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Dear Abby & ‘hard-hitting facts’ made area aware of domestic violence

By Kamna Shastri, 2016 Whitman College Community Fellow & YWCA Archivist  

An interesting pamphlet is tucked away in the YWCA’s archives that promises “Hard Hitting Facts.” The pun—if you can call it that—was intended: This pamphlet was fearless in publishing color photos of women who had suffered domestic violence. In 1989, this was a daring choice even if the reasoning was to garner support for YWCA’s mission.

Donna Jones was in charge of writing grants for the YWCA when Peggy Sanderson asked her to take on the project of creating a pamphlet to get Walla Walla to pay attention to domestic violence and abuse. Also in on the project was Carroll Adams, an important YWCA supporter.

“I believe it was either Carroll or Peggy’s idea to do the pamphlet” said Donna.  “We didn’t just want to put out a pamphlet that was kind of bland. We wanted something to shock people’s attention.”

The shock factor would be featuring real women who had undergone abuse. Trying to reach out to women in Walla Walla might endanger the lives of those women; some women might fear retaliation from their abusers. Dear Abby was a better alternative, since the column was published on a national scale. That way, Donna could reach out to women across the country.

Dear Abby had previously run a column on a domestic violence case in newspapers around the country. Donna wrote in response to this and requested from Abby the photographs that the subject of the previous column had sent. It was a long shot for the letter to be published, but upon its publication, letters from around the country started pouring in to Walla Walla.

If you look through the “Dear Abby” file in the archives, you’ll see letter after letter from women sharing their painful, yet amazing stories of strength, resilience and grit, along with bone-chilling photos. These women were immensely supportive of the pamphlet project, and welcomed Donna to use any photos she wanted. Donna, in turn, replied to each and every letter she received.

The final pamphlet features a black and white cover with a balled fist. Inside are resources and information about domestic violence and abuse. If you unfold the pamphlet one more time, you’ll see color photographs of women with bruises and wounds, an effort to bring the reality of this issue to light.

“For me [it] was not only the graphic part of the photos but realizing they went back for more [violence] because they had no other place to go or no education and three children and no way to support them. So I think it just really opened my eyes to why these women went back for more,” said Donna. The experience of putting together the pamphlet and hearing so many personal stories made a deep impact on Donna. There was some pushback to the project, with people preferring a pamphlet that was more pleasing to the eye and “prettier.” But there was not enough opposition to halt production.

Now—27 years later—Donna says things have changed in Walla Walla and society in general regarding how we talk about domestic violence: “I would say, in general in our culture we are more comfortable talking about everything from homosexuality to domestic violence to all kinds of things. Our society is definitely more open  than it used to be,  which I hope has led to more women and men who are being abused coming forward and feeling okay to say I need help.”

Carroll Adams honored at YWCA luncheon as a champion for women

Carroll Adams, honored at our luncheon as a Leader of Distinction, turned 100 years old on Oct. 7. Happy Birthday, Carroll!

When Carroll Adams arrived at the 2015 YWCA luncheon, he had no idea that he’d be taking home this year’s Leader of Distinction award.
“Carroll and his wife, Helen, were at my table, and it was so much fun watching his face as he realized that we were talking about him,” said Anne-Marie Zell Schwerin, YWCA Executive Director. “It’s a good thing he didn’t know in advance, because he is so modest he might have found an excuse to be somewhere else. He’s the kind of man who would never seek recognition for doing what he believes is right and necessary and good.”

The award was presented by Peggy Jo Sanderson, the YWCA Executive Director who worked with Carroll Adams and his golfing friends when they got the idea for Golfers Against Domestic Violence and started a fundraising tournament in 1990 that ran until 2014. By then Carroll had already been a YWCA volunteer for as many as 30 years, so it wasn’t a surprise when he jumped in to lead the golf effort.
While Carroll has done so much for the YWCA that they have nicknamed him the YWCA godfather, this is by no means the only way he works on behalf of families in our valley. As the owner of Carroll Adams Tractor Co., which opened here in the mid-1950s, he spent more than three decades sharing his expertise to help Wa-Hi and Mac-Hi chapters of Future Farmers of America learn about agriculture and maintaining farm equipment.
He and his Cessna—which he piloted well into his 90s—were enlisted by the Civil Air Patrol to help with search and rescue operations. And he has been a volunteer for the Fort Walla Walla Museum, helping maintain their collection of historical farm equipment and clearing land and moving rocks before the current museum building was in place.
But, as Carroll once shared at an annual meeting, when the YWCA was raising funds to build a domestic violence shelter in 1984, he put some of his volunteer work aside for a while: “I decided to drop other activities,” he said, “and do what I could to help the YWCA raise money to get the shelter open. To me there is no one who is more important than a woman whose family is falling apart.” He believed it was critical to make this service available in Walla Walla. “Prior to the YWCA’s shelter opening,” Carroll said, “the women had nowhere else to go, except maybe to go back and get another beating. It’s sad to say that when we first began work on the project we had no idea business would be so good.”
And once the shelter began operation—because business was indeed “good”—the YWCA needed new ways to fund the shelter’s ongoing needs. Carroll and his golfers were a huge part of keeping the domestic violence program going and raising awareness about the problem of violence and assault that women face in Walla Walla and across the country. In fact, between 1990 and 2014, the Annual YWCA Charity Golf Classic raised nearly $600,000 to further work against violence.
“I think it’s important that men and women work together to solve the problems created by domestic violence,” said Carroll, and the YWCA could not agree more.


