Tag Archives: News & Events

‘Tis the season for Hansel & Gretel Holiday Houses

The holiday season is full of family traditions, and we would love for the YWCA to be part of your family’s fun.

The annual Hansel & Gretel Houses decorating party will be held in the YWCA Fireside Room on Wednesday, Dec. 11.

We have three sessions for children to come decorate their very own graham cracker houses. The sessions are at 2:15, 3:15, and 4:15 p.m. Each session is limited to 20 children and they fill up fast.

Cost to register is still just $5 per child plus a nonperishable food item for the shelter kitchen.

Call 509-525-2570 or email laveryfairbanks@ywcaww.org to reserve your place!

YWCA friends shop for a cause this holiday season

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 kkelly@ywcaww.org
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

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 kkelly@ywcaww.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!”

Board members visit the other Washington

YWCA on Capitol Hill

President-Elect Carol Allen, Executive Director Anne-Marie Zell Schwerin, and Member Molly Phillips traveled to Washington for the YWCA USA National Conference. They also visited elected officials about the Violence Against Women Act.

Faith continues On Her Way

If you were at this year’s Leadership Luncheon, you heard Faith Nyakundi weave her love of YWCA Walla Walla into the story of her life’s journey, making a compelling case for investing in young women. (Thanks, Faith, for the record giving you inspired!)

Your gifts of more than $182K at the YWCA Luncheon made it possible to hire another Mariposa leader to empower and build the confidence of local fifth-grade girls.

Shortly after the event, Faith received news that she was one of only 25 chosen for a highly competitive MILEAD fellowship. More than
2,070 African women between 19 and 25 years of age applied!

The MILEAD Fellows Program is a long-term leadership development program to identify, develop, and promote a new generation of young African female leaders. The program targets dynamic young women to develop the transformational leadership skills they need to address critical issues facing women and girls across communities in Africa. The program equips Fellows with world-class knowledge, skills, values, and networks that they need to succeed as 21st-century women leaders.

The MILEAD Fellows will begin with a three-week summer institute in Ghana and commit to implementing a community change project. Along the way, Faith is having the opportunity to visit family members in Kenya she hasn’t seen in six years.

YWCA Walla Walla’s staff and board clearly aren’t the only ones who believe Faith is a remarkable woman ON HER WAY to great things!

Sonia Angell Schmitt named 2019 Leader of Distinction

Each year YWCA Walla Walla recognizes someone who exemplifies the YWCA mission, serves our community, and inspires others to do the same.

In the YWCA Centennial book, Inspired: the Women in Our Lives, her son and daughter-in-law, Carl and Ann Schmitt, described Sonia Angell Schmitt as a “Fairy Godmother,” someone who “stood by her friends and family, and who made the “world better and life richer and fuller.”

It was perhaps inevitable that she would have such a lasting impact on the people and places around her. She grew up one of three daughters of a truly remarkable woman who, as a single parent, returned to school to pursue a degree in social work. She watched as her mother became Walla Walla’s first child welfare worker…a tireless champion for children, who was committed to giving young people the attention, care and information they needed. This was a woman who instilled in Sonia a sense that anything was possible.

A story of how Sonia developed her commitment to nurturing growth in her community involves her going outside one morning with her mother, two Hills Brothers Coffee cans in hand, each containing a sycamore sapling. They planted those small trees in the corner of their yard. Over the years those saplings grew to magnificence, and today they stand watch over the neighborhood.

Sonia Schmitt

After graduating from Whitman College, she moved to California with her husband, where they raised their two children, and enjoyed exploring the California Coast. There, she was a supporter of the YWCA in Palo Alto.

When the couple returned to Walla Walla to retire in 1996, they thought they would slow down, but that just was never going to happen given this Sonia’s passion and drive. Our community came to know her as a lifelong supporter and volunteer for Planned Parenthood, and you’ve seen her name in your Walla Walla Symphony program or when attending the Walla Walla Chamber Music Festival.

She was also one of the founders of the Blue Mountain Land Trust, which helps preserve thousands of acres of land in Washington and Oregon for the enjoyment of everyone.

Sonia’s daughter-in-law, Ann, accepted the award on her behalf.

