With a global pandemic and national calls for racial equality, the YWCA’s approach to social services is seeing an increased demand in Spokane.
YWCA CEO Regina Malveaux and Chief Philanthropy Officer Dana Morris Lee spoke at The Spokesman Review’s Northwest Passages Virtual Forum Monday about the work they’ve been doing in recent months and their upcoming virtual fundraiser.
With the slogan “eliminating racism, empowering women,” many people in Spokane looked to the YWCA for help educating themselves on racial inequality after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis sparked nationwide protests, Malveaux said.
In June the YWCA held a 14-day racial and social justice equity challenge, where participants received daily emails with educational materials.
“So, many people were wanting to better understand the issues and kind of how we got here,” Malveaux said. “I really appreciated how hungry people were for more information and wanting to understand some of the challenges and more importantly what they might to do help eliminate them.”
The challenge covered topics including “microaggressions,” privilege, and inequities in the legal system.
The YWCA operates a 24-hour domestic violence help line, a safe shelter for victims of partner violence, a preschool for children from low-income families, and offers counseling and legal aid.
Due to COVID-19 the YWCA closed their main offices but continued to operate their safe shelter and the 24-hour helpline, which can also be accessed by text message.
“I had some concern that victims would not be able to or choose to access services as readily as they typically would in person,” Malveaux said. “I think we have been pleasantly surprised that we still have a pretty significant number of folks.”
The YWCA operates two safe shelters one in the city of Spokane and one in Spokane County. The shelters have been full recently with hotels being used as overflow, Malveaux said.
“We never turn away anybody that is in imminent danger,” Malveaux said.
With many of the people the YWCA serves being at or below the poverty line, the financial ramifications of the pandemic coupled with the mental health strain were things Malveaux said the organization hopes to help address.
“We know that the reality is so many of the families that we serve were already struggling financially and living at or below the poverty line,” Malveaux said. “That’s probably one of our biggest concerns is families being able to stabilize financially.”
Financial stress can contribute to conflict or violence in a home, which is something Malveaux said they are concerned about.
Malveaux and Morris Lee both said the outpouring of support for the YWCA at the beginning of the pandemic was encouraging.
“The community and then just individual citizens are just really stepping up to check on and help their neighbors,” Malveaux said. “We were so grateful and so surprised by just the onslaught of unsolicited support that the YWCA received at the beginning of the pandemic.”
2020 was already a big year for the YWCA with about 65% of their funding coming from government entities being tied to the Census.
“Those resources really are determined based on the census,” Malveaux said. “The resources that families we support need are very much dictated by the results of the census.”
With the census pending and a potential for increased community need in 2020 the YWCA decided to go ahead with their Evening in Tuscany fundraiser virtually.
Normally, the Evening in Tuscany aims to raise about $100,000. The event was started 14 years ago to be in support of the safe shelter program. Over the years the event has grown, Morris Lee said.
The YWCA decided to move the event online and rather than limit it to one evening make it a month long campaign.
“At this point in time, we need to look broader at all the ways to raise funds during this COVID time,” Morris Lee said.
The fundraiser will be live streamed Thursday at 5:45 p.m. Donors can partake in an Italian dinner by Beacon Hill Catering if they register by Monday night. Then an interactive online event will be livestreamed from Hamilton Studios where attendees can bid on auction items and feel connected to other attendees, Morris Lee said.
“We need everybody in the community that we can get to help us meet our goals and help support the women children and families that need us the most,” Morris Lee said.
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