Friday, August 29, 2014

Program Highlights for September 2014

Independent Living Skills Program

As we are halfway through the summer, it is that time again when students are preparing for college, or perhaps returning to high school. Nonetheless, it has been a rather busy summer with some great activities shared along the way. The ILS program has had three barbecues celebrating the end of the school year, as well as those who have graduated from high school. What an accomplishment! We are so proud of those who received their diplomas or have chosen to graduate from an alternative school. We have also been rather busy in our garden, making sure the weeds didn’t consume all of our thriving vegetables. The youth were able to pick squash and lettuce from the garden and prepare a lovely meal that included parmesan crusted squash, a nutritious salad, along with hotdogs in a blanket. Yes, it was a hit!

Clark County CASA Program

CASA has proudly sworn in 12 new volunteers from our summer training. Heidi Hiatt, our Volunteer Manager is busy interviewing potential volunteer advocates for our fall training session; please contact Heidi Hiatt at 906-9142 or for more information about opportunities to advocate for abused and neglected children in our community. Wendy Lenz is the new Interim Program Director for the CASA program. She can be reached at 906-9141 or

Sexual Assault Program

The Sexual Assault Program has some exciting things going on! In September, staff member Traci Cole will be one of the trainers for a statewide training of the Where We Live curriculum held in Wenatchee. We then offer our next Where We Live series beginning October 1st from 6-8pm for 4 weeks at the Bethel Lutheran Church in Brush Prairie. They are hosting this training to engage and support a safer community. Register by emailing We also have our next Women, Trauma and Healing workshop in early October for any women who have experienced trauma. Last but not least, De Stewart reached over 500 hours of volunteer service!

SafeChoice Domestic Violence Program

The SafeChoice Program welcomes two new members to the SafeChoice team! Jennifer Lulé has started at the DSHS office as well as helping out at shelter, and Tamara Ryan will be one of the new bilingual advocates at the DVPC. SafeChoice is also excited to be in the beginning stages of planning for Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October! The annual candlelight vigil will be held at Latte Da this year on October 1st at 6pm. We will also be creating our own version of the Clothesline Project, a way for survivors and their allies/supporters to create a visual for how domestic violence impacts us and how we are empowered to help ourselves and others. If you are interested in getting involved with DVAM in any way we would love to have volunteers and donations. Please contact with questions and follow us on Facebook for more details.

WORTH Program

The WORTH Program is working hard to provide resources and training for individuals in the Clark County Jail. WORTH is currently accepting donations of quilt batting, sewing machines, gently used or new bras, socks, and underwear.

Social Change Program

There will be no Conversations in the Community for the month of September, but they will resume in October. Michelle Hurdle-Bradford is currently out of the office. Questions about the Social Change Program can be directed to Natalie Wood, Director of Programs at

Y’s Care Children’s Program

Special thanks to Mark Matthias, Ali Novinger and the Beaches Cruisin’ for a donation of $10,000. These funds will help Y’s Care continue to provide high-quality education for children, regardless of income level. Read more here! Our baby for the 2014-15 school year is none other than Ellis Peter Hayes. He’s Val Anderson’s grandson and he was born August 7th.  His mom, Erin is a fifth grade teacher. We are grateful for Ellis and Erin’s participation and look forward to watching little Ellis grow! The school year starts September 3rd. We’re excited to learn and grow with 12 ECEAP kids and 8 community kids.

Our Partnership with United Way to End the Cycle of Poverty

YWCA Clark County is pleased to announce that it has been chosen as one of 30 select organizations to participate in United Way of the Columbia-Willamette’s new Community Strengthening collaborative cohort designed to improve outcomes for low-income children and their families, and ultimately break the cycle of childhood poverty in the four-county (Clackamas, Clark, Multnomah and Washington) region.

 The collaborative cohort, which is based on the “collective impact” approach, is part of United Way of the Columbia-Willamette’s new strategic direction to leverage the expertise, resources, and effort of multiple organizations across the region in working together toward one common goal: breaking the cycle of childhood poverty.

