Wednesday, October 31, 2012

November 2012 Y's Words

So many exciting things are happening here at YWCA Clark County!

October 2012 Domestic Violence Awareness Month (otherwise known as DVAM) was a huge success. I was inspired by the numerous survivors who spoke up and out about their own experiences with domestic violence. Many of whom received services from SafeChoice. We are making a difference!

We strive for our internships to be a “win” for all involved. Marty Josephson’s contributions as an intern are helping us become a more organized and efficient organization. Perhaps interning at YWCA is a good choice for you.

In 2013, we will mark the 5th Anniversary of partnership with the Classic Wines Auction. This is a unique partnership that involves four other charities. Collectively, our efforts help raise millions of dollars each year to support local nonprofits. Contributions received from the auction have been crucial in our ability to weather the recession.

Strong Women are witty, wise, and really good at weight-lifting! This is a no cost fitness program for staff and volunteers started by Kathi Wiley-Gladson. One participant summed up this group really well, “I came for the fitness; I stayed for the laughter”.

You can brighten a child’s future and give hope to families and teens this holiday season. In this issue of Our Voice you will learn how your donation can make an immediate difference in the lives of the women, children, and families we serve.

In six days our ballots are due. YWCA Clark County endorses Referendum 74 and urges you to do the same this November. Referendum 74 recognizes our friends, neighbors and co-workers have equal rights in all aspects of life, including, marriage in Washington State.

Strong Alone. Fearless Together.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Intern Spotlight: Marty Josephson

By Sharon Svec

Marty Josephson is a student at Clark College and intern at YWCA Clark County. As part of her Administrative Assistant degree, Marty is required to take a minimum of 6 credits for BTEC 199-Cooperative Work Experience. The class description calls for, “supervised on-the-job work experience in an approved job in the local community with specific learning objectives and employer evaluation.” Marty found the perfect fit at YWCA Clark County.

Ultimately, she wants to work at an organization that aligns with her values and helps the community. When she saw the Y table at Saturday in the Park, she knew it was the place for her, “I’ve had some unfortunate situations throughout my life and have had nobody to count on. So when I saw some of the things the Y did, I thought it was important for me to be a part of that.” She’s currently in her 2nd quarter of interning as an administrative assistant and is hopeful to return for one more quarter of on-the-job work experience.

Marty, hard at work.
Since she began, Marty has had a range of experiences to learn from. She has worked with Accounting, SafeChoice, and the Department of Development and Communications doing tasks such as file management, formatting large documents, creating powerpoint presentations and implementing website revisions. Marty said she finds the experience gratifying, “When you go to a job or to school and you feel like you just don’t want to go in, then you know you shouldn’t be there. I never feel that way. I look forward to coming here.” Y staff feels just as thrilled about working with Marty. Grant writer, Megan Dixon stated, “After our first meeting, it was obvious that she has a true passion for helping others and giving back to our community. Her blend of cheerfulness and capability make her a joy to work with.”

YWCA Clark County is dedicated to making every experience empowering, not only for those they serve, but also for the staff, volunteers and interns who work so hard to keep the organization functioning at optimum capacity. “It’s really important to me that interns feel like they’re gaining something from the experience as well, which is why I encourage supervisors to help interns set professional development goals and provide consistent feedback on how they are progressing toward those goals,” said Stephanie Barr, Director of Volunteer Development who serves as an ambassador for interns and volunteers.

Whether you are or are not a student, if you’re interested in expanding your skill set and working in an empowering environment that serves the community, YWCA Clark County may be the place for you. Take it from Marty, who said, “I think YWCA has a very good understanding of internships, and helping people succeed in their life and on the job.”

To learn more about internships at YWCA Clark County visit our website, or contact Stephanie Barr at 360 906 9112 or

Endorse Equality: Approve Referendum 74!

By Susan LaLone

YWCA Clark County endorses Referendum 74 and urges you to do the same this November. Referendum 74 recognizes our friends, neighbors and co-workers have equal rights in all aspects of life, including, marriage in Washington State.

YWCA’s long time mission of promoting justice and freedom for all is truly reflected in this referendum, which has already been passed into law by the state legislature. Courts and commissions in a number of states have found that civil unions for gay and lesbian couples do not provide the same rights as the legal bond of marriage. While some of the legal rights married couples take for granted are incorporated into civil unions, this type of treatment only serves to invite and encourage unequal treatment of same sex couples and their children.

In the 1954 case Brown vs. the Board of Education the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that separate but equal in education is not equal. Courts in California and Connecticut have found the same applies in matters of marriage. While civil unions were a big step forward in legitimizing a couple’s legal status, these courts have found this type of differentiation is harmful to all involved.  The Connecticut court goes so far as to state civil unions and marriage are “by no means equal.”

Commissions in several states also find that the differences between marriage and civil unions can allow economic, health and social harms to exist. Commissions in both New Jersey and Vermont have findings on record that show by allowing employers the option of imposing federal rules (as stated in the Defense of Marriage Act) rather than New Jersey Civil Union rules, retirement benefits have been applied to legal partners differently than married couples. This allows economic harm to survivors. These states also find emergency health care providers often need lengthy explanations as to legal differences between civil unions and marriage before allowing legal partners access to injured or ill partners in medical emergencies. Put yourself in the position of being emotionally distraught by the injury or illness of your spouse or partner, then imagine having to explain your relationship and prove it is legal before being given any information as to their condition. Finally, social sanctions are often applied to children of civil unions when school mates discover their parents are not legally married. This often takes the form of bullying.

Within the past several months two American icons of the space program have passed away. Neal Armstrong’s widow and family will receive full benefits from a grateful nation for his deeds. Sally Ride, another equally important figure in the nation’s astronaut corps passed. Her long time partner will not receive equal benefits or recognition.

It is time to end this type of inequity, and Washington State voters can begin the change. With your ballot now available, take the time to complete it and mail it off. It is our turn to vote to ensure same sex couples receive the same treatment traditional marriage gives everyone else. Please stand with YWCA Clark County and vote to approve Referendum 74.  It is simply the right thing to do.

Those who wish to celebrate with us may join us and the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus at a post election celebration as we welcome elected officials, community leaders, and guest speakers to offer their remarks on the outcome of Referendum 74 and the national movement toward marriage equality. We will explore the ramifications of the November 6 General Election for the LGBTQ community. As always, the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus will lift up its voice and sing inspirational anthems.

Uniting to Support Survivors

By Lee Watts

A recent study by Portland’s Volunteers of America – Home Free Program reported that 38% of domestic violence survivors in abusive relationships become homeless, while 46% reported staying in an abusive relationship to avoid becoming homeless.

On October 23rd, United Way of the Columbia-Willamette sought to address this issue and more. They hosted a Survivor Housing Summit, which brought together landlords, homeless service providers, domestic violence service providers and government officials from the four county area to discuss the need for safe and affordable housing for domestic violence survivors.

Planning for the United Way Survivor Housing Summit began two years ago, following a local summit where 130 local community leaders identified housing as one of the largest barriers for survivors seeking safety.  As the Director of SafeChoice Community Services at YWCA Clark County, I had the opportunity to represent Clark County on the Survivor Housing Leadership Team.

The Survivor Housing Summit focused on identifying the barriers survivors currently encounter when attempting to access housing and finding possible solutions to overcome or lessen those barriers. Participants from each county were asked to articulate barriers, identify existing resources, envision a better system and create a plan of action. Clark County participants identified a need for increased collaboration around gaps in services to domestic violence survivors. The group was also able to identify many strengths already in existence in Clark County, including a collaborative network of community partners who meet several times monthly.

I was impressed with the group of committed leaders who came to the summit on behalf of Clark County. We had a lot of challenging, intense and inspiring conversations around funding (or lack thereof), rapid re-housing, coordinated entry, community organizing around gaps in the system, systemic change, and what true collaboration looks like. I’m looking forward to keeping those conversations going. We have a great start. I know that together we can reduce the barriers for survivors seeking safe, affordable housing.

More information on the summit can be accessed through the United Way of the Columbia-Willamette website at or contact Lee Watts at

DVAM Provides Uplifting Support

By Sharon Svec and Megan Dixon

October at YWCA Clark County came dressed in purple. In recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM), the entrance of the community office was dotted with purple pumpkins, and picture frames in the halls were draped in purple and trimmed with messages of hope. Just as pink is the color of breast cancer awareness, purple is recognized in many countries as symbolic of domestic violence awareness.

