CEO of Mohawk Valley YWCA: Empowering women and girls
By David Podos
Q: How long have you been the CEO of the Mohawk Valley YWCA?
A: I have been CEO for the past six and half years.
Q: What past employment experiences have you had in working in the nonprofit sphere?
A: I worked seven years in the nonprofit credit union sector. I worked for the Girl Scouts for nine years, at that time I was a chief operating officer. So the transition to my current position was a perfect fit because the Girl Scouts was all about empowering young girls and here at the YWCA its all about empowering women and girls.
Q: When did the YWCA come into existence here in the Mohawk Valley?
A: The YWCA began here in 1906. The YWCA is actually a worldwide international organization and we are a little but important piece of that.
Q: What is your area regarding offering services?
A: We currently offer our services to both Oneida and Herkimer counties.
Q: How many staff do you have?
A: Between 50 and 60 employees.
Q: What is your current annual operational budget and where does the YWCA receive its funding?
A: Eighty-five percent of our funding is from federal, state and local grants as well as the generosity of individual donors. We also receive revenue from our Salute to Outstanding Women fundraising event, which is now 33 years in the making. Seven women and one youth are selected and all are nominated by the community and chosen by independent judges. The judges choose nominees from categories such as education, human and public service, entrepreneurship, science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics to name a few. We hold a huge luncheon for the winners that were selected at Harts Hill Inn. That luncheon will be in April. There is an admission to attend. We have sponsors that promote the event as well. Last year it was held virtually and we made $30,000. This year it will be live and we anticipate to make around $60,000.
Q: Who are your clientele, what services do you offer and how does someone contact the MV YWCA to receive help?
A: Our services are many from crisis intervention, sexual assault, child abuse, domestic violence. We have a hotline so you can call 24/7, 365 days a year. That number is 315-797-7740. A person can either call that number to speak to a trained advocate or text that number. A person can also chat with us online at ywcamv.org/chat. Our Herkimer County number is 315-866-4120 and that is a call number only.
Q: Is it just women experiencing abuse that you work with?
A: Not necessarily, we have a good number of men seeking out our services as well. People sometimes forget that men can be the victims of physical and sexual domestic assault-abuse as well. We are gender neutral in providing our services.
Q: Tell me about your shelter services that your organization provides.
A: We offer two shelter services. We have a home in Utica and one in Rome. The home in Utica has 16 beds and the home in Rome has seven. Both are staffed 24 hours per day. The shelters are designed with high security as we want our clients to feel protected as they are obviously escaping form a bad situation. We want them to feel totally safe and secure. The houses are located in secret locations, most people do not know where they are, in fact some of our board members I am sure do not know where the houses are located. We provide everything the client needs while staying at the home, from bedding, personal hygiene products, meals, etc. Clients can stay up to 90 days and if we haven’t found suitable alternative housing for them by the end of 90 days we can extend that out another 45 days. As soon as we receive someone into the house they are assigned a case manager who works with them while they are with us and helps to provide suitable housing after they are on their own. So there is quite a lot of follow-up.
Q: Is there an on-going problem with domestic violence in our area?
A: We have one of the highest number of domestic violence cases right here in Oneida County. We are second only to New York City.
Q: Why does Oneida County have such a problem with this, what are the causes?
A: We like to think that more and more people are aware of the services we offer so there are more people reporting domestic violence incidents, which makes our numbers jump. We also have a high number of refugees coming into our city. There cultures are different than ours, they realize that the behaviors that they did in their home country are not tolerated in this country. We also see an increase in alcoholism and drug addiction in our county which contributes to an unhealthy and often times dangerous home environment.
Q: Has the pandemic contributed to an increase in domestic violence?
A: Absolutely, we have seen a 50% increase in our services since the pandemic began.
For more information on the services that the MV YWCA provides as well as upcoming events, visit: ywcamv.org