There was a point in time when I assumed the YWCA was simply a Y that catered to women—exercise classes and swim lessons, maybe some after-school programs for girls.
A few weeks ago I got the opportunity to attend an introductory luncheon at the YWCA in Lancaster and take a tour. I was surprised by all the YWCA does. According to its mission statement, “The YWCA is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.”
Those goals were fleshed out as we toured the Lancaster YWCA, which is celebrating its 125th year in 2014. Its programs include:
- Housing for women and children in transition or coming out of homelessness—The kitchen area was well-equipped and clean, and the room a resident allowed us to visit was beautifully and personally decorated; it was a home, not just a place to live temporarily.
- Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center—The SAPCC provides counseling and legal advocacy for about 800 victims (and their families) a year, half of whom are children.
- Childcare—When we walked through the daycare wing, the children were eating their taco lunch and were eager to tell us what food was new to them and what they did or didn’t like, but it was obvious they enjoyed the learning environment and caring teachers.
- Racial justice initiatives—The YWCA hosts programs in schools and businesses to work to combat racism and offers study circles that help individuals examine racism in a personal way.
- Empowerment of Girls—TechGYRLS allows girls to explore careers in trades like plumbing and carpentry, as well as science, math and technology, and Girl Power helps preteens transition to middle school by providing relational skills and enhancing strengths.
The Lancaster YWCA served 10,000 county residents last year. If you want to be one of the many who support its programs, consider participating in its Race Against Racism on April 26. There is a 5K and also a kids’ fun run. If you’re not the running type, visit Humanity Fest, a multicultural fair that occurs the same day.
Want to get more involved? You can be trained to staff the sexual assault hotline or assist in the girls empowerment programs or uses your talents and skills on committees or in programming. Just ask. The YWCA would be happy to put you to work.
Hey, maybe you could teach an exercise class!
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