Spokane Journal of Business

YMCA, YWCA: Separate nonprofits, shared vision

Joint center near downtown uncommon for organizations

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Nearly a decade ago, YWCA Spokane and YMCA of the Inland Northwest partnered to build a state-of-the-art facility strategically situated near downtown Spokane.

Both organizations have served Spokane for over a century, each with a deep, rich history. Our missions are distinctly different, yet complementary. We share a common commitment to strengthening our community, but we’ve learned that the shared location for the YMCA-YWCA central facility at 1126 N. Monroe can create some confusion about our organizations. As independent organizations with similar names, we understand the confusion. Let’s clear some things up right now.

YWCA Spokane is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women, standing up for social justice, helping families, and strengthening communities. YWCA Spokane provides a lifeline for women and children in Spokane who are impacted by domestic violence, homelessness, and unemployment.

To meet the identified needs in our community, we focus our work in three main areas:

•Domestic violence survivor services, including safety planning, counseling, housing, and legal services.

•Economic advancement through skill building, financial education, job readiness, employment support, and clothing resources.

•Children and youth services, including early education, outreach, and trauma support.

We serve more than 16,000 women, children, and families each year through the Alternatives to Domestic Violence Program, the Women’s Opportunity Center, and children’s services, including the Early Childhood Education & Assistance Program, young women’s Transformations Camp, and free drop-in childcare for clients accessing on-site services.

YWCA Spokane is also home to the collaborative Spokane Family Justice Center, which includes YWCA legal advocates and city and county law enforcement and prosecutors. In addition, YWCA Spokane works with local partners to become a community resource for issues of racial and social justice.

The other similarly named organization, YMCA of the Inland Northwest, believes everyone should have a safe place to learn, grow, and thrive. Guided by its mission, the YMCA strengthens the foundations of Spokane through three areas of focus—youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility.

•Youth development—We nurture the potential of all youth and teens. We create programming that responds to emerging opportunities to better serve our children and youth. Youth programs offer support, empowerment, boundaries, expectations, and constructive use of time. We do this to foster within each child a commitment to learning, positive values, social competencies, and a positive identity.

•Healthy living—We improve the health and well-being of our community through strengthening individuals and families. A multitude of YMCA programs give members the opportunity to stay fit and enjoy activities that benefit them physically, socially, and mentally. While life’s experiences affect people in different ways, the pursuit of health helps our members move forward.

•Social responsibility—We support and give back to our neighbors. Scholarships, financial assistance, and the Membership for All program define our commitment to the community. Every year the need for assistance becomes greater, but, thanks to the Annual Giving Campaign, we can ensure that no one is denied the chance to participate in YMCA programs and activities based on financial limitations.

The YMCA brings together people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities to bridge the gaps in community needs. Kids can make friends, have fun, get active, and discover what they can achieve. Parents and children spend quality time together. All activities at the YMCA encourage good health and foster connections with others through sports, exercise, and common interests.

The two organizations collaborate in many ways.

•The Central Y Children’s Center houses child care programs in shared, highly secure space for preschool and early learning—from infancy to 5 years of age.

•Children participating in YWCA Early Childhood Education & Assistance Programs can join the YMCA early learning program outside of ECEAP hours, providing full-day care.

•Meals are prepared by the YMCA’s kitchen for all children at the center.

•Children from YWCA early learning programs have occasional access to the YMCA swimming pools.

•YMCA yoga instructors lead a private class for YWCA clients.

•YWCA youth advocates lead healthy relationships discussions with teens in YMCA programs.

•Clients served by the YWCA receive guest passes to the YMCA.

•YWCA clients’ children have free access to the YMCA Teen Center, Child Watch, or Family Activity Centers when visiting the YWCA after hours.

•Joint organizational cross-training of staff and volunteers on vital services raises awareness of each other’s programs and delivery.

The two organizations here have long shared a goal to deliver the greater good for Spokane.

It has taken dedication, commitment, stamina, and a clear vision to accomplish this collaboration—the first and only such YMCA-YWCA collaboration in the nation. The journey to create the center spanned four years of intense planning and raised unprecedented capital for a nonprofit in this community. In the nearly 10 years since opening in 2009, we’ve delivered on our joint promises to weave an even stronger safety net for our community, lifting those who need us most to a place of hope, health, safety and the ability to thrive.

Since opening, the number of lives impacted has skyrocketed thanks to the co-located YMCA-YWCA building in Spokane. Now, both organizations can exercise fully their individual missions in service to the community.

Moving forward into the next decade, YMCA’s strategic plan focuses on growth, relevance, and excellence. We’re poised to have significant positive impact on the worsening health disparities in our community through newly developed, evidenced-based programming.

We will continue to work with our elected officials to make early learning an educational priority, making certain every child has access to high quality programs and is ready for kindergarten. As we have for the last 135 years, we commit to the community that our charitable mission will continue to be at the heart of what we do, ensuring no one is turned away from the YMCA for an inability to pay.

As the YWCA enters its 116th year here, we will continue to provide trauma-informed service for victims of domestic violence and their children, and to expand services for children to help interrupt the cycle of domestic violence.

We also will seek to expand our clinical therapy and legal programs to meet the growing need for these critical services. Our third priority focuses on continued engagement with community partners on issues of social justice that touch those we serve, and to provide further education about the epidemic of family violence in our community. Finally, we too will continue to work with our elected officials to ensure that funding for early learning and gender-based violence victim’s services remains a priority at both the state and federal levels. We are proud of our legacy and excited about the future of the YWCA in eliminating racism, empowering women, standing up for social justice, helping families, and strengthening our community.

The vision that guided the last decade propels us into the next with a focus on community awareness—what sets the YMCA and YWCA apart—and how our collaboration continues to enhance our community.

Mary Berry is the director of communications and marketing for the YMCA of the Inland Northwest.


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