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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.

Note: The 2019-2020 school year is Afterschool Adventure Club’s last, and the summer program will not return in 2020. Please email Anne-Marie (aschwerin@ywcaww.org) or Tabitha (thaney@ywcaww.org) if you have any questions.

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!

Dia de los Muertos activities celebrate Latin culture

Stop in to YWCA Walla Walla during the last week of October to appreciate a bit of Latin culture. Celia Guardado, new Community Relationships and Outreach Coordinator, will bring Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, to YWCA, and the display will stay up through Nov. 1 and 2, the actual holiday.

Though it might seem most like a Latin Halloween because of the date and the skull decorations, Dia de los Muertos also resembles Memorial Day, when Americans remember their military dead, and often other loved ones as well.

Traditions vary from one region to another, but Dia de los Muertos is a time when Mexican families cherish the memory of lost children and lost ancestors. This may take the form of a fall picnic in a cemetery where they serve the favorite foods of the departed, share stories, and pray that the souls of loved ones will have an easy passage to heaven.

“We have bilingual and bicultural Advocates so we can reach more of our community,“ says Celia. “I thought it could be meaningful to share this holiday as well.”

YWCA-Whitman partnership builds a safer community

YWCA Walla Walla has added not only a new advocate to our team but also a new position: Sexual Assault Victim’s Advocate for Whitman College. We welcome Hailey Powers, a recent M.A. in sociology graduate of the University of Chicago, who is uniquely qualified to fill this role.

Hailey’s master’s thesis focused on campus policies and procedures regarding sexual assault. And while earning her BA from the University of Montana­­–Missoula, she wrote her honors thesis about the rising number of sexual assaults (SA) that happened while she was a student and how the city’s police department investigative practices improved in response to the Department of Justice’s findings on the case.

“I care about campus safety because the community extends beyond campus lines,” Hailey said. “Students will be off campus soon and active participants in the larger society. Creating safe places of education contributes to a safer community.”

Having a victim’s advocate who operates independently of and is not employed by the college­­ is new for Whitman and removes any concern about a conflict of interest. It also ensures confidentiality in the advocate-victim relationship. Because Hailey is not a college employee, she is not subject to Title IX or the Clery Act, which requires colleges to report all campus crimes to the federal government and will not be required to report her conversation to anyone.

“Survivors have the right to seek help,” said Hailey, “even if they are scared, confused, or unsure. I want to be the safe place they can come to for compassion, support, and personalized help.”

Hailey will ensure survivors know about the resources available to assist them in recovery. As a support person, she may accompany a survivor to medical exams, to meetings with people on campus, such as the Title IX coordinator, and throughout an investigation process should one occur.

Her role is proposed to take a minimum of 20 hours a week, with the ability to adjust the time based on need. The rest of the week, she will be a domestic violence advocate at the YWCA, participating in the same duties as other advocates, and specializing in SA.
Originally from western Washington, Hailey was a member of the United States Pony Clubs for 15 years as a competitor and instructor. Her horse, Jake, currently lives in Ellensburg on a big farm with other horses. Other interests include playing and collecting board games, golfing, weightlifting, and reading.

Your support of advocates makes legal services possible

The Northwest Justice Project (NJP), Washington State’s publicly funded legal aid program, has presented a  10 years of service award to Celia Guardado, Director of Client Services for YWCA Walla Walla. The project commended her for bringing the voice of clients to the board and for her steadfast dedication to the cause of equal justice.

When Celia  began working with YWCA clients as an Advocate in 2004, she discovered that it was difficult for them to get answers even to simple legal questions. And sometimes she’d see them spending rent money to secure the legal advice they needed.

A lawyer in Yakima with the NJP who helped advise some of Celia’s clients nominated her for the NJP board, and she was elected as a client representative. At the time, the NJP didn’t have a Walla Walla office, so clients had to get help from Yakima, the Tri-Cities, or Spokane. Within a year, though, the need in Walla Walla warranted opening a satellite office here with two attorneys and a paralegal.

“This service is very important to our clients at the YWCA,” said Celia. “It gets attention to have an attorney’s letter. And it helps clients get services they are entitled to so they can solve work-related issues and housing challenges and stay safe from domestic violence.”

Celia’s experiences with NJP included helping hire a new director after their past director retired.


Historian Mary Meeker honored for leadership

Each year the YWCA recognizes an individual who has not only made a difference in our community but also has upheld our mission in life and work. Because  the recipient wasn’t able to be with us at the Luncheon, Executive Director Anne-Marie Zell Schwerin swore the crowd to secrecy, asking them to consider this surprise for Mary a SECRET mission.

 A leader of distinction

It isn’t hard to understand why the YWCA 2016 Leader of Distinction Award went to Mary Meeker.

Mary joined the YWCA board in the 1970s. One of Mary’s first missions was to figure out why the Ice Chalet’s electricity bill was so high. She was also curious about the purpose of a little switch on the wall of the Ice Chalet. After months of checking out crawl spaces, tracing wiring diagrams, and talking to electricians, she found her answer, turned the switch to “off,” and the power bills were a lot more in line with estimates.

But that was only the beginning.  Forty plus years later, Mary is still helping the YWCA as our chief archivist and history detective, a role she plays for many groups in town, including Walla Walla 2020, a civic group for whom Mary provides research reports about historic properties. In the 1980s, she led Operation SMART, a YWCA program to help middle school girls get excited about math and science.  In the 1990s, she served on the buildings and grounds committee and played a big role in analyzing YWCA facility needs, work that led to the decision to embark on a major remodel and capital campaign.  In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Mary was in the leadership of the YWCA capital campaign, helping to raise $3.2 million for a major overhaul of YWCA buildings.

Even though it sounds like she spent every waking hour at the YWCA, Mary was also a huge presence in the public schools, chairing a successful school levy, leading the Berney school science fair, advocating for the formation of the Explorers program, teaching Junior Great Books, and serving on countless school committees.  She started a Walla Walla branch of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation and volunteered for years as a juvenile diabetes educator.

‘Secret’ mission accomplished

On Thursday, May 19, Kamna Shastri, our student archivist, asked Mary to stop in to help identify some photos. While they poured over old photos, we began playing a video of the Luncheon award presentation. Meanwhile, we were secretly recording Mary so you could see  her reaction when her name was read.  Join us and a couple of Mary’s good friends to watch her receive this well-deserved acknowledgement of her contributions to life in our community.

View two minutes of highlights from the award presentation: Mary’s surprise!