She even got into the business of historic preservation when she and her husband rescued the Whitehouse-Crawford, a magnificent historic building, from destruction.

She was a generous donor to YWCA Walla Walla programs and in 2017 she helped underwrite our Centennial book. In that book, her son and daughter-in-law also wrote the truest words when they said, “She wants the best for all and does what she can to make it happen.”

Sadly, on January 23, 2018, the Walla Walla community lost a dear friend in Sonia Angell Schmitt, but just as the saplings she planted with her mother have grown into majestic sycamores, her legacy will grow and continue to enrich the organizations and people she championed.

One of our own to speak for YWCA Leadership Luncheon

The theme for 2019 came to Anne-Marie Zell Schwerin during a sleepless night in December. “It was after the new board orientation. Our board member Liza Jacobson advises Leadership Academy at Blue Ridge Elementary and told us that YWCA Mariposa girls are the core of that group. Leadership Academy students do service projects for their school, but these girls want to take it further, to serve their communities, to change the world,” said the YWCA Executive Director.

“Liza showed a video of the girls holding up cards they made to share their hopes and dreams for the future. I couldn’t stop thinking about these young women and how they are going places. These girls are on their way,” she said. “And that’s when it hit me that this could be our theme for 2019: On Her Way.”

With a theme like that, and knowing the YWCA mission is all about sending girls and women on their way to better lives, the obvious choice for a luncheon speaker would be a young woman on her way. This search didn’t take us far from home and in fact led us just over the Cascades to Faith Nyakundi. Faith is working on a master’s degree in International Studies at the University of Washington where she is focusing on two large areas: foreign direct investment between China and Africa, and transnational feminist activism. She hopes to go into policy and peace negotiations and to continue advocating for women’s rights.

A Whitman College graduate, Faith came to YWCA Walla Walla near the end of our centennial year to serve as Events Coordinator and a part-time DVSA Advocate. Her first event was the release party for our centennial book, INSPIRED. Before coming to Walla Walla, Faith spent the majority of her first 18 years in the Mukuru Kwa Njenga slums of Nairobi with her family of nine. With determination to change her life and her family’s, she worked to find opportunities outside Mukuru because of its lack of education resources and career opportunities. She was top of her class in the national primary school examinations, which gave her a chance to attend one of the best boarding high schools in Kenya, Precious Blood Riruta.

Getting into school was one thing; staying depended on being able to raise tuition. This was right after the 2007/2008 post-election violence in Kenya, and her family had just lost land which made up most of their income. She braved it anyway, and on her second term in high school, she was invited to apply for Akili Dada. The organization covered her tuition and school needs for four years.

By choosing to invest in this bright young Kenyan woman, Akili Dada put Faith on her way to a better life for herself, her family, and potentially the people of her country. Hear about her journey and her plans for the future at the 2019 YWCA Leadership Luncheon.

The luncheon will take place from noon to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, May 1, at the Marcus Whitman Hotel & Conference Center. Registration begins at 11:30 in the hotel lobby.

If you’ve attended in the past, you can contact your Table Captain about tickets. We do have Table Captain turnover every year, so if you haven’t heard from anyone by April 1, please don’t be shy about calling the YWCA at (509) 525-2570. There are many lovely people we would love to place you with who would welcome you to their table. Tickets and more information is available on the YWCA luncheon website.

YWCA celebrates its first century as a ‘corporation’ in 2019

On May 23, 2017, we celebrated the 100th anniversary of our YWCA charter with a birthday party.

A letter and the above certificate from Secretary of State Kim Wyman’s office alerted us to another anniversary. This Century Corporation Certificate commemorates our incorporation 100 years ago in April 1919.

“Incorporations were at that time either delivered by horseback, steam wheeler or train. Because few owned cars, and the roads outside of Olympia were virtually impassable, incorporating a business was quite an adventure,” the letter said.

We don’t have a record of how, but no doubt the women who raised a year’s operating expenses ($5,000) in one week were up to the task!

Nearly 2,500 incorporations were filed in Washington state in 1919, and only 23 still exist today, two in Walla Walla: YWCA and Colfax Consulting Service.