Lundy Bancroft
Awareness also came in the form of events, activities, and displays throughout the community. You
may have seen a silent witnesses or a purple light in the window of a neighbor or business. These displays raise awareness and urge the community to be involved in violence prevention. A few people shared their voice on YWCA’s website. Their messages demonstrate how deeply domestic violence effects individuals and families, and emphasizes why it must be stopped. The SafeChoice Domestic Violence Program began the month with a lighting ceremony on October 4th, and ended with two workshops by renowned presenter Lundy Bancroft October 30th.

SafeChoice and YWCA are supported through government and non-government grants as well as from dedicated volunteers, and donors like you. In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, SafeChoice was presented with three generous grants:

  • Verizon Wireless Hopeline (sponsor of this year’s DVAM activities) awarded SafeChoice an additional grant to upgrade accommodations at our local shelter.
  • The Mary Kay Foundation generously awarded SafeChoice a grant for $20,000 to support one family-style bedroom at the shelter which will serve as a safe haven for at least six families over the course of one year.
  • The Boeing Employee Community Fund verbally awarded SafeChoice a grant to replace the shelter’s outdated security system with a new, modernized fingerprint scanning system. This will increase safety for all residents of the shelter.

YWCA expresses thanks to these grantors, and to everyone who helped during the month of October, including the many volunteers who collaborated to raise awareness. You have helped spread the message that violence has no place in our community.

Making a Milestone Memorable

By Shawna Burkholder

In less than six months, YWCA will mark the 5th anniversary of partnership with Classic Wines Auction. We have much to celebrate and invite you, our YWCA supporters, to join us in continuing to make this a successful partnership.

“Wine Working Wonders” is the name of the main auction that takes place the first Saturday each March at the Oregon Convention Center. This wine and culinary extravaganza, that Wine Spectator has ranked as one of the top ten charity wine auctions in the United States, brings 750 wine enthusiasts together in support of local children and families in need. What many do not know is that the main auction is only one of several year-round activities that support the five participating charities.

Over the past four years, YWCA Clark County has received a total of $1,195,105 in revenue through the various auction activities. With this additional revenue, we are able to continue serving survivors of domestic violence, homelessness, sexual assault, child abuse and neglect, oppression, as well as youth in foster care and incarcerated women during difficult economic times.

As with all fundraising events, the components don’t come together without a lot of hard work behind the scenes. YWCA board members and staff dedicate time to auction activities for ten months of each year!

Would you also share your time and talents by playing an active role in the success of the main auction and other supporting events? Specifically, here are the various ways you can support YWCA Clark County while being part of our 5th anniversary with Classic Wines.

Procurement: It wouldn’t be much of an auction if there weren’t items to bid on! Work with a small, yet dynamic group of people to create spectacular live-auction packages. Overall, YWCA’s goal is to have 2-3 packages at a value of $10,000 each or higher for the live auction. Other enticing items are also procured for the silent and super-silent auctions. For more information contact Lisa Bechtold, 360 906 9157 or

Volunteer: There are several options from serving on a committee with a regular meeting schedule, to helping one day only. One day opportunities include set-up for the Ambassador’s dinner at the Portland Art Museum or for the main auction at the Oregon Convention Center; helping during the auction evening or the day after to help deliver auction items. In the first year YWCA had 52 auction volunteers, and we’ve grown substantially with a total of 228 volunteers over four years. To learn more contact Stephanie Barr, 360 906 9112 or

Winemaker Dinners: Purchase tickets to attend either the fall (November 13-15, 2012) or spring (February 19-21 and 26-28, 2013) dinners. A portion of the proceeds support YWCA Clark County if you select us as your charity affiliation while registering. These dinners are open to the public and a great alternative if you are unable to attend the main auction. For more information or to purchase tickets visit

Sponsorship: There is an entire menu of sponsorship opportunities from the centerpieces, commemorative magnums, catalog, cocktail plate and, of course, several levels of table sponsorships. All sponsorships include a varying array of benefits from visibility to an invitation to the exclusive Ambassador’s dinner. For more information contact Shawna Burkholder, 360 906 9123 or

And, finally, we invite you to attend this magnificent evening. Individual tickets can be purchased through the Class Wines Auction website, or please contact Shawna Burkholder if you are interested in sitting at a table with other YWCA Clark County supporters.

Classic Wines Auction’s expanded events benefit over 44,000 children and families annually served by the five charity partners providing services, hope and opportunity to change the lives of thousands in our community.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

We DO Support Marriage Equality

Show your support for Referendum 74!

Here are some ways that you can get involved with the Approve Referendum 74 Campaign:

Signs, information and buttons are located in our lobby at 3609 Main St– free for you, program participants, and anyone who wants them!(The metal sign stands are behind the front desk – don’t forget to ask for one!)

Phone Banks and Canvassing Opportunities Basic Rights Oregon has helped to organize phone banks and canvassing opportunities here in Vancouver!

  • Saturday, October 6th 10 am to 2 pm
  • Saturday, October 27th 10 am to 2 pm
Vancouver Phone Banks
  • Thursday 10/18 6-9 First Congregational Church
  • Tuesday 10/23 6-9 First Congregational Church
  • Thursday 10/25 6-9 UU Church
  • Please RSVP with Justin Pabalate from BRO (
Sign Waving

Wednesday, October 24, 2012 3:30pm at SE Mill Plain & SE Chkalov

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Mary Kay FoundationSM Awards YWCA Clark County $20,000 Grant for Domestic Violence Prevention and Awareness

Vancouver, WA (Oct 15, 2012)— YWCA Clark County’s SafeChoice Domestic Violence Shelter serving Clark County, received a $20,000 grant from The Mary Kay FoundationSM. In observation of Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October, The Mary Kay FoundationSM awards $20,000 grants to more than 150 domestic violence shelters across the country for a total of $3 million.

The SafeChoice Shelter will use the grant to support one family-style bedroom for an entire year, ensuring that the room remains open for families escaping domestic violence. Providing this room, and the services associated with it, will help change the lives of at least six adults and 6-12 children throughout the twelve months. These individuals will have access to parenting support, peer support, and legal support during their stay in shelter, and for many of them, the support they receive will be the stepping stone needed to rebuild their lives.

“The Mary Kay FoundationSM is committed to breaking the cycle of domestic violence.” said Anne Crews, Mary Kay Inc. Vice President of Government Relations and board member for The Mary Kay FoundationSM. “Through our grants, we honor and support shelters across the country that are having a profound impact for women and children in their communities. Since 2000, we have granted $31 million to help domestic violence shelters meet their critical needs and support their ongoing community efforts.”

About The Mary Kay FoundationSM

The Mary Kay FoundationSM was created in 1996, and its mission is two-fold: to fund research of cancers affecting women and to help prevent domestic violence while raising awareness of the issue. Since the Foundation’s inception, it has awarded nearly $31 million to shelters and programs addressing domestic violence prevention and more than $18 million to cancer researchers and related causes throughout the United States. To learn more about The Mary Kay FoundationSM, visit or call 1-877-MKCARES (652-2737).

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Raising the Barr in Berlin

We’re proud to announce our director of volunteer development, Stephanie Barr, was invited to speak in Berlin on her thesis paper which focused on solidarity within a diverse feminist movement.

Stephanie presented her paper called “What Unites Us? Effective strategies for Fostering Solidarity Within a Diverse Feminist Movement” this past July at an international conference titled Collectivity Beyond Identity. The three day conference was organized by and held at the Center for Transdisciplinary Gender Studies at Humboldt-University of Berlin. It hosted 38 speakers from the US and Europe including famous feminist theorists Linda Alcoff, Linda Zerilli, and Adriana Cavarero. The base question presented by the conference was, “How might we rethink the notion of community and how can we conceive of collectivity, when the seemingly crucial aspect of collectivization – identity – has become the object of critical study?”

To learn more about Stephanie’s experience at the conference, I asked her a few questions:

How did you become interested in feminist theory?

I took some feminist philosophy courses in college that really impacted the way I view feminism. I identify more as an activist than an academic, but I think theory is really important because it informs our strategies for achieving social change. As feminist theory has evolved it has helped us better understand the role identity plays within feminism, power dynamics between feminists, and how we can become a more effective, increasingly inclusive movement. So for me feminist theory provides a framework for thinking about how I want to engage in this work.

How did you feel when you were invited to speak?

I had to apply to present at the conference, so when I heard that my paper had been accepted I was shocked and thrilled and a little intimidated. But mostly I was excited that I would have the opportunity to share my research with new people, and have the opportunity to meet other people with similar passions and learn from them.

How was your experience in Berlin, the city?

Berlin is an amazing place with a rich and complicated history. The people of Berlin have been incredibly thoughtful about not erasing the past—even the dark moments of Nazi Germany—but also looking towards the future with eyes wide open. I biked along what remains of the Berlin wall, covered in political graffiti, then relaxed on a sandy beach along the riverbank, just on the other side of the wall. I never knew what to expect. It is a unique mix of past and present, urban but integrated with nature. It’s diverse and has a relatively young and creative population, so for me that environment was fun and invigorating.