Some material here was gathered by the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin for a 2010 article about Adams’ work for the YWCA golf tournament.


PUMC volunteers share a love of reading and language

VirginiaThanks to Mary Lynne Schroeder, the YWCA has a large—and growing—team of volunteers from Pioneer United Methodist Church, our neighbors down the block on Birch Street.
She calls the volunteers her “readers and talkers.” The readers visit twice a week. The morning readers alternate, and Virginia Harrison is here every week with her collection of huggable puppets and a stack of books.

Vic Walker, a reader, signed on because he believes it is important for the church to reach out to the community. He also enjoys reading out loud. Judging by the laughter of the preschoolers, he’s pretty good at it, too! “It’s fun interacting with the kids,” Vic says.

Chuck Templeton, who visited last week to read with his wife, Pat, agrees. “The kids are delightful!” He adds, “It has also been easy to work this into our schedule.”
Reading volunteers receive background checks, and their teachers stay on hand to help manage the children.

The talkers group will start in November. Each week, church members will attend volunteer and community college teacher Ursula Volwiler’s English as a Second Language class. Shirley Isaacs, who has volunteered with Prospect Point first-graders for 15 years, looks forward to working with adults who want to improve their language skills.

All talkers and readers have been briefed on the need for confidentiality and are committed to the safety of residents.

Whitman student joins YWCA team


Kamna Shastri will be joining the YWCA as a historical archivist intern. She joins us through Whitman College’s Community Fellows Program, made possible by the Sherwood Trust.

Kamna will be helping create a categorizing and indexing system for the YWCA archive, which houses material spanning a century. The goal is to create an easily accessible system that will help tell the story of the YWCA, Walla Walla, and the women that have led the organization. She will work closely with Mary Meeker and Ann Schmitt, who will serve as her YWCA history mentors, and will help us prepare for our centennial celebration in 2017.

Kamna, a senior at Whitman College, is majoring in Environmental Studies combined with Sociology. Three main things make her world go round: music, good conversations and shared moments, often over a cup of her third favorite thing—hot, spicy chai. She hasn’t yet settled on her post-graduation plans, but she is passionate about working with people and organizations that positively empower and impact communities.

The current group of six juniors and seniors will work part-time at local organizations during the academic year. The program encourages students to engage with their community while gaining exposure to Walla Walla leaders and experiencing what it means to work for a community-centered organization.

Mexican consulate visits YWCA

Navigating the paperwork for official documents such as passports and identification cards can be challenging for anyone. For citizens of Mexico without reliable transportation or the ability to take time off work, it would be even more difficult without the mobile services of the Consulate General of Mexico, based in Seattle.

During the consulate’s most recent trip to Walla Walla, representatives from the consulate served 200 on Saturday, Oct. 18, and 150 on Sunday, Oct. 19, with the help of YWCA Advocates. “Bringing the Mexican Consulate services to our immigrant community helps them obtain their official IDs in a safe and convenient way,” said Lorena Ault, YWCA bicultural advocate.

These visits also help the consulate learn more about the needs of Mexicans living in our area and maintain a dialog with community leaders.

Keeping a roof over their heads

The timing could not have been better. A donor contacted the YWCA of Walla Walla ready to make a major gift. He was looking for a special project that would meet a significant need at the YW, something with a big impact.

Executive Director Anne-Marie Zell Schwerin knew just the thing: A new roof for the women’s shelter.

The shelter underwent substantial renovations in 2000, but at that time, the roof still had years of life. It didn’t make sense to replace 6,500 square feet of useful roof. Now, however, the roof has seen 33 winters and is starting to show its age. “What could be more important right now than protecting the integrity of the shelter with a new roof?” asked Schwerin. “When I think of how many will sleep under that roof tonight and how many have been and will be protected by that roof in the future, I can’t think of a more appropriate gift.”

Fortunately for the shelter, Michael Murr, who grew up in Walla Walla and continues to have ties to our valley through his family-owned Garrison Creek Cellars, was open to whatever project the YWCA decided to undertake with his gift. “Our family has been so happy and impressed with the management and leadership of the YWCA that we violated our own guidelines by giving unrestricted funds,” said Murr.