 United Way’s Community Strengthening cohort is comprised of 30 emerging and established non-profits serving low income and culturally specific communities across the metropolitan area. The cohort will work together for a period of three years (July 2014 through June 2017) to create and participate in learning communities designed to share experiences, exchange data and information, and build collective knowledge around new and promising practices to improve outcomes for low-income families and their children. Each member of the Community Strengthening cohort will be awarded up to $50,000 per year, to complete this critical work. (*Funding to YWCA Clark County and the other non-profits in the cohort is contingent on the funding United Way receives as an organization to its Breaking the Cycle fund.)

 “We are pleased to participate in United Way’s Community Strengthening cohort because it will not only help ensure the sustainability of our programs, but it will ensure a concerted effort to integrate best practices in effectively addressing the root causes of poverty.,” said YWCA’s Director of Programs, Natalie Wood. “We hope to work collaboratively to better identify how poverty is intertwined with the prevention and crisis intervention services we provide, assess our strengths and growth areas to determine what organizational changes we can make to directly address the root causes of poverty more effectively, and ultimately adopt new practices that allow us to have an even greater impact in the community.”

 Each non-profit organization participating in United Way of the Columbia-Willamette’s Community Strengthening cohort has agreed to share their results through a common measurement framework, to work together on critical problems and innovations in the field, and to build a common knowledge base about collective impact on childhood poverty in our region.

 “We are ecstatic to be collaborating with the outstanding organizations selected to be a part of our Community Strengthening cohort on breaking the cycle of childhood poverty. The issue of poverty is incredibly complex, with multiple facets; it’s a far greater issue than any one organization can resolve alone,” said Keith Thomajan, CEO of United Way of the Columbia-Willamette. “In utilizing the collective impact model, we are confident we can amplify and accelerate the impact we are making in our community specific to student success, family stability, and connected communities to give every child, regardless of their socioeconomic status, a fair chance at success. Quite simply, we are better together.”

The Collective Impact Model 

 The collective impact model, as articulated by the non-profit consulting group Foundation Strategy Group (FSG), is a model of work that brings people together, in a structured way, to achieve social change. There are five conditions** of “collective impact” that lead to meaningful results:

1. A common agenda: All participants have a shared vision for change including a common understanding of the problem and a joint approach to solving it through agreed upon actions.

2. Shared Measurement: Collecting data and measuring results consistently across all participants ensures efforts remain aligned and participants hold each other accountable.

3. Mutually Reinforcing Activities: Participant activities must be differentiated while still being coordinated through a mutually reinforcing plan of action.

4. Continuous Communication: Consistent and open communication is needed across the many players to build trust, assure mutual objectives, and appreciate common motivation.

5. Backbone Organization: Creating and managing collective impact requires a separate organization(s) with staff and a specific set of skills to serve as the backbone for the entire initiative and coordinate participating organizations and agencies (The backbone organization for the Community Strengthening strategy is United Way of the Columbia-Willamette.)

 **Source: Foundation Strategy Group (FSG) 

 To learn more about United Way’s Community Strengthening strategy and the other organizations involved in the cohort, please visit

Teaching Empathy with Consistency

By: Emily Ostrowski

 What do Sesame Street and Y’s Care have in common? If you attend YWCA’s annual Inspire Luncheon on Wednesday, September 10th you’ll be sure to find out! Sonia Manzano, best known as Maria from Sesame Street, will be joining us to share her ongoing message of empowering and educating children.

 This message resonates with YWCA’s own children’s program Y’s Care, which seeks to provide homeless, transitioning, and low-income children with the necessary skills to enter kindergarten. Leah Reitz has been the director of Y’s Care for the past three years, and was a lead teacher in the program for several years prior. She has nothing but praise for the ways in which Sesame Street helps children grapple with various aspects of life.