How was your experience at the conference?

The conference was stimulating and challenging, and at times overwhelming. As I said, I consider myself more of an activist than an academic, and feminist theory encompasses so many different disciplines that there was a lot of new information for me to take in. But it was also really inspiring to hear other feminist theorists present research about their passions and their visions for the future of feminism. Ultimately the conference was focused on feminist collective identity, so everyone was genuinely interested in how we can motivate more people to feel like they belong to the feminist movement. That gave the conference a great energy, I think.

What was your favorite part of the conference?

I enjoyed sharing my research. The big fear in academia is that no one cares what you’re doing and no one will ever read your research once you finish. So just getting to engage with other people and hear their feedback was exciting. A woman who works in Sweden for the European Women’s Lobby asked to read my thesis, and that felt incredible.

I also really enjoyed a talk on Jewish queer poetry presented by a woman from Israel. It made me think about what creates a sense of belonging, and how powerful it can be to rediscover and celebrate your identity within a community that made you feel unseen in the past.

Will you be presenting your paper again in the future?

Not exactly that paper, but I’m investigating ways to present my research here at the Y. I’m so grateful to work somewhere that recognizes the connection between my research and the work that we do. It would also be great to continue using it to develop concrete strategies that organizations can put into practice. My ultimate goal is to be able to write a short paper on specific strategies non-profits could use to explore the issues of diversity and solidarity within their organizations. I think the research applies beyond feminist organizations because it’s really about doing coalition work and what that brings up for people.

Were there any speakers or topics there that you were particularly excited about?

It was a real honor to hear some of the keynote speakers present their work. One remark that has stayed with me was shared by Linda Zerilli. She said that feminism keeps trying to devise the perfect theory to address power imbalances, and no perfect theory exists. There are strategies for dealing with power dynamics in practice, but there is no single theory that will solve all of these problems. I really appreciated hearing that because I think striving for perfection is great, but expecting perfection can make us miss the huge strides we’re making and actually become an obstacle to moving forward.

What new or exciting concepts did you walk away with?

One of the other US presenters on my panel researched how multiracial Black youth form a collective identity with their peers in school. Her presentation expanded my understanding of some of the challenges people who identify as multiracial might experience, particularly during their teen years when so many are seeking understanding and acceptance. It was another reminder of how complex and personal identity is for each of us.

Would you do it again? 

I would, although most likely with new research. It was an incredible learning experience to meet feminists from so many different parts of the world and hear about the research they’re conducting. I definitely think the experience of sharing ideas with people who have similar passions is worthwhile.

What advice do you have for aspiring feminist theorists?

You may not know how you’re going to apply it once you graduate, but if you can find the funding and make the time, the degree is worthwhile and can lead you to new opportunities. Choose to research topics that have some practical application because that’s how you can really make an impact. And finally, even if you research the worst results of sexism, it helps to focus on solutions. One of my mentors once told me “you can’t work towards a better world if you don’t believe it’s possible.” Retaining that optimism is essential. It makes all the difference to nurture your hope and to remember that there is a whole movement of people committed to the same goals. That, above all, is what I get from participating in feminist communities of all kinds, and that’s why I wanted to study feminist solidarity. I hope that anyone committed to gender based justice can find a place to belong, because there is so much potential in our collective power. Like we say at the Y, strong alone, fearless together.

Volunteer Spotlight: Rick Sievers

After separating himself from volunteer and social service work for over a decade, Rick Sievers has found happiness volunteering with YWCA’s Sexual Assault Program.  Rick has been volunteering with YWCA for about a year and a half and said he finds the work healing. A survivor of childhood sexual abuse, Rick felt he wanted to help, just as he had been helped. He also recognized that men are usually the aggressors. As a volunteer, he wanted to find opportunities that were rewarding to him, yet sensitive to the needs of the survivors. Group facilitation was the answer.

Rick is currently co-facilitating two groups offered by the Sexual Assault Program: the journaling group and the men’s group. He’s always found journaling to be a great benefit to his own recovery and wants to share his “$5 therapist” with other survivors. “My journal is like a friend,” said Rick. “I can write whatever I want in it. I don’t have to have correct punctuation. I don’t have to be politically correct. I don’t have to be kind or nice… but I still am,” he added with a smile. The journaling group is for women 21 and older who have been affected by sexual assault. Attendees do not have to say they’ve been assaulted, or that they’ve been a survivor.  During the group sessions, Rick wants to help people find safety within themselves and beyond; “Can we access that safe place within ourselves through journaling, and can we find someone who can support us in our lives?”
Laurie Schacht, SAP Director sits with Rick Sievers.

The men’s group is available to males 18 and older who have been affected in any way by sexual assault. It’s a 5 week forum for men to make connections with each other and to discuss what it’s like to be a male in our society. In Rick’s experience, the expectation was that, “You’re not allowed to have feelings. You gotta be tough.” Societal expectations like these can be compounded for those affected by sexual assault. Rick sees this opportunity as a time to address the impact of those expectations and to provide a space when men can connect, during a time when men may feel isolated from each other.

Rick says he will always be in the process of healing. He recalls more than 15 years ago when he was a social worker, “I would come home anxious and depressed. I would just lie on the floor and stare at the ceiling for hours. It felt like I put the cart in front of the horse, in some way.” He quit social work in ’96 and went to massage school, finding it to be a great way to start re-inhabiting his body. It helped him to be comfortable with safe touch, and to be comfortable as a male. After his partner died in 2005, Rick’s memories flooded back into his life. He sought therapy and joined a group. He found employment as a butler, which allowed him to really focus on healing. After 12 years of working as a butler, he retired, bought a farm, and turned on his radio. “I heard something about the sex scandal in the church, and I thought, ‘this isn’t about sex, this is about rape.’ I wanted to do something about it. I thought ‘maybe I could participate and help some way.’” And so, the volunteering began.

Rick knew when he met Laurie and the other staff at the Sexual Assault Program that he made the right choice. While going through training, he started to see a whole other dynamic at YWCA that he would be navigating: being a male in an agency whose mission is to empower women and eliminate racism. “As a male, consider why you want to volunteer here: Is to be a human being, to explore your own life, to really be of service, or is it to protect women and children?” said Rick. For him, it’s about focusing on human kindness, “Men often see themselves in a protector role, but what are you saying about women by saying you want to protect them?” As a male, he thinks it’s most important to be yourself, but to also be very open to new ideas. He said the training and workshops opportunities offered at YWCA have really helped him to explore himself and continue his journey of healing. Rick said, quite eloquently, “If you’re gunna volunteer, this is the place to do it, but don’t do it for somebody else, do it with somebody else.”

If you’re interested in volunteering, contact Stephanie Barr, Director of Volunteer Development at 360 906 9112 or To learn more about the two groups Rick will start co-facilitating this month, contact us at 360 696 0167, or view the flyers online: Journaling Group, Men’s Group.

Be the Change with Naomi Tutu

Be The Change, Every Day

Every day activism is a movement that is gathering momentum around the world. To be an every day activist means that you belong to a community of people who are dedicated to taking individual every day actions to help change the world for the better.  We are that community.

Act today by registering to attend the 18th annual YWCA benefit luncheon where Naomi Tutu will speak to the understanding how our actions – or inactions – affect all with whom we come in contact and ourselves.  Tutu encourages us to focus on our shared humanity in order to build a just world.

The challenges of growing up black and female in apartheid South Africa is the foundation of Tutu’s life as an activist for human rights.  Those experiences taught her that our whole human family loses when we accept situations of oppression, and how the teaching and preaching of hate and division injure us all.

A Leader Social Change

YWCA’s Social Change Program is dedicated to preventing racism and other forms of oppression in our community through education and support. Presentations at area schools  increases youth civic engagement to eliminate racism and oppression, creates respectful school environments and builds inclusive communities. Workshop leaders assert that when we engage in the most challenging conversations we create amazing opportunities for growth and change together.

YWCA also works to eliminate racism and other forms of oppression through the education and advocacy provided in our seven programs and volunteer training. Resources for eliminating racism and oppression are available by contacting YWCA Clark County.  We encourage all to take action as an ally against oppression on an individual, community, organizational and institutional level.

Naomi Tutu, Advocate for Change

Naomi Tutu is a lifetime advocate of human rights. Daughter of Bishop Desmond Tutu, she was born in apartheid South Africa, but later lived in Lesotho, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Tutu served as a development consultant in West Africa and coordinated programs for race and gender awareness at the African Gender Institute at the University of Cape Town. She is a consultant to two human rights organizations, the Spiritual Alliance to Stop Intimate Violence (SASIV) and the Foundation for Hospices in Sub-Saharan Africa (PHSSA). Tutu has led workshops for conflict resolution and issues of race and racism, as well as women’s retreats through her organization, Sister Sojourner.

