above, left) now coordinates LiNC and Deana focuses on 2.0. New sessions begin in 2020.
Do you know what is the fastest growing segment of the U.S. prison population? The Center for American Progress noted in a recent report that the answer is women — and this segment is “increasing at nearly double the rate of men since 1985.” A troubling fact is that while the average woman has suffered two traumatic events, the average female inmate has experienced six to 10, often in early childhood.
When YWCA Director of Client Services Mary Byrd visited the Women in Recovery group at the Walla Walla County Jail last spring, she saw evidence of abuse and sexual assault in women she talked to. She believed these women could benefit from a sexual assault survivor support group. None of them had received any intervention following their trauma, and Mary had access to programming already being used to help YWCA clients. Convinced she could help, Mary took YWCA Executive Director Anne-Marie Zell Schwerin to meet with Walla Walla County Corrections Department Director Norrie Gregoire who was very open to giving the program a try.
Untreated trauma “What we see in people who don’t receive intervention are high levels of anxiety, depression,” Mary said. “These aren’t symptoms that bode well for successful integration into society. Appropriate and timely interventions can help survivors improve their health, and for women in prison it can be a powerful tool to help them successfully transition back into their community.”
When she began meeting with the inmates in May, Mary gave the women a pre-test from a specialized Healing Trauma curriculum. The women meet weekly and after 18 sessions, they took a follow-up assessment with encouraging results. Each woman showed a marked improvement in her ability to cope with stressors, and they all reported feeling more confident in their road to recovery.
Lifting up all women – wherever they are and whatever their circumstances – is the right decision for building a stronger, safer community,” said Anne-Marie.
‘Tis the season for Hansel & Gretel Holiday Houses
Tuesday morning, Nov. 5, was a little unusual for YWCA Executive Director Anne-Marie Zell Schwerin. Instead of meeting friends to walk in the park, she went to local radio station KUJ 1420 am, where she met Ready Starr, manager of the Walla Walla Sportsman’s Warehouse.
They were there as special guests of KUJ’s Jim Bock. Ready shared the story about why he chose the Walla Walla store to manage (hint: it involves fish) and how excited he is about the Sportsman’s Warehouse commitment to community philanthropy. The store’s first giving opportunity was a $5,000 merchandise gift, part of which was delivered to YWCA Walla Walla in October. Ready, joined by Office Manager Evelyn Mendoza, brought in a load of warm coats, jackets, and assorted sportswear.
Employees at the store are looking forward to adopting a YWCA client family for the holidays and helping stuff the shelter’s Christmas Eve stockings.
Anne-Marie explained the many ways the community can share some holiday love with YWCA clients.
Because of the overwhelming interest last year, Advocates Kandice Kelly and Elisha Pritchett (pictured) have created four different programs to choose from:
Adopt-A-Family. A donor or group of donors adopts a shelter family and buys gifts with the help of a wish list completed by the family. Because of all the interest last year, we are able to expand our list to include families that have recently moved out of shelter as well as domestic violence clients who haven’t been in shelter. (We base our lists on shelter rooms, so a “family” may consist of one woman, or it could be a mom and several children.) You’ll have the wish lists on Nov. 27, in time for Black Friday shopping. Volunteers will wrap gifts. SIGN UP: Already started; please email email@example.com DEADLINE: Unwrapped gifts to YWCA Friday, Dec. 13
Stuff the Stockings. On Christmas Eve, every woman in shelter will receive a stocking stuffed full of small gifts. These could be Walmart gift cards in small increments, candy, a bottle of nail polish — “fun” things that let the women know someone is thinking of them. We strongly encourage donors to bring 21 of each item so that all stockings are equal. (Twenty-one $5 gifts aren’t in your budget? Maybe a couple of friends would enjoy sharing this project.) We have a list of great stocking stuffer ideas if you have trouble thinking of some. SIGN UP: Not necessary DEADLINE: Items at the YWCA office by 5:30 p.m., Friday, Dec. 20
Stock the Shelves. Some things that the shelter needs all year are not regular budget items but are critical for women who arrive with only the clothes on their backs. These things may not be glamorous, but they can be lifesavers. Examples: new underwear, sports bras, sweat shirts and pants, and — especially this time of year — warm cotton and wool winter socks. DEADLINE: Any time
Stock the Toy Cupboard. We keep a closet of toys to give to kids of all ages throughout the year. These are great for easing frightened and confused (or bored) kids into a new and strange environment. You can bring any like-new toys you like, but we have a special need for craft kits and art projects for kids 12 and older. DEADLINE: Any time
COME WRAP WITH US We are signing up volunteers to help wrap gifts on Saturday, Dec. 14, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Drop-ins are welcome, but signing up for a time slot is a great way to ensure we’ll have a place for you. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You made the YWCA shelter (more like) a walk in the park
Pictured: Sonia and Tom take a moment to appreciate the transformation of the shelter deck.
