Monday, August 17, 2015

YWCA Congratulates Lauren Sheridan

We’d like to congratulate our SafeChoice Volunteer Support and Advocacy Specialist, Lauren Sheridan for receiving a scholarship from YWCA USA to attend the World YWCA Quadrennial Council meeting this October in Bangkok, Thailand!

Organized every four years, the World YWCA Council is the largest gathering of YWCA members from around the world. According to World YWCA Council’s website the event promises to be, “a collectively empowering environment for the 600-800 women expected to take part from over 100 countries. It is a place of celebration of women’s leadership and of building vision for the future.”

Adds SafeChoice Domestic Violence Program Director, Stephanie Barr, “It is a time for membership engagement, decision-making, reflections, and networking. Lauren will be an excellent ambassador for YWCA Clark County and YWCA USA.”

The selection process was highly competitive, with Lauren earning only one of six scholarships awarded by the YWCA USA Board of Directors.

We again congratulate Lauren on her achievement, and look forward to hearing about her experiences in Thailand later this year!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Why I Volunteer for YWCA Clark County

Rachel Pinsky (left) with YWCA Clark County Volunteer Coordinator Nichole Peppers (right).

By Rachel Pinsky, YWCA Clark County Volunteer

I moved to Vancouver a couple of years ago. I was looking for a volunteer opportunity to do some good work, meet people, and get to know the community. In the past, I have assisted survivors of domestic violence, which is what initially led me to YWCA Clark County. When I found YWCA’s website, I was amazed at all their programs. There is a domestic violence shelter and advocacy services, counseling for survivors of sexual assault, a child care program for low-income families, a court appointed special advocate program that assists children who have been abused and/or neglected, and an independent living skills program for children aging out of the foster care system.

My background is working directly with survivors of domestic violence; however, my schedule was not conducive to doing the training necessary to provide that kind of direct service. I worked with the volunteer coordinator, and she found a place for me in the Philanthropy Department. I had never worked in fundraising, but I knew this was a vital part of a non-profit agency, and I was eager to learn develop new skills. I have volunteered in the Philanthropy Department for two years. I have learned a lot about organizing and setting up events, procuring auction items, and all the things that go into successful fundraising. The director and staff of the Philanthropy Department have done an excellent job of finding interesting tasks for me. I also enjoy the way they work together as a team.

My schedule recently became more flexible and I went through the training to be a SafeChoice volunteer. The SafeChoice training was fascinating. I learned about the dynamics of domestic violence, empowerment-based advocacy, and many other things. Since completing the training, I am learning to be a court advocate for survivors seeking a restraining order.

There are many things I love about volunteering at the YWCA Clark County. It is a warm, supportive environment. The people that work there love their jobs and work together as a team. In addition, there are so many volunteer opportunities that it allows volunteers to learn and grow while they are helping others. I highly recommend contacting the volunteer coordinator, Nichole Peppers. She is a great person to work with and she will find you a volunteer position that fits with your schedule and your interests. I also encourage potential volunteers to try different types of work within the organization —YWCA Clark County does so many great things. It is interesting to try them all so you can find your true calling.

For more information about volunteer opportunities at YWCA Clark County please contact Nichole Peppers at 360-906-9112 or The next training cycle begins September 3rd.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Celebrating 2015 Val Joshua Award Recipients

Diana Perez (left) and LaQuoya Tyler (right) posing with their awards.

Social justice does not just “happen.” It takes dedicated individuals, groups and communities to instigate change, keep the momentum, spread the word, and celebrate successes. One way YWCA Clark County celebrates those who are making a significant impact in social justice is through The Val Joshua Racial Justice and Youth Social Justice Awards. This annual award ceremony honors two local citizens who are carrying on the legacy of Val Joshua, a former YWCA Clark County board president and community leader who committed her life toward the elimination of racism.

The Val Joshua Racial Justice Award went to Diana Perez, President of Southwest Washington’s League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). As president of LULAC, Diana strives to be at the forefront of supporting the mission of the organization, which seeks to advance the economic condition, educational attainment, political influence, housing, health and civil rights of the Latino population of the United States.  

Diana re-established the local LULAC chapter in 2011 after noticing that, “the need for organizational skills in our community is huge, especially within underserved communities and in our youth.” She continued, “As an educated Latina, I felt that it was my responsibility to start giving back in a substantial way where there was purpose and meaning. I don't know if I would have had the courage to establish a new Council had it not been for the support of many in the Latino community.”

Despite all the wonderful work she’s done for the community, Diana was still shocked to learn she’d been given the award after receiving an email from Kate Sacamano, YWCA’s Director of Philanthropy, “I had to read her message three times to make sure, then I took a deep breathe, and thought of my parents while I fought back those tears.”  Diana was particularly proud to tell her two children about the award.

Recent Fort Vancouver High School graduate LaQuoya Tyler was presented with The Val Joshua Youth Social Justice Award and Scholarship, in addition to being one of four recent recipients of YWCA Clark County’s Young Woman of Achievement Award & Scholarship earlier in the year.

LaQuoya, who plans on attending Western Oregon University in the fall, was heavily active in her school’s Black Student Union. Additionally, LaQuoya logged hundreds of hours of voluntary service on behalf of HIV/AIDS patients:

“A few years ago, my family was approached to be a part of a pilot project called HIV/AIDS of Faith. Our purpose was to bring awareness to the churches in the NW Portland area about HIV/AIDS prevention and protection. It became a passion of mine ever since.”

She is equally passionate about mental health issues, and is a trained Mental Health First Aid worker with experience working with youth, and promoting mental health awareness programs like Open Minds Open Doors to help eliminate the stigma of mental illness.

LaQuoya credits her father and grandmother for instilling her with a passion to give back to her community at a young age. Like Diana, she was humbled that her advocacy was being acknowledged, “I was honored that the people around me thought so highly of me, and a little overwhelmed, if I’m being honest!”

Diana described the reception itself as “a sweet and loving environment”, and she particularly enjoyed meeting and being alongside LaQuoya. Both women felt touched by the support they received by members of the community, with Diana noting, “Some of my good LULAC friends attended, and the kind words shared by Mr. Jack Burkman was very special to me. The time and energy it took the staff from YWCA to celebrate the award is greatly appreciated.”

Adds LaQuoya, “I’m not really good at taking pictures or speaking on the spot in front of an audience, but it really was a wonderful experience. And the cake was delicious! I also really enjoyed the piece of art I received. It will be cherished for as long as I live.”

Congratulations once again to LaQuoya and Diana on your well-deserved awards. Thank you both for being shining embodiments of what it means to advocate for social justice and racial equality in our community!

Click here to see more photos from the event!