Her professional experience ranges from being a development consultant in West Africa to being program coordinator for programs on race & gender and gender-based violence in education at the African Gender Institute at the University of Cape Town. In addition Tutu has taught at the University of Hartford, University of Connecticut, and Brevard College in North Carolina. She served as program coordinator for the historic Race Relations Institute at Fisk University, and was a part of the Institute’s delegation to the World Conference Against Racism in Durban.

Accepting the Challenge

Naomi has been challenged to follow her own path in building a better world. She has taken up the challenge and channeled the opportunities she has been given to raise her voice as a champion for the dignity of all.

Will you accept the challenge?

Domestic Violence Has No Place in Our Community

The statistics are startling: One in four women will be the victim of domestic violence at some point in her lifetime, and, on average, three women are killed every day at the hands of a current or former intimate partner. In the past ten years, 359 people were killed by their abuser in Washington State alone.

YWCA Clark County’s SafeChoice Program is actively working in our community to bring awareness and support to victims of domestic violence. All year long we share the strong message that “Domestic Violence Has No Place in Our Community.”

The economic downturn has had a devastating effect on local programs working to serve survivors of abuse. Reports of domestic violence are increasing, while funding to support survivors are decreasing. According to the 2012 Mary Kay Truth About Abuse Survey, nearly 8 out of ten domestic violence shelters nationwide reported an increase in women seeking help, while the vast majority experienced decreases in funding.

Despite tremendous challenges, domestic violence shelters served nearly 70,000 victims in one day alone, according to the latest National Network to End Domestic Violence Domestic Violence Counts. In 2011, YWCA’s SafeChoice shelter provided 8,389 bed-nights to individuals fleeing domestic violence. More than three out of four domestic violence survivors who sought support groups, counseling, supportive services and legal advocacy found these services to be “very helpful,” the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence and the University of Connecticut School of Social Work reported.

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Communities across the country will mourn for those whose lives were taken by domestic violence, celebrate the tremendous progress victim advocates have made over the years, and connect with one another with a true sense of unity to end domestic violence.

YWCA Clark County will host a number of activities for the public throughout the month of October to raise awareness about domestic violence in our community.  Please join us to show that you also believe that domestic violence has NO place in our community.

YWCA Supports Ref 74

By Dena Horton, Public Policy Committee Chair

As a 501(c)3, YWCA Clark County is prohibited from supporting political candidates.  However, the law does permit for the support or opposition of issues. As you know, on February 13, 2012, Governor Chris Gregoire signed legislation legalizing marriage for all families in the State of Washington.  The elected officials of Washington chose to make our state the 7th state to legalize marriage for all of its citizens.  Almost immediately, several groups began gathering signatures and filed to have the issue brought before the citizens of Washington State via the initiative and referendum process.  As a result, the people of Washington State, not just the elected officials, will have the opportunity to vote this November on Referendum 74 to uphold the same sex marriage law or overturn it.

YWCA’s mission is to eliminate racism, empower women, and promote peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all. This mission and the core values it represents easily lends itself to support marriage for all people. YWCA Clark County’s public policy statement on oppression is simply, “Oppression is the dominance of one group over another, resulting in hardship and injustice.”

When government structures are formed and operated in a manner that institutionalizes discrimination against a segment of its citizens, that government system becomes a form of institutionalized oppression.  Action must be taken to correct the system and allow all citizens to be treated fairly.  That is the main reason Governor Gregoire signed the bill into law – to require Washington State government to treat all of its citizens equally.

If a person resides in Washington State, abides by the law and pays taxes, that person is accorded certain rights and benefits as a citizen of Washington including the right to marry and have that marriage recognized by the state government and its agencies. However, if a person resides in Washington State, abides by the law, pays taxes, and that person is LGBTQ, the State of Washington and its agencies should not be allowed to discriminate against this citizen based on their sexual orientation and deny that person the rights and benefits the state accords to other citizens.  It is about justice, equality, dignity, and eliminating a form of institutional oppression.

In addition to YWCA Clark County, there are other organizations such as Washington United for Marriage and Equal Rights Washington that are mobilizing at the grass roots level across the entire to support Referendum 74 in the November election. Ty Stober, the Board Chair of Equal Rights Washington, lives in Vancouver and stated, “The LGBT community in Southwest Washington is so grateful to YWCA Clark County for their courageous leadership in the fight for human dignity. It is such an honor to be partner with them in the campaign to Approve Referendum 74 and guarantee the freedom to marry for all of our families.”  Over the next few weeks, YWCA Clark County will be implementing an action plan to more visibly demonstrate support for Referendum 74. Be on the look out for ways you can help  support Referendum 74 and if you have any questions, contact Natalie Wood at 360 906 9137 or

What is VAWA and Why Does it Matter?

By Sharon Svec

The Violence Against Women Act (or VAWA) was initially first signed into law on September 13, 1994 by President Clinton.  This milestone marked the increased acknowledgement of domestic violence as a public health and human rights concern both in the U.S. and internationally, and at last, a federal response to national grassroots efforts urging legislation to specifically address domestic violence and sexual assault.  The good news is that VAWA has been reauthorized twice since ’94: once in 2000 and again in 2005.

The 1994 law accomplished many things – it established the U.S. Office on Violence Against Women;  established mechanisms for a coordinated community response to domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking crimes; strengthened federal penalties for repeat sex offenders, and included a federal law to prevent offenders from using a victim’s past sexual conduct against them during a rape trial. The law also required states and territories to enforce protection orders issued by other states, tribes and territories; created legal relief for battered immigrants and allowed victims to seek civil rights remedies for gender-related crimes. Finally, VAWA provided grants for law enforcement training, battered women shelters and assistance for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault amounting to $1.6 billion.

The 2000 reauthorization emphasized assistance to victims identified as immigrant, elderly, disabled and those affected through dating violence. It also expanded interstate stalking laws to include cyber stalking. President Bush signed the 2005 reauthorization, which instituted at least six new government programs, and included an increased emphasis on abetting violence against Native Americans.

After all of this progress, now, in 2012, we find that VAWA reauthorization has been held up in Congress since April of this year when the Senate and House passed different versions of the bill.  While each version contains many similarities, the one proposed by the U.S. Senate makes additional efforts to ensure services to same-sex couples, American Indians and immigrants.

Groups like the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) and representatives like U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) believe that Congress must work together, as they have previously on VAWA, to agree on a funding bill to be signed by the President this year. On August 15, Senator Patty Murray held a roundtable discussion with local agencies and domestic violence survivors at YWCA Clark County Vancouver, Washington.  Senator Murray has been traveling the country collecting input from survivors, and advocacy agencies like the YWCA – those at the front lines who will be impacted the most by a continued delay in reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

Looking back, much has improved since the passing of the first VAWA in 1994. All states now have laws making stalking a crime and have strengthened rape laws. The number of people killed by an intimate partner has decreased 34% for women and 57% for men. Also research from the National Task Force to End Sexual Violence Against Women shows that VAWA saved $12.6 billion in net averted social costs over a six-year period.

The reauthorization of VAWA would build upon successes like these, and continue to break the cycle of violence within our culture. Senator Murray, along with other Democrats, is focused on improving protection for immigrants, the LGBTQ community and tribal community members. Other components that have been proposed are:  streamlining programs, increasing accountability, supporting community-based response and direct service, enhancing criminal justice responses to sexual assault, strengthening housing protection for victims and providing services and prevention programs for young people.

While VAWA has significantly improved protection and service for victims/survivors, agencies like YWCA Clark County are experiencing considerable gaps in funding. This is particularly challenging because domestic violence has been reported by 51% more people since prior to the Act. Funding has not kept up with this increase in reporting by courageous victims and survivors. In 2010, an NNEDV survey found that while more than 70,000 victims are served daily by domestic violence programs, there are over 9,500 daily unmet requests for services nationwide. In addition, a 2009 survey by the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence shows that 25% of rape crisis centers have a waiting list for crisis services, 61% have 3 or fewer staff, and 56% have had to reduce staff due to funding cuts.

YWCA Clark County’s Sexual Assault and SafeChoice Programs rely on funding from VAWA. As VAWA awaits agreement in Congress, an average of 6,300 people are raped and/or physically assaulted daily by a current or former partner, and an average of more than 42,000 children per day  are exposed to domestic violence.