Lea Reitz with Y's Care pupil.
 “Sesame Street has always been a program that demonstrates inclusiveness and respect for everyone,” Reitz says. “I think it has been an incredible tool for families, presented with humor and compassion. Their ‘whole child’ approach certainly lines up with the Y’s Care mission. I have always appreciated that the show often deals with difficult subjects like death and having a parent serving in the military. These are tough subjects, but when my children were young, I often found myself using an episode as a jumping off point for conversations.”

 Indeed, the ability to empathize and recognize emotions is at the core of both Sesame Street’s and Y’s Care’s missions. Reitz acknowledges that many preschool programs want to jump right in to skills like learning the alphabet and being able to write their name, but she emphasizes that without the proper emotional tools, success is unlikely. “If a child has trouble identifying and understanding his own emotions and the emotions of others, those other skills won’t matter, because if you can’t successfully navigate your social world you don’t see yourself as competent.”

 One of Reitz’s favorite activities at Y’s Care is a year-long program called Seeds of Empathy, which “helps kids identify and label emotions through books and literacy activities.” Additionally they have regular visits from the same parent and baby every three weeks to discuss, among other things what the baby might be feeling, and what it’s like being a parent, particularly the more frustrating aspects. All of this is done with the goal of teaching children how to see things from another’s perspective. 

The heart of Y’s Care is rooted in children’s emotional well-being. Academics are important, but without a solid, emotional foundation, no child can fully thrive. As Reitz notes, “Many kids come to our program having experienced trauma of one kind or another, so our initial challenges are often behavioral. When a child feels secure at school and trusts his or her teachers, learning follows.”

 To hear Sonia Manzano speak, as well as support Y’s Care, YWCA’s other programs, and general mission, please click here and register for our luncheon Wednesday, September 10th at the Hilton in Vancouver.

Meet This Year's Award Recipient

By Sharon Svec

The Y’s Care Children’s Program of YWCA Clark County has been one of the many charities in Clark County to benefit from the generosity of the Beaches Cruisin’ staff, volunteers and attendees. The Cruisin’ event started in 1996 and was hosted as a small gathering at the Beaches Restaurant and Bar. It got to be so popular, that it has grown to take up the entire lawn of the Portland International Raceway, and turned into a weekly fundraising event. This year’s opening day brought precisely a gazillion vehicles to the field; each one providing a small entrance fee per passenger. With the event going on every Wednesday of the summer, those dollars add up! The entrance fee monies collected at the gate, enable Mark Matthias and the Beaches Cruisin’ to donate tens of thousands of dollars to local charities each year.

To raise awareness of area charities, Beaches invites a different local non-profit each week to be featured at the event. After a few years of popping up a tent and loading up brochures, YWCA Clark County decided to take a new, more engaging approach. Last year we handed out our first Empowerment Award to a woman auto enthusiast.

The world of classic cars, hot rods, bikes, etc. is a male-dominated culture. This is probably due to our society’s separation of the roles of men and women throughout time. But today, our society is realizing that most of these roles are interchangeable among individuals of both sexes, and we are getting better at encouraging each other to pursue interests, regardless of their historical stereotype.

But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t still challenges. Intentional or not, women are often overlooked in car culture. YWCA’s Empowerment Award is given out each year to a female auto enthusiast at YWCA’s charity night of the Beaches Cruisin’. In addition to recognizing this very cool sub-culture of car enthusiasts, we hope that the award will build interest in the hobby, which requires unique technical and creative skills.
Sharma and her 1970 'Cuda

Sharma Schlecht was the winner of this year’s award. She drove a beautiful 1970 Plymouth Barracuda that she restored herself, along with friends and family. I emailed Sharma a few questions, so that we could get to know her better.

When and how did you get into cars?

My interest in cars started at sixteen. I started with a Toyota 4×4 pickup and learned quickly how to fix it myself as I proceeded to break it every weekend keeping up with the guys while four wheeling.

What do you enjoy about being a classic car owner?

