Tag Archives: News & Events

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

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.”

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

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!

Quiet Force: Women who make things happen

YWCA Walla Walla is co-organizing a project with photographer Augusta Sparks Farnum and Whitman College Community Fellow Jessie Brandt to capture voices of women in our community (Walla Walla and Columbia counties), and we need your help. We aren’t necessarily looking for the first person who springs to mind as a traditional leader. (Though she might be.)
We want to find women who are a quiet force, who keep things moving, who show up, who get things done. She may be part of a group that has been historically under-represented. She may be someone a little unexpected or unsung. We welcome an array of ages, experiences, and perspectives. In fact, we’re counting on it. Our intention is to amplify voices that may not have been widely heard.

With each woman’s consent, the results will be shared on social media during 2020 and culminate in an exhibit, book, or similar project. Each woman involved will have a chance to approve her image and any shared text.

If someone comes to mind who you’d like to see included in this project, we would love to hear from you. Click here to suggest a woman you know.

Adventure Club kids learning skills through play time

If you ask YWCA director of childcare, Tabitha Haney, what she loves most about her Adventure Club staff, she might tell you that they never shrink from a challenge.
When she presented the staff with information about the School’s Out Washington program, they knew it would be hard work and could make Adventure Club better for the kids in the program, so they couldn’t wait to get started.

School’s Out Washington believes that education for young people doesn’t stop when the school day ends, and that after-school care programs, like YWCA Adventure Club, should be high-quality Extended Learning Opportunities, or ELOs.

Rhena Burt, Adventure Club Site Coordinator, said, “I was excited that we would be one of Walla Walla’s first afterschool childcare programs to focus
on ELOs. How exciting to get to learn more about things we can do to make our program better!”

A SOWA trainer, Kandy Whitaker, visited Adventure Club at Davis Elementary in College Place, the club’s location during the school year. She observed the staff and activities and shared her impressions about the program.

“We’ve had a couple of assessments now, which helped us choose three areas to set goals in. We decided the most important area to focus on was skill building, because so many skills touch on other areas. With skills like problem-solving, for example, kids are empowered to help themselves
get through challenges,” said Rhena. “We’re also working on
leadership opportunities for kids and on helping children learn to be
more reflective.”

School’s Out trainers and coaches are highly knowledgeable and up to
date on the latest developments in school-age care, youth development
and best practices. “Kandy will be training us on how to achieve our goals,” said Rhena, “and help us create fun ways for our wide range of ages to build new skills together.”

Adventure Club accepts school-age children kindergarten through sixth grade for afterschool care, located at Davis Elementary in College Place; we can arrange transportation from Walla Walla schools if needed.

YWCA kicks off year of vision

Nearly 100 friends of YWCA Walla Walla gathered on Monday, Feb. 3, to  celebrate the accomplishments of 2019 and the supporters who made it possible — you! 

YWCA staff highlighted several programs that your gifts moved forward last year.  Mary Byrd, Director of Client Services, started a support group for women at the Walla Walla County Jail, women who have faced an extraordinary amount of trauma throughout their lives of which sexual assault and abuse are only part. 

Deana York, LiNC Educator, expanded the program to include LiNC 2.0, a more advanced look at life skills and a chance for survivors of violence to continue moving forward to a full, independent life. 

Aliza Anderson-Diepenbrock and Amara Killen, Mariposa leaders, shared what they are doing at Walla Walla elementary schools to help girls build healthy friendships and  spot relationship red flags that could lead to a life of violence.  Your generosity at the 2019 leadership luncheon expanded this program to every Walla Walla public school.

Tabitha Haney, director of childcare, reported on the work My Friends’ House and Adventure Club did in 2019 to secure ever higher ratings and continue to train staff to provide the highest quality care for children ages 1 to 12.

We celebrated four retiring board members for their many years of YWCA service — Anne Moore (pictured, above, with Events and Donor Relations Coordinator Kirsten Schober), Brenda Michels, Kristine Holtzinger, and Rhonda Olson, but we hope they’ll remember: “We never say goodbye at the Y [WCA]!”