September 2012 Y's Words

Be the change every day.  This is what our volunteers, staff, and board strive for…everyday.

We believe that when we examine our own individual beliefs and cultural values we can gain insights that help us make better decisions for ourselves, our families, and our communities.

YWCA Clark County will host a number of activities for the public throughout the month of October to raise awareness about domestic violence in our community.  Please join us to show that you also believe that domestic violence has NO place in our community.

We’re proud to announce our director of volunteer development, Stephanie Barr, was invited to speak in Berlin on her thesis paper which focused on solidarity within a diverse feminist movement.  She is finding creative ways to incorporate her research into various aspects of the organization.

Please take the time to learn more about our wonderful volunteer, Rick Seivers.  Rick said the training and workshops opportunities offered at YWCA have really helped him explore himself and continue his journey of healing.

Because we love our volunteers, all YWCA volunteers are invited to attend our upcoming movie night.

When: Thursday, October 25th from 6-8:30pm
Where: the Community Room at 3609 Main St. in downtown Vancouver
What: A showing of the film “Offside”

Find out why the Y’s Care Children’s Program and the Independent Living Skills Program are “Keen” on shoes!

Our Public Policy Committee has been busy.  We were grateful to host Senator Patty Murray for a round table discussion regarding the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

We have also been discussing and taking action on Referendum 74.  We believe in marriage equality.  We believe all couples should have the to right marry.  We believe in peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all. Please join us in APPROVING Referendum 74.

Strong Alone. Fearless Together.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Y's Words July 2012

Be the Change. This is what we strive to do every day at YWCA Clark County. We are fortunate to have many supporters who also strive to be the change. Those supporters include volunteers, community members, and local associations and foundations.

June 26th was an evening to be inspired. The spotlight shown on the Val Joshua Racial Justice Award winners and the Youth Social Justice Award winner. The recipients were honored and celebrated at our third annual Social Change Celebration event. The event was diverse, inclusive, and fun!

Volunteer Blayne Amson has become such a fixture at our community office, it’s hard to remember a time that he wasn’t here. He has made a huge impact on our program participants and staff. We are very fortunate he is a member of our YWCA community.

The Community Foundation for Southwest Washington continues to support us in helping change lives in Clark County. The Sexual Assault Program was awarded $10,000 to provide life saving services to victims/survivors of sexual assault.

We would not be able to work toward eliminating racism and empowering women without the backing of our community members. This newsletter will provide you with information on “third-party” fundraisers.  Being the change and throwing a party do not have to be separate and distinct.

We are pleased to be working with YWCAs from around the state on public policy issues. The Firesteel website is focused on statewide policy efforts. By collaborating, YWCAs in Washington State have a much stronger voice. It’s another effort that helps us be “fearless together”.

Cheers to becoming the change this summer!


YWCA Clark County Board Elects New Officers

On June 27th, the YWCA Clark County Board of Directors held its annual election of officers and appointed a new member. Megan Vaughn succeeds Kelly Walsh as the new president. Walsh will remain on the board as immediate past president. New officers are as follows:

Alan Ford
VP of Board Development

Kevin Weaver
VP of Fund Development

Dena Horton
VP of Public Policy

Greg Kimsey

Kelly Nolen

Anne Borus was elected as a new board member. Borus is currently a full-time mother living in Vancouver with her husband and two daughters.  After a successful tennis career, Borus earned a Bachelor of Business Administration in 2002 and a Masters of Accounting in 2003. She was employed by PricewaterhouseCoopers as a CPA, and then turned her career towards marketing, working for Fenway Sports Group and Adidas.

The board of directors currently seats 17 individuals from the Clark County area who serve as ambassadors of the organization, and support the mission of YWCA Clark County through advocacy and policymaking. Additional members include: Don Gladson, Dustin Klinger, Susan LaLone, Emily Oliva, Cathy Ramer David Reiter, Kayla Tiano, and Sarah Theberge. The YWCA Clark County Board of Directors welcomes new applicants who align with our mission to eliminate racism, empower women and promote peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all to call 360 906 4303 and learn more about the application process.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

YWCA's Join Forces and Become Fearless Together

“Strong alone, fearless together” is a phrase that you will often hear from Executive Director, Sherri Bennett. She, like many executives and staff throughout the region recognized a need for regional YWCAs to come together and become fearless with our work in public policy.

Over the past several months, the Public Policy Committee has begun collaborating with YWCAs throughout the state of Washington. This collaborative is called Firesteel – an online endeavor to join the voices of YWCAs across the state in our policy efforts. Together with YWCAs across the country, we are dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.

The Washington State partnership team consists of liaisons from eight YWCAs in different areas throughout the state – Clark County, Wenatchee, Walla Walla, Yakima, Kitsap County, Pierce County, Bellingham, and Seattle-King-Snohomish.

On the Firesteel website each organization maintains an association page that focuses on local activity. You can see our page highlighting our ILS Program here.

This year, the overarching goal of statewide policy efforts is focused on housing and homelessness. The YWCAs of Washington State not only provide direct service to those vulnerable or experiencing homelessness, but proactively engage in policy advocacy through Firesteel to address the policies that can either limit or improve our services and resources for those that are vulnerable to homelessness. Similarly, we maintain programming, like the Family Unification Program highlighted on our association page, which works to prevent homelessness locally.

In our work with Firesteel, we aim to connect the policy dots. We will share the complexity and humanity behind institutional barriers and show the impact of these institutional barriers on our community.

Party with a Purpose

Every year, many generous people hold fundraisers, such as book drives, dinners and walkathons, on behalf of local non-profits.   If you have the interest and resources, we invite you to consider holding a fundraiser to benefit YWCA Clark County.

These types of fundraisers, hosted by a person or group to benefit a cause, are frequently referred to as ‘third-party’ fundraisers.  A key component that distinguishes these events as third-party is that they are organized and held by an individual or group that assumes full fiduciary responsibility and provides all logistical support for the event.  It is not a fundraiser that is planned by the non-profit for its own gain.

Recently, YWCA Clark County has benefited from several very public fundraisers.  Our thanks to:

  • Beaches Restaurant’s “Cashback for Kids Day” benefiting Y’s Care Children’s Program
  • Salmon Creek Kiwanis held a concert with funds supporting three YWCA programs
  • Vancouver Rotary’s annual Festival of Trees raises money that is given as grants to support local charities
  • New Seasons and Soroptimist’s sold strawberry shortcake on Mother’s Day to support the SafeChoice domestic violence shelter
  • The Clark County Bar Association designated proceeds from their annual Barrister’s Ball to support SafeChoice

Big or small, any activities you pursue to support the services provided by YWCA are greatly appreciated.  To ensure the best possible outcome for your event, we have developed event guidelines and an event application to help keep your fundraiser aligned with our mission. Always contact us, or any non-profit for that matter, before beginning your fundraising efforts.  Early communication will ensure a successful fundraiser.

The event application must be approved before you hold your event so please submit it as early as possible in the planning process. It takes approximately 5 business days for approval.  It is vital that we collaborate in a consistent and coordinated fashion so that we can all help enrich the lives of people served by YWCA Clark County.

Resources YWCA Clark County can provide:

  • Guidelines for third-party fundraising activities
  • Printed materials about YWCA in general or about a specific program
  • A YWCA representative to speak at your event (if appropriate)
  • A Frequently Asked Questions tip sheet
  • Professional event staff guidance
Because of our limited staff, we cannot personally participate in each event that is proposed, but we can provide initial input and materials about YWCA at your event.

We are excited to partner with you.  If you have a fundraiser idea, don’t wait… contact Event & Development Specialist Lisa Bechtold today at 360 906 9157 or email her at

Thank you for your interest in raising funds to benefit YWCA Clark County.  We greatly appreciate your desire to support our mission of eliminating racism and empowering women.

Speak Up! Speak Out!

Will you “speak up! speak out! and be the change?” This is what the Social Change Program posed to guests attending the Community Celebration on Tuesday, June 26th.  Three women were honored at this 3rd annual event which celebrates Clark County’s diverse and active community. City of Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt welcomed over 80 attendees to the event, who enjoyed a variety of cultural presentations, a live DJ, and some great networking. Michelle Hurdle-Bradford, social change program manager, works hard to be inclusive to all members of the community and was happy to see so much diversity at the event, “I was pleased to look around the room to see community members of all ages, colors and life styles.”

Named for Val Joshua’s life-long commitment to eliminating racism, the awards were presented this year to three women who have demonstrated leadership working to eliminate racism and promote peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all people. The Val Joshua Racial Justice Award was presented to Kellie Henderson for her involvement in gang prevention and intervention in Clark County as well as her volunteer efforts in the community. Elizabeth Ruiz, an advocate for civil rights and immigration reform, received honorable mention. The Val Joshua Youth Social Justice Award recognizes high school students whose work has made a positive impact in Clark County and was presented to Maribel Sanchez from Mountain View High School for empowering Latino youth in the community at both the institutional and peer levels. Sanchez received a $500 scholarship from the Donna Roberge Scholarship Fund.

