Tag Archives: Newsletter archive

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.

Mariposa: You’re the wind beneath their wings

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 with Celia Guardado

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.

LiNC program for survivors continues to grow

Deana York
Beki Buell

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.

You’re giving incarcerated women a new start

Mary Byrd,
Client Services Director

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.