“When my son-in-law in Sacramento decided to put in an artificial lawn, said Tom Stanley, YWCA Plant and Facilities Director, “I decided to look into grass as a solution for the YWCA roof.”
The shelter roof was replaced in December 2014, thanks to a generous donation by the Michael Murr family, and since that time, we’ve kept a layer of heavy rubber tiles over the rubber membrane to protect it from punctures or other damage.
Those rubber tiles, though, besides weighing a ton, smelled bad when the sun beat down in summer, even occasionally setting off a fire alarm when the fumes entered the ventilation system.
After exploring other options, including cork tiles, which were much more expensive, Tom ordered a sample of several pieces of artificial turf to see if it drained easily and held up to temperature extremes well enough to protect the roof. The results were positive.
Now all we needed was the money to make it happen. Some funds remained from the generous Murr family donation, and when a couple of wonderful YWCA supporters toured the shelter and heard what was going on with the rubber tiles, they made a pledge to cover the rest of the roof in artificial turf.
“The lawn tiles went in quick. Sonia [Godinez, YWCA Custodian,] was great at it,” said Tom.
In addition to bringing the look of the outdoors in, the “grass” makes the roof area feel considerably cooler than did the heat-absorbing rubber tiles. Since posting pictures on Facebook, we’ve received a donation of gently used patio furniture. The YWCA community never fails to step up to meet the needs of women and families experiencing domestic violence.
Carnegie Picture Lab a popular addition to Adventure Club
Pictured, above: A few Adventure Club kids hold art kit bags that they can take home. Adults, from left: Kristie Coleman, Carnegie Picture Lab Program Director; Ann Berner Counsell, Carnegie Picture Lab Board Member; Ethan Dolph, Adventure Club staff member.
Nonprofit arts organization Carnegie Picture Lab partnered with Adventure Club this summer as part of their art education mission. An “Art Builds Community” grant from ArtWalla funded this summer’s program. The grant helped fund art supplies and the take-home art kits for the children. “Carnegie Picture Lab is grateful to ArtWalla for their partnership and for supporting our efforts to provide quality and accessible art education programming for area children,” said Susan Greene, Carnegie Picture Lab Executive Director.
Program Director Kristie Coleman developed a special program for Adventure Club that uses children’s literature as a jumping-off point for art projects. The curriculum uses a wide variety of art media, allowing children to try many different art techniques.
Mouse Paint, a picture book about three white mice on a white piece of paper who stumble into three pots of paint, kicked off the series. Volunteers provided blobs of paint in primary colors so Adventure Club kids could experiment with color mixtures and name their unique new paint samples. The classic Harold and the Purple Crayon was paired with a project that involved drawing with wire.
Kristie was the lead Picture Lab teacher for Adventure Club; besides her, 7 other volunteers and 3 board members assisted with classes.
You sent 2019 Fun Factory team out for another fun summer
The 2019 Fun Factory team launched their summer with the June 2 Parkways event and the June 13 Birch Street Bash.
THE 2019 TEAM. Mady Burnett is a Whitman College senior and a skilled basketball player. In fact, she missed a few days this summer when she was selected to play for the USA D3 national team in Brazil.
Becca Inskeep, an abstract artist from Indiana, completed a year at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, N.Y., before transferring to Whitman to complete her art degree. Some might consider her overqualified to do crafts with 5-year-olds, but we think she’s perfect.
Maeve McCracken, 2019 Whitman graduate, was a YWCA sexual assault intern for two years. YWCA was happy to give her an excuse to stay in town for another couple of months.
Erin Prewitt, from New Jersey, is in town visiting her aunts this summer. She applied for Fun Factory after her aunts heard about the job from Anne-Marie Zell Schwerin, Executive Director, and assumed (correctly) that Erin would be a great fit.
“We’re so lucky to have these wonderful can-do young women on staff!” wrote Anne-Marie.
IT’S THE BEST JOB. “I love how excited kids get when we pull up in the van!” said Erin. “In some of the more remote areas, you can tell they don’t have a lot going on or a lot of access to art supplies. They are so happy to see all the colors come out of our bags.“
“Our team works well together,” said Becca, “because we have really different strengths. Erin is great with the artists who have something specific in mind and need help transferring those ideas to their art. Maeve is excellent at giving clear instructions for different age groups so that everyone understands. Mady is able to bond with the kids and keep up friendly conversations with them, and if they get restless, she pulls out her basketball skills and challenges the kids to a game. I enjoy helping out the children who are feeling anxious and stressed about their craft.” Stops this summer included Prescott, College Place, and Dayton as well as many sites in Walla Walla, including the VA grounds.
“Anne-Marie said we’d form relationships with the kids. I wasn’t sure it was possible in short weekly visits,” said Becca. “But she was right!”