The Social Change Program is dedicated to preventing racism and other forms of oppression in our community through education and support. The Community Celebration increases civic engagement and rewards leadership in social change efforts. In addition, the Social Change Program hosts a number of workshops and activities throughout the year, such as Conversations in the Community, a brown bag forum for discussion which occurs every first Monday from 11:30-1:00 pm in ywca’s community room. Contact Michelle Hurdle-Bradford at 360 906 9129 for more information on how you can be the change you want to see in your world.

Survivors of Sexual Assault Receive Support from Community Foundation

On Wednesday, June 27th, Anne Digenis and Kristen Turek from the Community Foundation for Southwest Washington presented a $10,000 grant to support the YWCA Clark County’s Sexual Assault Program. The funds will support approximately 245 hours of life-saving advocacy to approximately 30 individuals directly affected by sexual assault, and their families.

YWCA’s Sexual Assault Program is the only program in our community offering free, 24-hour advocacy for individuals affected by sexual assault. Last year, 1,124 community members found support through the program, but this number only represents those who reported the crime. According to the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault, approximately 84% of rapes are not reported. This means that many more individuals live in fear in our community.

Sexual assault is a traumatizing and violent crime with severe consequences for the victim, the family and the community. Some of these consequences include post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, depression, sexually transmitted infections, unwanted pregnancy, sleep disorders, eating disorders and suicide. With proper support, victims are able to successfully navigate through the medical exams, police reports and court proceedings so that they are not re-victimized or suffer secondary trauma.

YWCA Clark County is especially grateful to the Community Foundation for recognizing and responding to this need. Because of this generous grant, YWCA Clark County can continue providing medical advocacy, child & family advocacy, legal advocacy, and peer to peer support to those affected by sexual assault.

For more information about supporting YWCA, please contact Shawna Burkholder, Director of Development and Communications, at

Monday, May 7, 2012

Empowering Choice

Over the past several years, YWCA Clark County has adopted core values that guide the way we do things. Our core values of empowerment, diversity, teamwork, commitment, service and respect are built into our job descriptions, policies, procedures and overall structure.

Looking at one value in particular – empowerment – the Board of Directors has recently approved a few revisions to the reproductive rights policy statement for YWCA Clark County.

As an organization, we strive to model empowerment in many ways. Our SafeChoice domestic violence advocates work with individuals to identify whether or not they will choose to leave an abusive relationship. Our ILS advocates work with foster care alumni to create a future for themselves that they choose, whether that be through education, employment, or another path. The advocates in the Sexual Assault Program help victim-survivors and their families identify whether legal action is the right choice for their family. By acknowledging that each individual has the right to make choices that impact their own lives – the staff at YWCA work daily to embody the value of empowerment.

The issue of reproductive rights is truly about empowerment. One way we strive to empower women is by insisting on every woman’s individual right to make her own choices about hOer own body and reproductive health. The full policy statement approved by the board is below.

reproductive rights


YWCA Clark County is a pro-choice organization.

The issue of reproductive rights is about empowering women to be able to make decisions
about their own bodies and lives. The YWCA position on reproductive rights is based on the
following principles:


  • Reproductive choice means that every woman has the freedom to make decisions about her body that best suit her physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and economic needs, making her own health care decisions privately.
  • Women must have the freedom to decide whether or not to have sex, become pregnant, and have children to be truly empowered.
  • They have the right to be informed about and have access to all legal contraceptive and reproductive options.
  • These decisions must be each woman’s without government interference or pressure from other individuals or groups.


  • In order to make reproductive decisions, women need education about the full range of reproductive health options.
  • This means age-appropriate, comprehensive sex education that teaches young people about all of their reproductive health choices, including information about abstinence, contraception, sexually transmitted diseases, abortion, adoption and parenthood.
  • This also means that women seeking health services should not be refused information about their health options based on a health care provider’s religious or moral beliefs.


  • All women must have access to quality health care, including reproductive health services, regardless of their race or ethnic background, socioeconomic status, age or where they live.
  • It is especially important that women and girls who have been raped or sexually assaulted have access to a full range of reproductive health care options, that they receive sensitive and 
  • understanding medical treatment and advocacy, and that they are supported in whatever personal decisions they may make.

YWCA Clark County supports policies that affirm these principles, and it opposes efforts to reduce or deny reproductive choices.

policy statement on reproductive rights

YWCA Clark County defines pro choice as every woman and girl having the following rights:

  • access to comprehensive quality care,
  • the education to make informed decisions about her reproductive health,
  • the freedom to make decisions about her reproductive health care based on her own beliefs and values.

Volunteers Phyllis and Bob Burger

Maintaining a shelter is not an easy job. It takes a team of dedicated individuals. YWCA’s SafeChoice Domestic Violence Shelter has 10 rooms, private and shared bathrooms, a shared kitchen, pantry, donation closet, laundry facilities and shared spaces for children, youth and adults. With an average of 25 residents living in the shelter daily, you can only imagine the degree of regular service and maintenance that’s needed to sustain a well-functioning operation.

Debbi Cawthon, Director of Shelter Services leads the charge with the staff support of Beth Landry, Shelter Facilities Specialist and Melissa Heiskari, Facilities Coordinator. Because the responsibilities these individuals have reach far beyond building and inventory maintenance, they rely on the dedicated service of volunteers to help fill the gap.
Phyllis Burger

Phyllis and Bob Burger have been filling that gap since 2007. In the last 5 years, Phyllis has found a perfect fit at the shelter. “I don’t mind doing odd jobs that no one else wants to do,” Phyllis said. She spends 10-20 hours a week there, where most of her work is focused on organizing the constant stream of donations received. Yet, her commitment doesn’t stop there. When Phyllis isn’t sorting diapers and blankets, she’s painting, doing laundry, or organizing the pantry. Occasionally she’ll discover a broken chair, ruffled blinds or a faulty door knob. Most businesses would trash the item and buy a new one, but for the shelter this is not always the best option. That’s when Phyllis calls on Bob. As Bob sees it, “She’s always finding volunteer types of jobs to do, and I’m the tag-a-long.”

Bob enjoys fixing things and joins Phyllis from time to time for small projects. Most recently, the couple worked together on some projects in the building. Now, they’re looking forward to working together on painting the door frames, the elevator and maybe even some of the rooms. The work of these two is especially meaningful to shelter staff. “Phyllis and Bob seem to complement each other, and they’re part of the shelter family. Like many non-profits, we’ve had some struggles, and these two consistently step up and support the program,” said Landry.

Besides the work they do at the shelter, Phyllis and Bob are known throughout the community as committed volunteers. They’re both involved in FISH of Vancouver and their local church. Phyllis also volunteers for RSVP, SHIBA, Volunteer Connections and the Vancouver Food Bank. With so much experience volunteering, YWCA Clark County has utilized Phyllis’ expertise far beyond her shelter work. Stephanie Barr, Director of Volunteer Development has recently worked with her on recruitment and training efforts, “She’s willing to help in any way she can and always has a great attitude. She sees a need and offers to help. It’s wonderful!”

It seems the feeling is mutual. Phyllis says the work YWCA does is amazing and she’s especially fond of the free training sessions that YWCA offers to staff and volunteers. “I learn so much. It’s like taking a college course, and I recommend them to anyone and everyone,” said Phyllis. She especially enjoys learning about equality efforts and gaining insight on domestic violence and sex trafficking issues. “I think it’s one of the strengths of the Y that they do have good training sessions, and they do have a lot of outside people come in to lead the training.”

YWCA Clark County is grateful for the time and talents of this thoughtful and committed couple.  Their service goes above and beyond all expectations and this dedication is recognized by so many in our community. In March of this year, Phyllis received a letter of recognition on behalf of Governor Christine Gregoire and the Washington Commission for National and Community Service, congratulating her on her outstanding volunteer efforts in the community. She was invited to receive an award at the Executive Mansion in Olympia and to attend a public recognition Salute to Volunteers at a Mariners pre-game event. We congratulate Phyllis for her well-deserved award and also extend congratulations to her husband Bob, who has also done so much to support this organization, and our community.

Classic Wines is a Classic Win

We often are asked why YWCA Clark County participates in the annual Classic Wines Auction after more than a decade of hosting its own auction. Although the name and venue are different, the mission of this fundraiser has not changed.

