New YWCA Board President Holly Jacobs Reflects on Tumultuous 2020

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New YWCA Board President Holly Jacobs Reflects on Tumultuous 2020

Categories: News

Challenges included coping with COVID, filling a key leadership position.

Holly Jacobs, YWCA Clark County’s new board president, brings energy, enthusiasm, and commitment to social and racial justice to the position. After five-plus years on our board, she feels she is ready to step into this leadership role. What keeps her motivated is the deep sense of accomplishment she receives as part of YWCA. “There is no better place to spend your time and talent than YWCA. My reward is knowing that I am supporting this life-saving and life-changing work right here in our community!”

We asked Holly to share her thoughts about joining the board and the challenges she has faced as a board member.

Holly Jacobs
Holly Jacobs, YWCA Board President

As the incoming board president, what specific goals do you have for yourself, the board, and YWCA Clark  County?

A key task of the board is partnering with staff for strategic planning. It is our job to ensure that the organization has the resources and direction for sustainability and growth. As the population of Clark County and our surrounding areas grows and changes, it is paramount that we have the capacity and structure to continue to serve our community.
Also, I want to grow and continue to bring diversity to our Board! There are so many folks in our community who care deeply about the work of this organization. We are at our strongest when we have voices and expertise from a wide variety of careers and demographics – the common thread, always, is love for YWCA.What was it about YWCA’s programs that inspired you to volunteer your time?
Shortly after my family moved to Southwest Washington, I met a YWCA Board member (our spouses work together). She was a terrific cheerleader for YWCA, the programs, and the experience of being a Board Member. She knew that I had come from a social-service background prior to our move and was missing that feeling of connection and service in the community.

At the time, I had a newborn baby and a three-year-old and could barely see straight! But, she kept checking back with me and, when my life calmed down a bit, she invited me to meet the Executive Director for a tour. Once I saw the place in action, I was hooked! The commitment to the program participants and the joy in serving the community in so many unique and important ways is evident in each staff member. Both YWCA’s mission and the way that YWCA Clark County delivers on that mission is well aligned with my values and the values I try to instill in my kids — it’s a privilege to have a front row seat to the work!

What particular challenges have you helped the YWCA navigate during your time on the board?

Answering this question in 2020 means the list could be longer by the time I finish this sentence! Let’s look at three:

Board collaboration: One thing that’s been so wonderful through my five-plus years on the board and through many board members joining and rolling-off the Board is the way that this group collaborates to focus on what’s best for the organization, its staff, and the people we serve. Prior to this crazy year, our challenges reflected those at so many non-profits.

We always wish we had even greater capacity to serve our community in deeper and broader ways, we wish we could pay our incredible staff more, we wish our sources of funding were more predictable. There have been some difficult decision-points as a board, but we have always had great collaboration and problem-solving with YWCA staff and leadership.

Executive Director search: This year, the Board was tasked with hiring a new Executive Director. This was a huge responsibility and a privilege. The selection process was not easy. We had several excellent candidates. But our selection of Dunetchka Otero-Serrano positions us to enter 2021 with a strong, experienced leader. This was a very important task for the Board, especially since this was the first executive director transition in two decades.

Staff resilience during COVID: While decision-making through COVID-19 has been frequent and challenging, I am so proud of how the staff of YWCA Clark County has reacted to the rapid-fire changes and flexibility asked of them during the pandemic. For an organization that is defined by the life-saving, in-person services we provide, the sudden shift to largely virtual work is enormous. Staff pivoted without blinking, continuing to provide advocacy, intervention, and assistance through each and every barrier.

If someone asked you whether you thought they should volunteer for the YWCA, what would you tell them?

There’s NO better place to volunteer! There are so many satisfying opportunities to serve our community through volunteering for YWCA Clark County! We’ll put your time and talent to good use – I promise! One of the wonderful things about our really wide variety of programs and services is that there is a good fit for volunteers who feel drawn to any one of our programs.

Knowing that you are supporting this life-saving and life-changing work right here in our community! There is no better place to spend your time and talent and we’re deeply grateful for our volunteers!