Tuesday, June 30, 2015

LGBTQ Advocacy and Support at YWCA Clark County

Like so many across the country, YWCA of Clark County rejoiced in Friday’s SCOTUS decision declaring a constitutional right to marriage equality across the country. We’ve long embraced diversity, and stood for the fair and equal treatment of our LGBTQ citizens.

While we see this victory as monumental, we know the fight for full equality continues, and vow to stay vigilant in our advocacy and support. One way we do that is by making sure LGBTQ people always feel welcome, safe, and respected at YWCA of Clark County.

We reached out to Ariella Frishberg our Domestic Violence Prevention, Outreach, and Advocacy Specialist to help highlight the ways in which YWCA provides a safe space for our LGBTQ citizens of Clark County.

On YWCA’s staff dedication to equality:

AF: All of our advocates are trained on how LGBTQ folk are affected by domestic violence, so we are all equally able to assist an individual who identifies within that umbrella. As the LGBTQ advocate, I teach the trainings on domestic violence in the LGBTQ community, and work with other colleagues to make sure our services are as inclusive and welcoming as possible. I am also able to focus some of the outreach I do to the LGBTQ community specifically, by organizing YWCA’s involvement with Pride and presenting at local gay-straight alliances.
On our LGBTQ Community and Domestic Violence training:
AF: During our volunteer training cycle we have a three hour training devoted to domestic violence and marginalized communities. An hour of this training focuses on how domestic violence manifests in the LGBTQ community. In the training, volunteers and new staff are acquainted with vocabulary they may not be familiar with and introduced to some of the extra challenges and obstacles that LGBTQ survivors of violence face.
On some of the specific obstacles faced by LGBTQ survivors of abuse:
AF: There are a lot of reasons why someone might not leave an abusive relationship, and when you come from a marginalized community those reasons can be compounded by the oppression you already face. Examples are an abuser threatening to out the victim to friends or family if they leave, fear of not receiving services at domestic violence agencies because of their gender or sexuality, fear of isolation from an already small, very connected community, and fewer support networks to fall back on if they come from a family that isn’t accepting.
On our gender inclusive SafeChoice Domestic Violence Shelter:
AF: Gender inclusive shelters are becoming more common, but we are still the only one in Southwest Washington. One of the things that changed when the shelter became inclusive was that we have advocates on staff 24 hours a day, instead of just during the day. We also adapted the shelter so that each participant has their own room, instead of participants sharing rooms. One of the first things participants agree to when they come into shelter is an understanding that the shelter is gender inclusive and that we do not tolerate discriminatory language and behavior. Because staff are there at all times, participants are able to come to the advocacy office for support if a problem does arise. It’s important to us that everyone feel safe at our shelter.
Many thanks to Ariella for sharing her insight, and for being a powerful advocate for everyone who walks through YWCA’s doors!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Jean's Legacy Continues

We are saddened from the loss of Jean Lacey, a woman whose legacy extends throughout the region, nation and the world. During her 19 years as Executive Director of YWCA Clark County, she spearheaded outreach and prevention programs for teens, incarcerated women, and survivors of domestic violence. 

She also served with Soroptomist Vancouver, the Vancouver NAACP, and was appointed to the Washington State Commission of Women. Jean was one of 25 women from the US selected to travel the world with Mary Rockefeller, meeting Gahndi and President Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines along the way. From First Citizen to Women of Achievement, her resume is littered with awards for her leadership, community engagement and philanthropy.

Jean truly felt a responsibility to the community, “You must pay rent for the space you take here on this Earth, and the only way you can really do that is by doing good deeds in your community.” 

In 2015, YWCA Clark County is still reaping the benefits of Jean's leadership and vision. “Her service to our community will not be forgotten nor will her tremendous sense of humor,” says Sherri Bennet, current Executive Director of YWCA Clark County.
YWCA Clark County Executive Directors Joyce Kilpatrick, Sherri Bennett,  Kathy Kneip,  Val Ogden and Jean Lacey have lunch together at the Grant House.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Celebrating Our Generous Community

At YWCA we know that we would not be able to do what we do without the support of our community. That’s one of the reasons we love shining the spotlight on individuals who embody the values of commitment, service, respect, diversity, and teamwork.

Tanisha Harris, CASA Program Specialist at YWCA Clark County knows one such individual very well: Her mom, Karen Harris who in January started organizing a monthly giving drive for YWCA’s SafeChoice shelter, Y's Care program, Independent Living Skills program, and our multiple support groups.

“My mom has always had a caring heart, and a lot of compassion and empathy for people” Tanisha says, “She taught my brothers and me at an early age that charity begins at home. This year she wanted to do something that was meaningful and made an impact year round.”

Karen Harris says she first started to really think about giving back on a grander scale this past November. “I got to thinking that everyone is always so generous during the holiday season, but what happens after that? The donations are down, but the need is still there.”

After consulting with her daughter, Karen was surprised to discover just how many programs YWCA sponsors, particularly those that aid children, and decided to collect various goods each month to help support them.

Karen admits she was not quite sure how to get others involved at first. In January she told family members, and posted the idea to her Facebook account. The theme for January was canned goods. With the help of family and friends, Karen collected 136 cans of food to donate to YWCA!

Karen has since collected over 800 food and beverage items for families, youth and children served by YWCA! She’s also collected clothing items for infants and children, and in the coming months has plans to collect school supplies, toothbrushes, toothpaste and and other oral hygiene products.

Since February, Karen has been using the website Nextdoor.com to inform people in the area about her giving calendar.  She has also reached out to her neighborhood and 10 nearby neighborhood associations, with plans to expand even more in January. She has been overwhelmed by the support she has gotten within her community, and in particular at the kindness of strangers. She admits she probably only knows “about half” of the people who have participated in these drives, and has a donation box set up outside her home for people to leave supplies anonymously.

“That is probably the most rewarding thing for me,” Karen says, “that people are willing to help those in need. One time I checked the box and found 7 boxes of Cheerios - I actually cried seeing them. I thought to myself, this is the way it should be, people helping each other. We all need to keep in mind that at any given time it could be us that is in need of help.”

The only regret Karen has is that because so many donations are made anonymously, she’s unable to thank every person who contributed. Karen exudes humility when discussing her efforts, noting, “My faith leads me to believe that we are to help the underserved. I am just one person in this project. I only organized it, but it is the community that is making all of this possible, and I am so thankful to each one of them.”

We at YWCA are also thankful to everyone who has contributed, and to Karen for having the determination and spirit to put this all together.