What began as a small group of friends exchanging wine from personal collections to raise funds for women, children and families, became the Classic Wines Auction; one of the top ten charity wine auctions in the United States according to Wine Spectator magazine, prompting organizers to form a separate nonprofit entity in July 2004 supporting five Portland-based charities.

In 2008, YWCA leadership recognized that after 15 years of holding its own highly visible and successful auction, it was showing signs of strain. In our final year, it was more difficult to get attendees, items and sponsors. There were so many more events than there used to be – more non-profits raising money – that there was auction fatigue throughout the philanthropic community.

Around this time Classic Wines Auction asked YWCA Clark County to apply to be one of their partnership charities. YWCA leadership thought it was a good opportunity and good timing with the way things were trending.

Classic Wines Auction partners with non-profit organizations with the following characteristics: mission compatibility, effective organizational management, sound financial practices, Board-led fundraising, sustainability, and a solid volunteer network. The opportunity to marry our fundraising efforts with an organization that could widen our financial base was a great fit.

YWCA plays an active role in the success of the main auction and other supporting events. We offer opportunities for event underwriting, table sponsorships, procurement and attendance. Because of this, our staff, volunteer base and time is only one fourth the investment of our own auction. By having an organizing charity take the lead on logistics, YWCA does not have to secure venues, caterers, florists and a number of other items required to make an event this size flow smoothly.
The “Wine Working Wonders” is the main auction that takes place the first Saturday each March. The week preceding the auction, offers nearly thirty Winemaker Dinners and other wine functions. These are open to the public and a great alternative for people unable to attend the main auction.

Our involvement at this year’s event, which raised $2.47 million, proved to be very valuable to our organization. Total revenue is divided among Class Wines Auction and the partner charities. This month, YWCA will receive $350,000 in event proceeds. Only 23% of the YWCA’s revenue comes from philanthropy giving, of which Classic Wines revenue accounts for 58%. It is clear that YWCA Clark County truly benefits from this partnership.

Young Women Honored for Service and Leadership

On May 6, 2012 YWCA Clark County honored ten young women from Clark County high schools at its Young Women of Achievement Honoree Tea. Award recipients were recognized for outstanding community service, achievement in academic and volunteer roles, and demonstrated leadership.

Skylar Hoss, Southwest Washington Representative for Governor Gregoire, and Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt joined Sherri Bennett, Executive Director, Kelly Walsh, Board President and Megan Vaughn, keynote speaker in congratulating the winners during the second annual Honoree Tea, held this year at the Marshall House. Four recipients received scholarships made possible by the generous support from First Independent, Donna Roberge Scholarship Fund, Soroptimist International of Vancouver, and an anonymous donor.

Award recipients were Hannah Barclay, Miranda Bean, Chelsea Christian, Sabrina Sears, Kaleigh Supe-Klensch and Rebecca Myre. Scholarship award recipients were Annie Baker (Soroptomist International Scholarship), Hannah Chong (First Independent Scholarship), Kaitlyn Lee (Donna Roberge Fund Scholarship), and Eveling Cabello Ramirez (scholarship from anonymous donor).

“Each of the award recipients is immensely talented and dedicated. YWCA Clark County and generous scholarship donors could not be more proud to have honored their hard work. These young women are wonderful models of the Y’s mission and I know they will continue to positively impact their communities as they move forward on their journeys,“ said Megan Vaughn.

About the YWCA awards program

In 1985 YWCA created an awards program to recognize young women for their volunteer community service and leadership. Since then, YWCA has honored nearly 230 students from Clark County high schools for their efforts to build a stronger, healthier and more vibrant community. Click here to view more photos from the event.

Plant a Seed and Grow the Future

Our second annual spring campaign is focused on the great work of YWCA’s Y’s Care Children’s Program, and on how innovative curriculum like Seeds of Empathy impacts children and families by inspiring change in their personal and social lives.
We first mentioned Seeds of Empathy in our November Newsletter, providing an overview and history of the curriculum and insight on how Y’s Care came to be the 2nd in the nation to adopt this cutting-edge style of learning. For a brief review, the program was developed by Mary Gordon and had its start in Canada, and now has programs all over the world both for preschoolers and school age children. In a nutshell, the Seeds of Empathy Program goals are:

  • To foster the development of empathy and emotional literacy
  • To build social and emotional understanding
  • To reduce aggression and increase pro-social behavior
  • To develop positive attitudes toward and competencies in early literacy

We’re nearing the end of the 10 visit cycle and the kids are really enjoying watching baby Jocelyn grow and develop. She and mom visit the classroom every three weeks during a family visit. The teacher spreads out the big lavender blanket, the students sing a hello song and get down to the business of watching this amazing baby grow!

To prepare for each visit, teachers Laura and Leann each read two books from the current theme and the children complete projects related to the books. The ten themes, including feeling angry, feeling scared and getting bigger resonate with 3-5 year olds and the curriculum relates to the children’s social emotional development as well as to their early literacy learning.

A study of Gordon’s longer-running and comparable program aimed at K-8th grades, Roots of Empathy (ROE) shows the following key findings:

  • Decrease in aggression: While children in the ROE program showed decreases in aggression from pre-test to post-test, comparison children increased in aggression.
  • Creates more caring children: ROE students showed significantly better social and emotional competence than comparison children.
  • Increase in knowledge of parenting: Students in ROE programs had significantly more knowledge about how to help a baby and were more confident in their ability to be a parent.
  • Perceptions of a caring classroom environment: Students in ROE classes felt more supported by their classmates and teacher and felt more autonomous than children in the comparison groups.
  • Lasting results: Researchers found that the ROE group had reduced aggression and improved pro-social behavior immediately after completing the program and those outcomes were maintained or further enhanced over the three years after the program ended.

Seeds of Empathy was introduced in 2005 and while formal results of studies have not yet been produced, we feel the success of ROE is an indicator of the changes Seeds of Empathy is making right now in the lives of preschoolers in the Y’s Care Program.

Y’s Care doesn’t only help create change in the lives of these wonderful children, but also provides solace, confidence and inspiration to parents involved with the program. Rachel Collins is one such parent, who first entered YWCA with her two youngest children in 2010.

When Rachel left her abusive husband, she knew she needed to secure employment and housing immediately to support herself and her five children. Her biggest barrier was finding affordable day care that would permit her time to work. Rachel went looking for day care, but found so much more.

“The program saved my life; it gave me hope and faith. I now had affordable childcare and I was going to be able to work in order to provide a safe home and a good life for my children. I could finally be free and begin to heal, we were going to be alright and my children and myself were going to be something and not statistics. This was one of the best days of my life.”

Rachel is able to work at Second Step Housing, a local non-profit that helps women in troubled circumstances find affordable housing, with the comfort of knowing her children are thriving at Y’s Care. She also volunteers at YWCA Clark County, HeadStart and Second Step, and is an active advocate for legislation that supports this community.

It is this “pay it forward” type of attitude that consistently emerges from YWCA program participants whether they be 3, or 33 years old. We believe this is due to the over 70 employees and hundreds of volunteers and donors who believe in and support the innovative and inspiring programs that serve the underprivileged members of our great community.

However, programs like Y’s Care would not be possible without the supporters like you. During our spring campaign, we ask you to “grow the future” of our children and of our community by making a donation to YWCA Clark County. Donations can be made online, in person, or by mail to YWCA Clark County, 3609 Main St., Vancouver, WA 98660. Many employers will match your donation, so be sure to check with your HR representative if you think this will be an option for you.

Y's Words May 2012

Support.  It’s a wonderful thing to give and receive.  In this month’s newsletter you’ll find inspiring stories and articles regarding our volunteers, community members, and donors and their efforts to support our organization and ultimately our mission.

This season we are hoping to “grow the future” with our spring campaign.  By supporting the Y’s Care Children’s Program and our six other programs you are planting priceless “seeds” for our community’s future.

We have more individuals in our community helping to create social change than we can count, let alone encounter.  The Val Joshua Racial Justice and the Youth Social Justice Awards are two ways you can help us recognize the amazing social change efforts occurring in Clark County.  Be sure to read the article highlighting these two awards so you can nominate a deserving individual and/or group. Applications are due May 31st, 2012.

Bob and Phyllis Burger have been volunteering at our SafeChoice Domestic Violence Shelter since 2007.  In addition to spending several hours per week at the shelter, it’s not uncommon for Phyllis to attend workshops and events pertaining to eliminating racism and empowering women.  They lead by example which helps advance our mission in the best possible way.

The Young Women of Achievement Award winners were recognized this past Sunday for their leadership and volunteer efforts in their schools and their community. Learn more about these amazing young women in the following article.

