One of the best-known programs at the YWCA of Spokane is Our Sister’s Closet, where low-income women find clothes suitable for job interviews, work or workplace training.
YWCA staffers can gauge the health of the job market by the number of women coming through Our Sister’s Closet.
“We average about 135 a month through the closet, so it’s not like (hiring) is non-existent,” said Trish McFarland, executive director of the YWCA.
“But if a lot of people were hiring that number would be a lot higher.”
Every other YWCA program, however, has seen an uptick because the needs have increased for women served by the nonprofit.
Women in need of shelter due to domestic violence. Women in need of transitional living.
Programs that help children and young people. Programs that nurture diversity.
Demand for services grew 21 percent last year, according to McFarland. And the YWCA – like most nonprofits – is experiencing this recession era’s “double whammy.”
“The government and grant funding is being cut,” she explained. “And then people in our communities aren’t able to share as much of their wealth as they have in the past. So it’s a double whammy.
“The real victims of this economy are the not-for-profits in the different communities across the country doing the good works,” McFarland said.
Indeed, last week the Chronicle of Philanthropy reported an 11 percent drop for the nation’s 400 biggest charities.
But don’t expect a whine fest at the YWCA’s annual Women of Achievement luncheon on Wednesday at the Spokane Convention Center.
The event, in its 28th year, has always been a celebration of resilience, in good times and bad.
This year’s speaker, Susan Stamberg, is a National Public Radio icon.
Stamberg has been with the network since its inception in 1971. She’s known for her down-to-earth interviewing style, whether she’s talking with presidents or pop stars.
“Her topic is about the inspiring women she’s interviewed over the course of her career,” McFarland said. “I know one of the women she’ll talk about is the woman who hid (Holocaust victim) Anne Frank.”
The luncheon’s video presentation usually highlights women and children served by the YWCA.
“But this year we are highlighting our six award winners,” McFarland said.
“We are making the connection of our mission of ‘empowering women and eliminating racism’ through the stories and comments the (women) make about their lives in Spokane. I think it will be powerful.”