Before the YWCA’s national president spoke at an annual breakfast Tuesday, she listened to a Spokane woman tell an emotional story of abuse and homelessness.
The woman sobbed at the microphone and was comforted by her 10-year-old son, who draped an arm around her heaving shoulders.
“If it wasn’t for the YWCA, … I’d be dead,” said the woman, who introduced herself only as Terry. “I’d be dead - if not by my own hands, then by the hands of my ex-husband, who is now serving a life sentence for the murder of the next woman in his life.”
When she had finished her story, the crowd of nearly 500 people at the Ag Trade Center stood and applauded, many wiping their eyes.
YWCA national President Ann Stallard had only one word to say.
The hour-long breakfast was held as a fund-raiser and to celebrate the success of YWCA programs. Several women delivered testimonials about the help they’ve received from the YWCA, which has served Spokane for 92 years.
Local programs include child care, parenting and anger-management classes, a school for homeless children, clothing banks and referral services to different social agencies.
The YWCA’s Alternatives to Domestic Violence program, which includes a shelter for battered women, “sets the pace for (domestic violence) programs everywhere,” Stallard said.
In Spokane, one out of every 74 residents is served somehow by the YWCA. Nationally last year, more than 4,000 YWCAs provided child care for 352,000 youngsters.
One woman at Tuesday’s breakfast talked about enrolling in a therapeutic swimming class at the YWCA last year after having surgery for breast cancer. She recovered a month later.
Another fled an abusive relationship in the middle of the night with her baby and stayed two weeks at the YWCA’s safe shelter.
She now has a job and a place of her own.
Even Terry’s son, Christopher, had a story to tell.
“I was hurting and angry but they helped me,” the boy said of YWCA counselors.
“They also taught me how to swim and I’m good at swimming. I can even swim better than my mom.”
They were stories that show first-hand the magic in giving, said Stallard, who lives in Atlanta.
“We are driven by our mission to give and give and give some more,” she said.
“That’s the real magic, and we need a lot more of it in this country.”
Stallard encouraged the audience to change directions for women.
She noted a contrast in crime statistics: A 4 percent conviction rate for rape, 18 percent for robbery.
“It’s easier to convict somebody when things are stolen than when personhood is taken away,” she said.
An investment in the programs of the YWCA is a step toward eliminating racism and sexism, Stallard said.
“Adding a right or opportunity for women does not mean a subtraction for men and boys,” Stallard said.
“When we are connected, we have the ability to make magic happen.”