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

Employer Gift Match

Double or triple the impact of your donation to YWCA Clark County! More than 8,000 employers encourage their associates to donate to charitable organizations such as YWCA Clark County and will match employees/retirees contribution dollars.

Matching gift programs are offered to support employees’ philanthropic giving. When you make a gift to YWCA within your company’s program guidelines, the gift is matched with company funds. While most companies will match an employee gift dollar for dollar, some employers will match each $1 with $2. Other companies match less than dollar for dollar. But every dollar helps!

Employees must initiate matching gifts. The steps include:

  • Contact your company’s Human Resources Department to confirm if your employer has a Match Gift program
  • Complete the matching gift form provided by your employer
  • Mail  the form in with your gift
  • YWCA takes care of the rest!

These programs depend solely on the employee taking the initiative to ask for and complete a form. By taking these simple steps the end result is many more participants receive services because of your contribution to our programs.

This is a partial list of local companies offering employer gift matching programs: Adidas, Bank of America, First Interstate Bank, , Gas Transmission Northwest, Georgia-Pacific Corporation, The Home Depot, Hewlett Packard, IBM Corporation, Intel, Key Bank, Macy’s, NIKE, Inc., NW Natural, Prudential, Starbucks, Stream International, Inc., Sterling Bank, Sun Microsystems, Tektronix, U.S. Bank, UPS, US West, VERITAS Software, Verizon and Wells Fargo.

If your company does not have a matching gift program, an inquiry can sometimes help motivate management to set one up.

YWCA Hallmark Initiatives

There are hundreds of YWCA’s throughout the United States and even more internationally. All YWCA’s are social service organizations, yet we differ in the services we provide. Each YWCA focuses on services that best meet the needs of their respective communities. To that end, ywca clark county serves those in our community experiencing domestic violence, homelessness, sexual assault, child abuse and neglect, and oppression, as well as youth in foster care and incarcerated women.

So what is it that ties all YWCA’s, nationally and internationally, together under one umbrella? Every YWCA is dedicated to the mission of eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all. Additionally, every YWCA has two hallmark initiatives: Racial Justice and Women’s Economic Advancement. These initiatives are what distinguish YWCA from other socially conscious organizations..

Every YWCA has pledged to incorporate the hallmark initiatives into the daily operations and structure of the organization. The hallmark initiatives are implemented with the intention of influencing racial justice and women’s economic advancement with demonstrable, direct impact within the local community and measurable results.

Here at ywca clark county, we focus on racial justice and women’s economic advancement in many ways.

Most clearly aligned with the hallmark of racial justice, is our Social Change Program. This program is dedicated to preventing racism and other forms of oppression in our community through education and support. By encouraging dialogue through our Steps to Eliminating Racism and White Privilege trainings, we work to create a respectful, inclusive community. Similarly, while we aim to support our community in the journey towards diversity and inclusion, we also prioritize that work internally – with the board, staff, and volunteers. These groups engage in monthly discussions regarding incidents of oppression and attend regular trainings that address cultural competency and being an effective ally.

In looking at the hallmark of women’s economic advancement, the work of many of our programs is truly highlighted. We work to empower women to make their own choices in life, whether they have been a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault, have been incarcerated, or have found themselves homeless.

Locally, both hallmark programs have been represented in our Public Policy Committee’s subcommittees:  Women’s Economic Justice and Hate Incidents and Hate Crimes – both comprised of staff, volunteers, and community members. Our Women’s Economic Justice group has hosted workshops regarding equal pay and women’s equality, while strategically addressing generational poverty. The Hate Incidents and Hate Crimes group focused on assessing community needs, engaging targeted communities, encouraging law enforcement to record hate incidents, and responding to specific incidents and crimes.

Currently, ywca clark county is working to assess as an organization how to capture all racial justice and women’s economic advancement work occurring currently, while maintaining separate focused programming on the hallmarks themselves. We look forward to clearly defining all of the great work occurring here on a daily basis while also laying out the groundwork for continued, future success with our hallmark initiatives.

I Am for the Child

Right here in our community, there are abused and neglected children who live in the shadows of our lives.  She may be the little girl in your son’s kindergarten class who had to move homes and change schools three or four times in the last year.  He may be the lonely child at the park who doesn’t join the game.