YWCA Clark County is a pro-choice organization.  We strive to model choice and empowerment in many ways.  We believe in supporting and empowering women to be able to make decisions about their own bodies and lives.  YWCA has updated our reproductive rights policy statement.

We were fortunate to be able to participate once again in the Classic Wines Auction.  Due to the collective efforts of the Classic Wines Auction board and staff, generous sponsors and donors, three Portland area non-profits, and YWCA Clark County board and staff we will receive…$350,000!  This month you’ll find out how and why we became involved.

Strong Alone.  Fearless Together.


Friday, March 9, 2012

March 2012 Y's Words

As spring approaches, I’m reminded of the warmth, gratitude, and happiness we have in our hearts after receiving so much support from the community in just the past few months. Many of you have written letters to the state legislature to keep our services available despite budget cuts, and we’ve heard that these messages are making an impact. In addition, the Classic Wines Auction, our largest fundraising event, has just finished. The success of this event is all due to the volunteers, board members, donors and staff whose passion for our community goes unmatched.

Opportunities for support are blossoming all around ywca clark county. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month as well as Child Abuse and Prevention Awareness Month – both of which keep us busy with outreach and prevention. The Sexual Assault Program will have a number of activities in April including the second annual Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) art contest, while our CASA Program invites you to learn how you can help children in our community at the April 13th, “I am for the Child”, event.

Volunteer Appreciation Week is April 16-22 and our director of volunteer development, Stephanie Barr, has some amazing testimonials to share in this month’s newsletter. April is also the launch of our second annual Spring Campaign where we ask our community to continue supporting our vital services with a financial contribution. Your employer may match or double your donation. See the employer match article to learn  more.

As we look forward to more sun, warmer weather and new opportunities, I invite you to  reflect on our hallmark initiatives of racial justice  and women’s economic advancement. At the core of every YWCA nation-wide are these two initiatives and we’re looking forward to embracing them even more in the coming year.

As you  root around in your garden this spring, think about the bounty of opportunities available to grow the future of our community. Together with just a bit of water, a hint of sun, and a rich foundation we can be the change.

Be the Change: Grow the Future

In 2011, ywca clark county introduced our first spring appeal to the community and received a very warm response. At that time, we raised over $92,000 thanks to a generous match by an anonymous donor and from loyal supporters like you. These funds were distributed through the CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) Program which supports children who have been removed from their home because of abuse, neglect, or abandonment.

CASA volunteers investigate the case, monitor the child’s well-being and represent the child’s best interest in court. By applying spring appeal funds to attorney services, paralegal support, volunteer supervision and volunteer recruitment and retention, CASA was able to increase the number of children served, increase visits to foster homes, have a stronger voice in court and strengthen support for CASA volunteers.

This spring, we’re offering another opportunity to make a significant impact in the lives of Clark County children.

Watch for our annual appeal which will run from April to June, and will focus on the great work of ywca clark county’s Y’s Care Program. The staff and volunteers of Y’s Care provide high-quality preschool education to children and families from homeless, transitioning, or low-income circumstances. But that’s just the beginning. Y’s Care also provides a nutritious breakfast and lunch, Head Start Program, parent support and access to community resources and referrals.

In addition to all of this, Y’s Care is the 2nd entity in the country to implement an exciting, innovative program called Seeds of Empathy. Developed by Mary Gordon, Seeds of Empathy is a compliment of Roots of Empathy, an evidence-based classroom program that has shown significant effect in reducing levels of aggression among schoolchildren while raising social and emotional competence and increasing empathy. At the heart of the Seeds of Empathy program is the participation of an infant and parent who engage students in the classroom.

During the first two weeks, a literacy coach follows a curriculum which supports interactive learning based on children’s literature. The children gather around to have a book read to them and participate in a Literacy Circle.  During the third week, a family coach follows a curriculum which supports experiential learning based on Family Visits where a baby and parent visit for up to half an hour. The children are invited to observe developmental milestones and read the baby’s cues. Over the eight months, the children come to understand and respect the baby as an individual with her own unique temperament and feelings. This leads the children to better understand their own uniqueness and feelings and the feelings of others.

The program has been very successful thus far and Leah Reitz, Director of Y’s Care, is hoping to continue the program in Fall 2012. “It’s an honor and a pleasure to offer this wonderful program to our students,” said Leah. “I see the success of other schools which have been doing this for years.  We are optimistic that we are making a positive difference in the lives of our future community members.”

It's Time to Talk About It!

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and communities across the country are proclaiming “It’s time … to talk about it!” ywca clark county is joining these communities and encourages you to bring healthy sexuality into conversations on how we connect with and respect one another in order to prevent sexual violence.

The Sexual Assault Program of ywca clark county invites you to  participate in or attend the 2nd annual art contest that empowers youth to raise their voice and create awareness in our community. Sexual assault can happen to anyone at any age.

Let’s be honest, “it” is not an easy subject to talk about. Most of us are uncomfortable talking about sex. But let’s take a moment and get past the blushing, because this conversation is important.  Sexuality is much more than sex. Healthy sexuality is emotional, social, cultural and physical. It is our values, attitudes, feelings, interactions and behaviors. It changes with time and experience.

The art contest hosted by Sexual Assault Program provides a venue to focus on this important topic and address sexuality as it effects youth.  By talking about “it” we normalize discussion about sexuality, and can promote healthy behaviors which encourage relationships that are consensual, respectful and informed.

Contest entries will be accepted until April 12th. All entries will be on exhibit from 8:30 to 5:30 pm, April 24th to 26th in ywca clark county’s community room. Artists will be recognized and celebrated at a reception in the same location on Monday, April 30th at 5:30 pm. Select pieces from the contest will be on display at North Bank Gallery on the first Friday of May and for the entire month.

Our sexual experiences impact our lives, loved ones, communities and society. Individuals need accurate information about relationships, sexuality and positive behaviors to ensure the opportunity to make healthy sexual choices. When you attend the SAAM art reception on April 30th, you’ll have an opportunity to pick up resources for yourself or to share with others.

All of us have a role in building safe, healthy relationships and communities. When we start the conversation about healthy sexuality, we raise awareness. Prevent sexual violence by supporting young artists at the artists reception, visiting the display at the North Bank Gallery, encouraging submissions, and most of all, by talking about “it.” View details about the art contest here, see a list of other activities for the month on our calendar or contact Laurie Schacht at 360 906 9116 or at to learn more.

It’s time … to talk about it!

Volunteer Recognition

By Stephanie Barr

Stephanie Barr
It’s been six months since I joined ywca clark county as the Director of Volunteer Development and the highlight of this role has been getting to know the volunteers who invest so much of their time, energy, and hearts into our programs. I recently sent out a survey to learn more about our volunteers’ experiences at ywca clark county and reading through their responses a theme of personal transformation emerged.

One volunteer shared, “I’m not sure if I can articulate how this has impacted me, but I know that it’s had a strong influence in how I view the world and how I view others who are in disadvantaged circumstances.” Another revealed, “Doing this type of volunteering makes me more accepting and less judgmental of people in different circumstances than my own.”

Statements like these are a big part of what motivates me to work with volunteers. An important part of the social change we strive to make as an organization happens through the hands of volunteers. Impact is made on an individual level, by taking on the healing role of a sexual assault support group facilitator or supporting pre-school children as a classroom assistant with Y’s Care. It also happens in a systemic way through volunteer participation in lobby days and other public policy events. Yet many volunteers don’t see their personal journey as a seed of social change.

It inspires me to hear that a volunteer has been changed by their experience at ywca because it means they have opened themselves up and created real, meaningful relationships with the participants in our programs. Their openness makes them more effective listeners and advocates for survivors and it also makes them stronger advocates of the mission of ywca clark county.

After only six months I still haven’t met every person who volunteers with us, but I know without a doubt that these passionate, dedicated people talk about what they do here and why they’re involved. They tell their family, friends, church groups and children why the entire community should end domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse and neglect, homelessness and other forms of oppression. They ask the people close to them to volunteer with us, to donate to our programs, and to find their own way to make a difference on the issues facing our community. This is how social change happens!

Maybe I’m making this sound easy, but it’s actually the most challenging part of volunteering. Although many people have the desire to help, it takes a lot of work to question your own beliefs and values, to take responsibility for your biases, and to learn how to relate to people who may be different from you in authentic and empowering ways. Many ywca volunteers are also survivors and have gone through their own healing process before returning as an advocate for others.

April 16th-22nd is Volunteer Appreciation Week and I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the commitment and strength that it takes to volunteer within ywca clark county programs. I am so grateful to all of our volunteers for their support, and hope they engage in this work with the laughter and hope I have witnessed thus far. You are making a difference!

-Stephanie Barr, Director of Volunteer Development, ywca clark county