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Introducing the Women’s Leadership Center of YWCA Clark County

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By Sharon Svec

In the past 101 years, YWCA Clark County has adapted to meet the changing needs of the community while honoring an overarching mission of eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. Our most recent adaptation has been that of the Women’s Leadership Center. We’ve developed this program as a response to the disparity of women within leadership positions nationwide. Whenever leadership fails to reflect the population, the society is at risk of losing valuable perspective and access to advancement. The Women’s Leadership Center will contribute to creating a more inclusive, equitable, and sustainable world.

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CASA Profile Part Two: Larry Didier

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by Emily Ostrowski

In honor of 35 years of the CASA Program, we’ve interviewed three wonderful and dedicated volunteers about what life is like as a CASA. Read the first profile here, and keep an eye out for part three to come.

Meet Larry Didier. He’s been a CASA for about two and a half years.

What first inspired you or got you interested in the CASA program?
I was feeling like my life in retirement lacked something. I wanted to do something to make a difference. I saw an article in our local paper about a CASA who had been doing this for many years, and I thought this was something I could do. I contacted the CASA program, went through the training, and never looked back.  More

Lost in Transition: How Our Independent Living Skills Program Empowers Youth in Foster Care

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by Emily Ostrowski

The transition from adolescence to adulthood is complicated for most everyone, however youth in foster care  face a unique set of challenges once they age out of the system. At YWCA Clark County, our Independent Living Skills (ILS) Program aims to help youth age 15-21 successfully transition from state-supported care to independent living through education, financial assistance, and advocacy focused on housing, education, and employment which empower participants to define and achieve their goals.

According to the National Foster Youth Institute more than 23,000 children age out of foster care each year. Robbie Orr, Director of YWCA Clark County’s ILS Program highlighted some of the particular challenges youth face when aging out of the system:

“Many youth are not ready to leave foster care, but have to anyway. Because of this, some youth struggle to learn basic life skills like how to obtain and retain a job and housing, as well as how to keep stable relationships with a support network. Youth in the foster care system are also used to social workers making all of their decisions for them, so once they turn 18 they often struggle with how to do basic things like set up doctors appointments, show up to places on time, continue to go to school, and live on a budget.”  More

Sponsor Spotlight: Interview with Michelle Thor of Columbia Credit Union

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by Emily Ostrowski

At YWCA Clark County we continually stress how important support from our community is in helping us live out our mission, serve the people of Clark County, and help them achieve greatness. Every contribution that is made by volunteers, grantors, sponsors, and community partners is felt and appreciated, which is why we love when we’re able to turn the spotlight back on those who’ve helped us throughout the years.

Michelle Thor, Vice President of Outreach and Social Responsibility for Columbia Credit Union (CCU), has been involved in furthering YWCA Clark County’s mission for many years. Thor worked for five years for YWCA Clark County in marketing and special events. During that time she worked closely with CCU to help plan and coordinate our benefit luncheons. Columbia Credit Union has been a longtime community partner, and is once again a sponsor of our upcoming 21st Annual Empower Luncheon.

Michelle Thor

Seeing the ways in which CCU lived up to their tagline “Make Life Better” impressed Thor, and when a position in their marketing department opened up, she felt confident she would continue to work somewhere that put stock in making a difference. “When the opportunity to join Columbia Credit Union’s Marketing Department came up, I knew their values aligned with mine, and that in my new role I would continue to support the mission of the YWCA and help make life better for our members and the communities we serve,” Thor said.

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Silveira and Grace and Writing Your Own Story

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by Michelle Polek

This post started out as a personal journal entry! Journaling has been an important aspect of my own self-care, especially during this political climate.

One of my favorite videos right now features Lucas Silveira (from the band The Cliks) and Laura Jane Grace (from the band Against Me!) singing “The Ocean,” a song that Grace wrote in a time before she was able to live openly as a woman. In a basement-like room, surrounded on all sides by fans who are mouthing the words, they sing a song of dreams and transformation:

“And if I could have chosen, I would have been born a woman
My mother once told me she would have named me Laura
I’d grow up to be strong and beautiful like her.”

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CASA Profile: Avonna Chung

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by Emily Ostrowski

YWCA Clark County would be nothing without our volunteers. We feel an enormous sense of pride and gratitude for all of our program volunteers that give their time, energy and compassion so selflessly to help aid many of the most vulnerable members of our community.

This year our Clark County Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Program is celebrating its 35 year anniversary, and as a way to commemorate the program’s longevity we’d like to take some time to shine the spotlight on several volunteers who advocate for children in our community, and celebrate the work that they have done.

CASA Volunteer Avonna Chung

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Celebrate Greatness at YWCA Clark County’s Empower Luncheon

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by Sharon Svec

For the last 100 years, we’ve seen and experienced the greatness of our community, which has built and maintained a safe place where eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all, remains the ultimate mission.

This was evident in 1916, when we established a lunch counter, so that working women could eat and socialize in public. It was also clear in 1960, during the emerging civil rights movement, when we took an official stand against segregation. Over the years, up to seven different programs have been developed to address the changing needs of our community, and to ensure that equality, diversity, and empowerment are celebrated and encouraged in the work we do and the lives we live.

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Celebrating 35 Years of Putting Children First with CASA

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by Emily Ostrowski

This year our Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Program is celebrating its 35 year anniversary. We are incredibly proud of all the work our volunteers have done for children in the community through this program. In honor of this, we’d like to take some time to look back at the very beginnings of the CASA Program, and why it remains a vital resource to advocate for children.

The National CASA Program was started by King County Superior Court Judge David Soukup in 1977. During his time on the bench in juvenile court, Judge Soukup became frustrated that during cases there was no one in the courtroom whose sole job was to provide a voice for children, and from his concerns the idea for CASA grew. “It struck me that it might be possible to recruit and train volunteers to investigate a child’s case so they could provide a voice for the child in those proceedings, proceedings which could affect their whole lives,” said Soukup.

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We Say Her Name

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by Michelle Polek

Charleena Lyles called the police to ask for help. That’s one of the supposedly basic concepts that many of us instill in our children: when you are in danger, call the police. Memorize 911. If you are lost, find a police officer. They will help you. In most horror movies, the arrival of police sirens and lights signify that safety has come at last. Here at SafeChoice, I am currently charging several of our donated phones that we always have on hand to give to survivors. These phones don’t have a messaging plan – their sole purpose to have a way to call 911. Calling the police is an important part of many domestic violence survivors’ safety plans. But calling the police is not a safe option for everyone.

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“I Am Jane Doe” Screening and Panel Offered Local Insight into Human Trafficking

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by Emily Ostrowski

Last month 75 people gathered at Kiggins Theater in Vancouver to watch a free screening of the critically acclaimed documentary “I Am Jane Doe” put on by YWCA Clark County, in partnership with the National Women’s Coalition Against Violence and Exploitation (NWCAVE), and the Clark County Human Trafficking Task Force.

The film, narrated and produced by Academy Award nominee Jessica Chastain examines the crisis of human sex trafficking through the lens of young women who are survivors, as well as their mothers who work to seek justice for their daughters, and the thousands of other families that have been hurt, and left unprotected against human trafficking.

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