YWCA Central Carolinas isn’t just another gym! In 2012, this extraordinary organization is celebrating its 110th anniversary, but more importantly a rich history focused on eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.
What began as an effort to simply meet the needs of women who moved into the city to work in textile mills, has now become a leading nonprofit agency and comprehensive resource for all individuals seeking to even the scale of equality.
The establishment of the Charlotte YWCA, in 1902, by Mrs. W.S. Liddell, Mrs. W.O. Nisbett and Mrs. F.C. Abbott set into motion a dedication to women’s suffrage. From the creation of the Business Women’s Employment Council (1917) to the hallmark Women In Transition (WIT) program being transformed in 1996, the YWCA continued to develop programs to aid in the development of women personally and professionally throughout the 20th Century.
2012 finds the organization involved with several programs critical to the success of area women, including:
- Families Together - A ten-unit housing complex providing safe and affordable housing for families in transition from homelessness with on-site support encompassing case management, computer instruction, and career counseling, among others.
- Women In Transition Program – A program in place for 15 years helping unaccompanied women in the community. Among the services provided include intensive case management, safe housing, and support services while transitioning to permanent housing and economic stability.
- Youth Programs – 300 children ages 5 to 12 in Mecklenburg and Union Counties are served 50 weeks of the year, with the program’s Tolerance and Prevention Initiative engaging at-risk youth. The weekly workshops address conflict resolution, anger management and character-building activities.
- Fitness Center - A comfortable co-ed fitness center for men, women and children of all fitness levels.
Two key events highlight the good work of YWCA Central Carolinas each year:
We Believe Luncheon – The annual fundraiser brings together over 1,000 community leaders and supporters of the YWCA. The event focuses on women, children, and families. The 2012 luncheon featured Olympic gold medalist Cullen Jones, who spoke about his personal experience growing up as an African American swimmer and how important it
is for young children to have opportunities.
Stand Against Racism Day – Brought to the Charlotte region in 2010, the initiative is aimed at raising awareness that racism still exists in our communities and that it can no longer be ignored or tolerated. Three YWCA locations in the area provide historical displays, a family-friendly fair, and guest speakers to combat the some 1,000 hate groups in the U.S., while honoring and celebrating the richness of diversity.
CEO Kristen D. Sikkelee provides outstanding leadership to the organization. The YWCA was listed as one of the Best Places to Work by the Charlotte Business Journal in 2011. While such recognition is nice, the real success comes from serving the community.
Kirsten Sikkelee notes, “We’re the oldest and largest women’s membership movement in the world…our programming is really designed to reach vulnerable populations who might otherwise be left on the margins — those who are brimming with potential and the desire to have a full life just as you and I have.”
Others are taking notice of their good work, as well. As noted by Angela Lindsay in a recent edition of Pride Magazine, “The YWCA Central Carolinas makes many people think of shelter/housing, swimming instruction and cardio classes. However, the reach of the 110-year-old organization extends far beyond its award-winning fitness center. Its many programs, such as those for women and children, are dedicated to nourishing a lot more than just physical well-being.”
YWCA partners with and works within a network of many local nonprofits to fulfill their mission, including Charlotte Housing Authority, Salvation Army of Greater Charlotte’s Center of Hope Shelter, the Charlotte Rescue Mission’s Dove’s Nest program and other area mental health facilities.
This sort of partnership and collaboration, coupled with excellence in programming and advocacy, make YWCA a natural fit as PMA’s Nonprofit of the Month for May 2012.