I enjoy the other car owners and their stories about their journey they have taken with their cars. The pride and respect each owner has for their car or truck is well deserved and earned.

Have you faced any challenges as a woman owner/driver?

I have faced many challenges, starting with the parts stores lack of product education and their disbelief that I really know what part I need for my car.  Also, most people think it’s my husband’s or boyfriend’s car, or my father must have built it for me.

What kind of encouragement or support have you received from friends, family or fans?

I have received an incredible amount of help and encouragement from both family and friends through the whole build process; from use of their shops, to body-work, paint and everything in-between. My appreciation to every person that helped on my car is overwhelming.

We love that you are donating your parts car to another female auto enthusiast. Tell us why that was important to you.

It is important to give any young person a goal to achieve, but a young female with a goal of building her own ‘Cuda was special to me. I remember for years, waiting to build this car and how badly I wanted it. My hope for her is that she build an un-breakable bond with her father as she learns how to work on the car with him, and he has the pleasure of watching his daughter grow into a car enthusiast, following in his foot steps.

What does YWCA’s Empowerment Award mean to you?

The empowerment award has special meaning to me. I have spent a lifetime proving my ability with cars and it is with great appreciation I accept this acknowledgment for my years of hard work and sacrifices. I look forward to representing YWCA in leading women in our community.

Sharma presents a great example of an empowered woman. Not only has she found empowerment through her own will, but she also enjoys a community of support through friends and family who believe in and encourage her. Then, she goes the “extra mile” and passes that empowerment forward to another young woman who is following her own dream.  YWCA Clark County is pleased to recognize Sharma for her achievements and for her encouragement of others, with the 2014 YWCA Empowerment Award. View more photos on our Facebook page.

DVSA Task Force: Past, Present, and Future

By Sharon Svec

The Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Task Force was started in 1992 as a way to spread awareness and engage the community in preventing and addressing domestic violence and sexual assault in Clark County.  The group meets four times a year to discuss the needs of domestic violence and sexual assault survivors.  The goal of the task force is to provide a more effective and coordinated community response for survivors through regular communication and joint discussion. Topics and the style of meeting vary.  Topics range from sex offender treatment to human trafficking, and the meeting style may be in the form of a panel discussion, presentation, or workshop.

The most recent meeting held on July 24th was on the impact of family violence on children and youth. Twenty people were in attendance including guests from Children’s Center, Children’s Home Society, Healthy Decisions, and the NorthWest Justice Project. While task force meetings seem to be often attended exclusively by service providers, I found this discussion to be relevant to most anyone.

Panelists included Helen Sullivan from the Children’s Center, Bev Collins from the Independent Living Skills Program of YWCA, and Heather Redman of YWCA’s Clark County CASA Program. Each panelist had valuable insight to share, and there were a few themes that kept recurring throughout the discussion:  how children and youth exposed to violence in the home view themselves, the effects of an ever-changing environment, and how we can support children, youth and families in consideration of these perspectives.

One point that I found especially relevant is that people recognize the lifestyle in which they were raised as being “the norm.” When raised in a violent household, it may seem normal for moms and dads to fight. It may seem appropriate to respond to conflict with aggression or to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. When children are removed from their home because of abuse, neglect or violence, separated from their family and jettisoned into a life of courts, counselors, advocates, foster care and more, life can become very confusing.

Once separated from their family, the child is challenged to accept a new idea of “normal” behavior. They may feel obligated to blend into a new way of living. Plus, they are often asked to share their experiences with a slew of strangers. Coping mechanisms are learned in the home, so when a child, youth, or even parent is facing these challenges, the internal conflict they may feel might actualize in ways that are unhealthy.

Service providers, foster parents, and all community members can better support each other by recognizing and respecting the past experiences of an individual, reminding themselves and those they work with that everyone has different life experiences, and by giving children permission to bear the feelings they have.

