Tag Archives: YWCA Luncheon

National YWCA president shares message of empowerment for girls and women

YWCA USA board president Tina Herrera at the 2023 YWCA Luncheon podium giving the keynote address

After two years of virtual luncheons – and last year at half capacity – YWCA Walla Walla joyfully welcomed more than 400 supporters to the Marcus Whitman Hotel Ballroom.

This year’s luncheon took us back to the fundamentals with a focus on being present: “Just be.”

Presence – to live in the present moment and give it our full attention – is challenging in a world where everything around us is designed for distraction.

But it’s what our world needs, people who will show up and hold space for each other.

It’s what you did during our years of uncertainty, a time when folks could have slipped through the cracks. You were present, consistently looking out for some of the most vulnerable members of our community.

Award presentation

The 2023 YWCA Leader of Distinction was a longtime educator who has always been present for others, whether leading a classroom or chatting with a friend. YWCA board president 2016-2017 and close friend Rhonda Olson presented the 2023 award to Mary Lynne Schroeder. (See article.)

Taking a “Mission Moment,” Executive Director Anne-Marie Zell Schwerin stressed how hard it can be to ask for help and expressed admiration for the brave souls who reached out to the YWCA last year. And when they showed up, there are good people, like our luncheon guests, who make sure someone is there for them, someone who will listen.

“With a mission that insists on peace, justice, freedom and dignity,” she said,  we can’t NOT convey to people: You are welcome here, you are safe here, you can be YOU here.”

LiNC Director Andraya Anderson and Advocate Alejandra Lopez shared bright moments from their YWCA work in a 5-minute video followed by a heartfelt giving appeal from YWCA friend and investment advisor Jim McCarthy.

The keynote

Our 2023 keynote speaker and YWCA USA board president, Tina Herrera, acknowledged the wisdom of taking a moment in our chaotic lives to just be, to connect with our life purpose and “unique journey on earth.”

She recommended we all listen more to young women, a population she characterized as true to what they believe, who question “our generation’s way of life and our endless pursuit of the next accomplishment.”

She urged a third wave of the feminist movement, one that values “affordable child care, paid family and medical leave…paid safe leave, expanded child tax credits, and trauma-based support for survivors of gender-based violence.”  Removing obstacles like a lack of childcare make it possible for all women and girls to thrive.

Finally, she called for education to ensure the voices of women and women of color “are represented at the highest levels of government and society.”  More women in positions of power and as decision makers at community, national and institutional levels will lead to “more inclusive policies, laws, and practices that protect and contribute to gender equality at all levels.”

Throughout her presentation she shared photos and experiences from her extraordinary career (which included shuttling her experiments to the Russian Space Station on Atlantis as a NASA engineer) and from her longtime involvement with the YWCA. This afforded opportunities like visiting the New York Stock Exchange for the 2018 launch of the YWCA exchange-traded fund “WOMN” and attending a 2022 groundbreaking to rebuild the YWCA New Orleans destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

In Tina’s long and varied journey with the YWCA, it’s clear that the challenges facing women and girls across generations are central to her life purpose and that she sees YWCA as the organization with the heart and resilience to address these challenges.

Special thanks: Early in the program, Molly Gordon thanked our community partners: one who wants to remain AnonymousBanner Bank, Coffey Communications, Providence St. Mary Medical Center, and the YWCA Leadership Circle. She expressed appreciation for other luncheon sponsors, Whitman College, CLA, McDonald Zaring Insurance, Northwest Collision, Tallman’s Pharmacy, and the Eastgate Lions Club.

She also acknowledged our sponsors who provided goods or services: Lane Printing & Design; Walla Walla Union-Bulletin; Marcus Whitman Hotel; and David Lopez, Executive Director of the Center for Humanitarian Engagement at Walla Walla University who stepped in when our longtime volunteer photographer Keith Crain couldn’t make it.

We are grateful to them all.

Mary Lynne Schroeder recognized for life of service

Mary Lynne, left, smiling at her table across from a bouquet of persimmon-colored roses

Mary Lynne and Rhonda strike a Rosie the Riveter pose in front of a yellow sign with "We Can Do It!" above their heads.

