Your YWCA served more than 30,000 people out of the Frances McClelland Community Center on Bonita Avenue this year. That includes thousands of low income women and their families who came for help, support and services designed to get them jobs and put them on a path to economic independence; and hundreds of professional women who attended leadership classes, workshops, forums and conferences to help them take the next step in their careers. Here are our top ten highlights from 2014.
Civil Rights Activist Dolores Huerta Honored
We were delighted to host (and cater!) the 1st Annual Dolores Huerta Awards Luncheon, sponsored by the Cesar Chavez Holiday Coalition, which drew more than 200 people. The civil rights activist reminded us there is only one race – the human race – and called on us to continue working for a world where there is peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.
Your Sister’s Closet Celebrates 26 Years
One woman who came for work-ready clothing looked in the mirror and said, “I’ve never seen that person before.” Low income women who need clothing to interview for and/or start a new job are able to get a week’s wardrobe. But, more than that, they receive support & encouragement from the dedicated volunteers who make this program happen. (Click here to listen as several YSC volunteers talk about their experience with Dara Larsen on “Circles of Change.”)
The Café@the YW opens in February
Eleven women of all ages participated in this first year of a pilot “YWorks Hospitality & Culinary Job Training Program” and, under the direction of Liane Hernandez (our Director of Community Life & Executive Chef), staffed the café & catering program and welcomed more than 30,000 people to the Frances McClelland Community Center this year. One young woman in the program says, “Being here makes me feel important to others and I’m thankful for that.” Designed to be a “social enterprise,” the Café not only provides job training for low income women, it is financially self-sustaining, creating a new model for moving our mission forward. (Read more about the Café in a recent issue of Edible Baja Arizona here.)
Your Voice Gets Heard
Under the leadership of our Advocacy Committee, the YWCA Tucson has taken clear and public stands this year on a variety of issues important to women and communities of color in Arizona. In op-ed articles and public forums, the YW has called for & worked together with other community groups for immigration reform that prioritizes keeping families together and worker’s rights; marriage equality; preventing Tucson police from questioning students about their immigration status; opposing private prisons; and investing in the economic empowerment of women as a way to reduce poverty and increase economic development in our community. (Click here to read an Op-ed Article in the AZ Daily Star, co-written by Kelly Fryer and Laura Penny.)
25th Annual Women’s Leadership Academy
Forty women graduated from the Academy this year, participating in an eight-week course teaching leadership skills to help them take the next step in their career. Participants currently work at some of Tucson’s most influential employer, including the University of Arizona, Raytheon, Intuit, IBM and TEP, as well as at smaller employers in the area and as entrepreneurs. “I’ve always thought of myself as a change agent,” one graduate said. “The Women’s Leadership Academy has given me tools and concepts to help others get on board.”
Latinas Take a Seat at the Table
The YWCA Tucson is committed to helping immigrant & refugee Spanish speaking women and their families build a pathway to financial sustainability & self determination. Participants in Lider de Mi Vida, a leadership program, spoke at Tucson City Council meetings & forums this summer, as city leaders debated cutting needed services for the poor & unemployed, helped the YW host a public forum on immigration reform, and helped us co-host the only gubernatorial debate in Southern Arizona attended by both major Party candidates. These women had front row seats. “I am realizing how important it is for me to be at the table when decisions are being made,” one of them said. (Watch KGun-9’s coverage of the debate here.)
Gabby Giffords honored with 1st Annual Changemaker Award
450 women attended the 26th Annual Women’s Leadership Conference in September for keynotes, workshops and networking opportunities around the theme: Design Your Life, Do Good Business, Change the World. The highlight was hearing Gabby encourage us in a speech that was deliberate and strong. “It’s been a long, hard haul,” she said. “but I’m getting better. My spirit is as strong as ever. I’m still fighting to make the world a safer place, and you can, too.” She urged us to: “Be passionate. Be courageous. Be your best.” (Read the story as told in USA Today.)
1st Annual POP! Event
Bringing together women who are leading the way in food & fashion in Tucson, the POP! event raised money for the Women’s Center for Economic Opportunity, which is launching in 2015. A fashion show from Buffalo Exchange, led by owner Kerstin Block, held center stage. Women restaurant owners & chefs bedazzled us with culinary delights, and women bartenders mixed up special POP! cocktails just for the event. The silent auction, featuring Purses On Purpose!, offered a wide variety of items donated by local businesses. We predict this will become Tucson’s most FUN fundraiser of the year! (Click to watch our Executive Director, Kelly Fryer, talk about the POP! event and YW programs on the Morning Blend.)
Native American Women Leaders Tell Their Stories
In celebration of Native American Heritage month, the YW hosted a panel discussion and conversation called “Bridging Two Worlds: Native American Women in Leadership.” More than 100 community members attended. Each leader spoke of the challenges they have faced and encouraged us to live authentic lives, in hope and courage. Their presence testified to the power of the human spirit and the importance of community.
Laying the Groundwork for the Future
This was a transitional year for your YWCA in a lot of ways. We spent time evaluating our current programming, listening to the women we’re serving, meeting with and interviewing other agencies in the community who serve the same people we do, talking with business & government leaders, and studying best practices & innovative programs being offered by YWCAs and other organizations across the U.S. We identified programs we can stop doing, to reduce duplication of services in Tucson, and gaps that need to be filled. And we took some concrete steps that will shape the New Year. In 2014 we:
- formed a Social Enterprise Task Force, populated with some of Tucson’s most exciting business leaders & investors, to help us identify and vet business opportunities that have the potential of creating a more sustainable funding model for the organization
- gave birth to two new community wide collaborations that will work to eliminate racism and lift women out of poverty
- initiated conversations that may lead to a shared facilities arrangement with other organizations in town
- hammered out an agreement that will enable us to acquire the Women’s Business Center, a program of the Small Business Association
- revised our bylaws, to give us a more responsive, flexible governance model – and establishing ourselves as YWCA Southern Arizona
- drew up plans to launch the Women’s Center for Economic Opportunity & the Latina Leadership Initiative in 2015
We are ready to ring in the New Year!