Replacing the mid-century-style flat roof will be a big project. The base of the roof is concrete, and all material on top of the concrete must be removed. This will require a stretch of dry weather, which can be hard to come by during Walla Walla winters.

The existing material will be replaced with a new rubber membrane and a layer of 60-millimeter-thick rigid insulation with an energy-efficient R-30 rating. Gillespie Roofing, the contractor, anticipates completing the work before Christmas.

A portion of the funds will go to providing more child-friendly space for children in the shelter. The specifics are still under wraps, but the Murr family looks forward to helping recognize a very special friend of the YW.

“Our family has always been inspired by the work the YWCA does for the victims of domestic violence,” said Murr. “Walla Walla is fortunate to have a number of great institutions, one of which is the YWCA.”

Believe event makes a difference

“Believe,” an evening to support the mission of the YWCA, was held this September on the patio and in the tasting room of Basel Cellars. Volunteers poured fine wines while guests mingled and browsed the silent auction items and wine wall. Chef Andrae Bopp kept the hors d’oeuvres coming while Kate Morrison and The B Side performed jazz standards.

“This was one of the most enjoyable events I’ve been to,” said Julie Mae Longgood, President of the YWCA of Walla Walla Board of Directors. “It was a great party at a beautiful venue with caring and like-minded people. We are so fortunate to have good relationships with our donors.”

While waiting for the silent auction to wrap up, Master of Ceremonies Jet Titus entertained the crowd with a couple of card tricks. Not to be outdone, the YWCA Board of Directors did a card trick of their own, showing how an anonymous donor had made it possible to turn $25,000 into $50,000 with a matching pledge.

When the live auction got underway, the surprises kept coming. A four-night stay at Sun Valley became a ski package when a guest threw in lift tickets with the package. A catered dinner package became a winemakers’ dinner when local winemakers volunteered to select wine pairings to bring to the event.

The evening closed with an appeal to the heartstrings, a video testimonial from a past client who received shelter and counseling here after domestic abuse. She credits the YWCA, her son, and her God for saving her life. Her testimony was a poignant reminder of why we come together for these events­—to support and reflect on our mission.

For a list of event sponsors and auction contributors, visit pwp.ywcaww.org.

Transitions: Who’s new at the YWCA

Children at My Friends’ House are already familiar with one of our newer YWCA  faces: Director Tabitha Vance. She can communicate in both English and Spanish, holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, and cares deeply about ensuring that all children and families have access to high-quality childcare.

We wish all the best to our departing Director Angela Thongdy, who gave 14 years of service to MFH. “Children are my passion, and I know that I’ll always be working with them in some way,” she said.

The YWCA Advocate team welcomes Mary Byrd, who joined us this summer as our newest YWCA Advocate. She will be serving the Dayton community now that Ann Passmore is retiring.

Also new this summer is Jan Asher Dolph, our Communications Coordinator, who began at the YWCA in June when Sara Rasmussen left to join a communications firm that serves nonprofits. We feel fortunate that Sara generously continues with us as a volunteer web developer.

Dayton advocate retiring this fall

100_0587Ann Passmore knows well that no one says goodbye at the YWCA.

In the early 1990s she served on the Board of Directors. In January of 1999 she did her practicum here for her master’s in social work and joined the staff as a Legal Advocate. And from 2001 through 2007 she served as Associate Director. This fall she retires from her most recent post, the YWCA Advocate for Columbia County in Dayton. With so much territory in this large, rural county, it’s important to share resources and expertise, and Ann has been part of that sharing network.

“It has been a privilege to serve at the YWCA office in Dayton,” Ann said. “The YWCA is a member of a strong network of community partners who work hard to provide for the families of Columbia County.”

Best wishes, Ann, and thanks for all you’ve given to the YWCA!

Ice Chalet to close this fall

At the end of June, we shared the sad news with our community that the YWCA Ice Chalet will not reopen this year due to a combination of rising costs and declining use.

“We knew this would be painful news for many who treasure memories of good times at the Ice Chalet. It was important to me to honor the support of our skating community and to share the news by letter or personal visit with as many as possible,” said Anne-Marie Zell Schwerin, YWCA Executive Director. “Once the decision was final, Julie Mae Longgood [YWCA Board President] and I began reaching out to the community,” she said. “The support we received was simply overwhelming.”

Of course, the hardest part was giving the news to the staff. “We realize that the Ice Chalet would have folded a long time ago without the passion, dedication and hard work of the staff, especially [Manager] Jodi Alden and Nate Alden,” Anne-Marie said.

If you have ideas how the space could be used to support the community and the YWCA’s mission of eliminating racism and empowering women, please call 509-525-2570 or send a message to the YWCA Ice Chalet Facebook page. Like the page to stay posted about equipment sales or plans for our commemorative event later this fall as we begin decommissioning the rink.

If you have questions about the closure, read our Frequently Asked Questions about the Ice Chalet closure or call 509-525-2570.