At the 2023 YWCA Leadership Luncheon, Rhonda Olson, 2016-2017 board president (pictured, right), presented the Leader of Distinction Award. Following is the text of that presentation:

Every year at this luncheon, we honor someone who has exemplified the YWCA mission in their lives, with a focus on reaching out to, lifting up, and celebrating the lives and hopes of women, of children, and of diverse peoples. 

Growing up a Midwest farm girl who changed universities and majors when she was told that women could not be band directors, our 2023 Leader of Distinction became a business major instead and worked as a buyer for a major retailer.  Passing by a school one day, she realized that education was her passion, so she went back to school and became a teacher.  For her, education was the way to build capacity and leadership, starting with young ones in elementary school.

She came to Walla Walla in 1969 and began a career in the public schools.  She taught at Edison and Prospect Point, then moved on to the high school as a counselor and later, the Dean of Students with some other interesting assignments along the way including cheerleading coach, leader of the Wa Hi Exchange program in Yokohama Japan, and advisor to the Associated Student Body.  Her life outside school was also incredibly full.  Though she did not become a band director, it did not stop her from singing in choirs, ringing handbells, or playing the flute.  Her leadership was sought and valued in every church she participated in, whether serving soup to community members looking for a warm meal or leading the church council.  People knew her counsel was wise and that she was smart and thoughtful, a person of quiet strength, no drama, possessed of a delightful and engaging sense of humor.  Said her daughters, “Mom has such a sense of joy being part of a team.  She taught us how to value community service and engagement.  Her wish for us, as was her mom’s for her, is a life of hopeful impact, doing things to help others and making a difference.

Her teacher’s schedule didn’t allow her to participate in a lot of community board work until her retirement, and when we heard she was retiring, the YWCA was ready.  We reached out to her about board service, and this smart woman said “no,” not for a year.  So we marked the calendar and asked her again a year later.  She said yes, and instantly became an engaged board member, later serving as president.  During her tenure she saw the YWCA expand services to Dayton and welcome a new generation of leaders, both staff and board.  She also shared her talents with Children’s Home Society, serving on both the local and the statewide boards of that organization.

I want to close on a personal note.  Our 2023 leader of distinction has that rare ability that is so in line with our luncheon’s theme today.  She has the gift of being present to each person she is with, no matter who they are.  And as her friend, I see it every time I am with her.  She is a “best friend” to many of us in this room, her ability to make each of us feel uniquely valued is a true gift.  Our community is blessed by her deep commitment to hopeful impact and to servant leadership.

Mary Lynne and Rhonda share a hug on the podium.

Join me in celebrating our dear friend, Mary Lynne Schroeder, YWCA Leader of Distinction for 2023.

RECAP: In-person YWCA luncheon celebrates love

IT’S NO SECRET that Anne-Marie Zell Schwerin, YWCA Executive Director, radiates positive exuberance in just about any situation.

But as noon on Wednesday, May 4, approaches, she is even more joyful than usual because of the upcoming luncheon.

“As giddy as I am about being back in person,” said Anne-Marie, “I don’t want anyone to feel bad if they choose to attend virtually.”

The 2022 luncheon will be our first hybrid event – one where guests in the ballroom and people watching from home will have similar experiences.

“The point is to be together,” said Anne-Marie. “While I can’t wait to see people in person again, I’ll be beaming my hugs and good vibes to everyone streaming the luncheon from home. We need your virtual presence, too!”

Becky Betts

In these trying times, staying positive and hopeful is difficult. Most of us are overwhelmed and exhausted. Some of us are even a bit jaded.

“Leading with Love,” said keynote speaker and Providence St. Mary’s Manager of Population Health, Becky Betts, “is the message we need to hear right now.”

She will share uplifting stories and treasured life lessons to help us meet our challenges with kindness, compassion, and love. Love, she believes, is “a creative and problem-solving force that ignites imagination and goodwill.”

You will leave inspired to build genuine human connections to heal our homes, community, and world.

“We have been grateful for the constant support of our sponsors and friends over the past two years as we’ve been finding new ways of doing events,” said Kirsten Schober, Events and Donor Engagement Coordinator.

“It took a while to determine what would be possible this year, but our partners jumped right in as soon as we asked for their help.”

Our sponsors, Kirsten said, “provide solutions to abuse and homelessness that change lives for the better. We are so grateful!”

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

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.