The foster care and child welfare system is full of compassionate lawyers, judges, social workers and foster families, but according to recent statistics, each year more than 748,000 children are placed in foster care nationally.  Over 720 children and teens are involved with the child welfare and court systems in Clark County alone.  This intense need can strain the system to the point where they are simply unable to protect the rights of each child.

So the little girl who has already suffered in an abusive home, enters the overburdened foster care system; she may be moved several times in the first few months. Or the two siblings who lost their mother to incarceration are split up and living on different sides of the county.

This isn’t just a problem; it is nothing short of a violation of their human rights. A child cannot defend his or her own rights, but a CASA volunteer can!

Clark County CASA trains and supports volunteers to speak out and act as advocates for the best interests of abused and neglected children. They are trained to work within the child welfare court systems and are appointed by judges to individual cases. With the help of a CASA volunteer, a child is half as likely to languish in the foster care system, and much more likely to find a safe and permanent home.

In fact, CASA programs have been so effective that there are now more than 70,000 volunteers serving almost 1,000 programs in almost every court system in the United States. It is an outstanding reflection of the kind of change that’s possible when the public, private and nonprofit sectors join forces.

Today 30% of the younger children in Clark County courts do not have access to a CASA volunteer; most teens don’t have a CASA. That’s 178 children who don’t have that advocacy. We are dedicated to ensuring that every child in the foster care and child welfare system has a qualified CASA volunteer looking out for their best interests.  Especially needed are volunteers of color, as African American and Latino children are overrepresented in the child welfare and foster court system.

Every child has a right to thrive, to be treated with dignity, and to live in a safe, loving home.  Every child deserves a fighting chance.

Once grown, these former foster kids could be our future doctors, teachers and leaders. Coming through a period of vulnerability and fear, the child can then understand his potential and his rights. She will believe in herself. That is our opportunity and our challenge.

The CASA Program of ywca clark county is holding a free awareness and fundraising event with the theme “I am for the Child” to offer community members an opportunity to help in the fight against child abuse. Join us Friday, April 13th at 7:30am at the County Public Service Center, 1300 Franklin Street, Vancouver, WA to learn how you can seize this opportunity and face this challenge.

Wine Working Wonders

Oregon’s premier fundraising event, the Classic Wines Auction raised more than $2.42 million to benefit Metropolitan Family Service, New Avenues for Youth, Friends of the Children-Portland and ywca clark county.

More than 700 wine enthusiasts gathered at the Oregon Convention Center Saturday night, March 3rd to raise funds for charities benefiting children and families in the metropolitan area. ywca clark county is the only beneficiary organization from Washington State, and funds from the event(s) make up about 50% of ywca’s philanthropic-related income.

The gala auction is part of a week of “Wine Working Wonders,” which includes four days of winemaker dinners, an ambassador dinner and the auction itself.  ywca clark county volunteers, staff and guests that provided a strong presence at all events. Guests bid on exciting auction packages that would not have been possible without the bounty of unique and delectable items provided by generous sponsors and donors. Volunteers and staff worked tirelessly on the floor and behind the scenes to help create a magical experience for all who attended.

ywca’s success can also be attributed to local champions. Linda Rae Hickey’s leadership in Raise Your Paddle helped generate over $750,000. Kim and Dan Agnew generously donated items for and agreed to host a very popular dinner package. Rachel Collins inspired guests with her story of discovering Y’s Care, establishing new goals, and regaining her life after leaving an abusive relationship. Auction co-chairs Kim Agnew, Cindy Campbell and Craig Wessel invested time and talents to make the auction a memorable evening. Recognition is also due to all the sponsors, including presenting sponsors Bank of America and US Trust.

“We are so grateful to everyone in the community who supported us through Classic Wines and just thrilled to be a beneficiary for the fourth year in a row,” said Sherri Bennett, Executive Director of ywca clark county. “This income ensures that we can continue providing opportunities for change in the lives of our neighbors, family and friends in Clark County.”

A number of auction packages are still open to the public for bidding on the website at Final revenue shares are expected to be revealed in May.

About Classic Wines Auction

Recognized as one of the top ten charity wine auctions in the country by Wine Spectator Magazine since 2001, the Classic Wines Auction has raised nearly $30 million for Portland-area charities since its inception in 1982. Based in Portland, Ore., Classic Wines Auction, Inc. is a nonprofit organization dedicated to producing the Classic Wines Auction and related food and wine events to raise funds for local charities benefiting children and families, including: Metropolitan Family Service, New Avenues for Youth, Friends of the Children-Portland and ywca clark county. See more at