Overall, I found the meeting to be very informative. I saw service providers ask questions and instigate valuable discussions. Personally, I was reminded about the varied histories we share, and how to better respect those experiences as we interact with each other. Whether providing direct service or simply interacting with another person in our community, we can all benefit from actively recognizing that context influences our perspectives.

Please join us at the next DV/SA task force meeting on Tuesday, September 23rd from noon to 1:30pm, focused on the court’s response to domestic violence. Guest panelists include Judge Sonya Langsdorf who is the incoming domestic violence judge, a representative from Vancouver’s Office of Public Defense, and a guest from the Domestic Violence Prosecution Center. Panelists will answer questions submitted prior to the meeting. Please submit your questions early to and note if you would like your name to remain private.

Legislation on Firearms

By Susan LaLone, VP Public Policy at YWCA

Are you aware of the two state initiatives on the November ballot regarding firearms ownership, and the difference between the two? Why does it matter if you vote on these initiatives? A recent poll in Washington State showed those who responded were in favor of both. Yet these two initiatives are opposed to each other. Please take a few moments to read further and learn of the differences.

Born in a family of hunters, I was raised with firearms in the house. An early education on firearms taught me the need to be responsible with them. My experience as a former U.S. Marine, Vietnam veteran and retired federal police officer further enhanced this. As a police firearms instructor for 17 years, I both instructed and observed firearms safety. This showed me the need for constant training in both the physical use and knowledge of when to legally use firearms in our society. Unfortunately, not everyone has had the same opportunity to understand the consequences of using a firearm.

Since 1968, various municipalities, states and the Federal government have passed laws restricting firearms purchases to those able to pass a background check. Individuals with serious violent convictions are prohibited from purchasing guns. These laws work well with licensed firearm dealers, with only 1 % of these types of sales being refused. A serious hole in the system is with private sales, including those who sell from the numerous gun shows. These types of “dealers” have no requirement to initiate background checks when they sell guns. As a result, firearms may be obtained in these types of sales by virtually anyone. This is where state initiative 594 comes to play.

State Initiative 594 will require background checks for all sales of firearms in Washington State. This initiative plugs a serious hole in gun sales, and ensures all legal sales in Washington meet the current legal requirements and intents. However, there are those who believe this will restrict average citizens’ rights to obtain firearms. This type of thinking has put initiative 591 on the Washington State ballot.

If adopted, State Initiative 591will prevent the State Legislature from implementing background checks for firearms sales, unless the Federal government adopts a uniform standard for these sales. In effect, this checks the State Legislature from moving to a higher standard on firearms sales. By passing this initiative we will continue to allow a means for violent individuals to obtain firearms in Washington.

Please join YWCA Clark County and myself in supporting Initiative 594 and opposing Initiative 591. When dealing with firearms, there is only room for responsible and safe sales.

Meeting the Challenge

September 18th is going to be a big day for our community and for YWCA Clark County. #GiveMore24 is the regions first-ever 24-hour giving challenge. The campaign is designed to raise funds for dozens of local nonprofits in our community and to demonstrate that our impact is greater when we give what we can, wherever we are, at the same time. In this case, that timeframe starts at 7:00am on September 18th and ends at 7:00am the following day.

Funds raised during Give More 24! will support YWCA in spreading our mission of empowerment throughout our community. We spread this mission by providing vital services and support to more than 11,800 people each year.
Paulie and daughter Licia in YWCA’s garden

Every day, families are rediscovering their future with the help of YWCA Clark County. After a rocky 5 years, Paulie and her daughter Licia found comfort and structure at our Y’s Care Children’s Program. The teachers at Y’s Care provide pre-school education and preparedness to low- and no-income families, as well as family-building activities like parent support groups, parent study groups, family events, and parent volunteer opportunities.

Your participation in Give More 24! Will help YWCA continue to provide vital services like these to community members in need. In addition to supporting children and families, YWCA helps empower youth aging out of foster care, as well as survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, abuse, neglect and oppression. Will you meet the challenge by participating in Give More 24! on September 18th? Learn more at, or visit our profile page directly.