Several volunteers, staff and board members were recognized for extraordinary contributions. Among these wonderful volunteers was Leslie Bumgardner, Walla Walla Community Hospice Chaplain, who created and taught with Beki Buell a 40-hour domestic violence and sexual assault core training program for YWCA employees, volunteers, and community college students.

Kathy Jones was recognized for five years of weekly visits to sort and organize the emergency clothing closet, making it a pleasant place to visit with new things to discover each time.

And Kendra Nelson Wenzel was recognized for her ongoing service to the YWCA. As a long-time member of the nominating committee, she has recruited many of our outstanding board members and introduced others to the mission by bringing them to YWCA events.

The board recognized Sonia Godinez for outstanding custodial, grounds, and maintenance work, and staff thanked Teresa Larson for her invaluable support as a board member. YWCA advocates recognized Daphne Gallegos for her four years as a volunteer while at Whitman plus Community Fellow, Intern, and now a fellow YWCA advocate.

The person possibly the most responsible for making this particular event happen, in 2020 and for the past 25 years, is Penny Hawkins. Every year she puts on an amazing lunch for our guests, and manages it for what she often says is about the cost of a Happy Meal. This year she had a little help from Indian Cuisine of Walla Walla, who she arranged to donate na’an to complement her delicious “Chicks in Charge” Chickpea Salad. This is Penny’s last year to cater the lunch, so the YWCA staff is feeling particularly grateful for all her years of service.

VISION 2020. The Year in Review gathering is also about looking ahead to the future.

Augusta Sparks Farnum and Whitman Community Fellow Jessie Brandt introduced the Quiet Force project, which will focus on women we believe should be seen and heard.

Board President Carol Allen displayed the new YWCA Strategic Plan, which will keep the YWCA vision in focus throughout 2020. To review the YWCA vision, see the gray box below, and check out the 2019 YWCA Report to the Community, available in the office.

Meet the new members of our board of directors

Nearly all YWCA board members attended a board retreat at the YWCA on January 25, including six new members!

Lynne Brennan jumped right into volunteer life in Walla Walla eight years ago after moving here from Woodinville where she served in the Children’s Hospital oncology ward for 15 years. She has been a board member and sung with Sweet Adelines, is a Meals on Wheels driver, and is a financial mentor with Better Together. She shares three children and three grandchildren with her high school sweetheart. 

After almost twenty years as an immigration attorney, Wendy Cheng changed careers and has been in social work until recently.  Wendy served on the YWCA board from 2004-2007 and co-chaired the YWCA Leadership Luncheon from 2013-2018.  Wendy believes in giving back to the community and volunteers at various local non-profit organizations. She and her husband, Wong, have lived in Walla Walla since 2001.

Elsa Escalante has been a social worker at the DSHS Community Service Office for many years. Elsa grew up in a family highly committed to making the community a better place for all and maintains a busy volunteer service schedule. She has volunteered at BELIEVE for the past two years and has helped with the Mobile Mexican Consulate. Her mom, Dora Reyes, served on the YWCA Board in the 1990s. 

Jill Juers has worked as a clinical social worker at Blue Mountain Heart to Heart, the Jonathan M. Wainwright VA Medical Center, and Providence St. Mary Medical Center. Jill is currently in private practice, working primarily with children. She and her spouse, Doug, have two early school age children.

Michelle Southern worked for 18 years at the Washington State Penitentiary pharmacy. A YWCA board member for 6 years, Michelle never really left the YWCA and continued to serve on the BELIEVE fundraiser committee. Michelle also works hard on stage and behind the scenes at the Little Theater of Walla Walla. She and her husband, Gary, have three children.

Peggy McClung graduated from UC Davis with a BA in Sociology, and she and her mining engineer husband, Bill, raised three daughters in Lone Pine, California.  The family moved to Canada for 11 years, but retired in Walla Walla to enjoy better weather and the social environment. 

Thank you, wonder women, for your dedication to YWCA!

Volunteers brighten days at YWCA Walla Walla

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.