The St. Joseph YWCA Celebrates Freedom Every Day

The St. Joseph YWCA Celebrates Freedom Every Day

How Independence Day Embodies the Core Values of Our St. Joseph YWCA

It’s time for the Fourth of July; time for celebrating freedom and independence. A time to pause from your regular routine and give thanks for life in a country where individuals can dream, work and achieve without fear of reprisal. Over the course of the nation’s history, freedom has come in varying degrees to its citizens – but it remains the communal prize a nation is reaching toward. At the St. Joseph YWCA we have been working for over a century to help all people, especially women, realize this freedom we hold so dear.

Since 1888, the YWCA has been striving to promote peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. This vision drives everything we do and has from the very start. We are an organization started by women in order to improve the lives of women in our community. By serving the needs of women, we also positively impact the culture for the next generation.

More than 128 years ago a handful of women decided it was up to them to help women in need. Although they didn’t enjoy full rights themselves (women still could not vote in 1888), those women rolled up their sleeves and got busy working to improve conditions for at-risk women. That is how the St. Joseph YWCA was born and it remains core to what we are about to this very day.

At the YWCA we believe every woman has value. We believe every woman deserves a fresh chance to work toward her potential. We agree with William Hazlitt who said “The love of liberty is the love of others…” Love expresses itself in action and at the YWCA we are very active in our pursuit of dignity and freedom and the elimination of racism.
Peter Marshall said that true freedom is to be “free to do what is right”. We believe it is right that all women be treated equal regardless of age, race or ethnicity. We believe it is right to help women and men who’ve been oppressed by abuse to find space to heal and believe again in themselves and their ability to overcome. We celebrate the freedom to do what is right each and every day. And on the Fourth of July, we celebrate even more.

A former U.S. President has said that “the wisest use of American strength is to advance freedom.” Won’t you help advance freedom by supporting the work of the St. Joseph YWCA? Freedom from abuse. Freedom from fear. Freedom from racism and bigotry. Freedom to dream and achieve. Freedom to live independently. These are freedoms all Americans hold dear and they are what we work for. We celebrate freedom each and every day. Happy Independence Day from your St. Joseph YWCA.

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Working to Eliminate Racism in our Community

YWCA-Transparent-LogoWhat You Can Do to Help Eliminate Racism

At the YWCA you will find people who are committed to the belief that we can and should make every effort to eliminate racism in the land of the free.

You may be just one person, but there is much you can do to be part of this effort. After all, a city, state or country is made up of individuals and each person has a sphere of influence. Here are some ways that you can aid in the work to eliminate racism right where you live.

Build Some Bridges
It’s easy to hold misperceptions about people you don’t know. The best way to tear apart prejudice is to build bridges with people who are different from those in your own circle. Not only does this destroy misperceptions – it also makes life so much more interesting. Make an effort to meet and get to know people from other backgrounds, countries or cultures. Join a group that doesn’t look exactly like you and work on something together.

Try exploring a new language. Cook ethnic food or visit ethnic restaurants. You may not ever develop a taste for Korean kimchi, but once you learn that it was a method of preserving vegetables for long, harsh winters – you can appreciate its cultural value. You’ll be surprised how many people around you assume that everyone in South America eats Mexican food. A little bit of learning can make a big difference in how you think and speak about people from other cultures.

Avoid Stereotypes
No people group is monolithic. Afford others the courtesy of individualism. A person, Martin Luther King Jr. once said, should be judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. Your gentle objection to stereotypes can help to create heightened awareness.

You can also watch for events like Stand Against Racism, held in April every year at the St. Joseph YWCA and across the country. Decide to set time aside in your calendar to help create awareness and action toward this incredibly important mission.
Even though you’re just one person, you touch many lives. How can you help eliminate racism? By changing how you interact with those in your sphere. By including those from diverse backgrounds in your life. By working with groups like the YWCA who take definite steps toward combating racism. Don’t just speak out against racism, but go a step further to do your part in the work to eliminate racism.

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Women in Leadership Are Making a Difference in the Community

Women in Leadership Are Making a Difference in the Community

Three Common Traits Leaders Share

A leader doesn’t always wear a recognizable title. They do, however, wear a recognizable character. They are passionate and active. They take action in order to see community issues resolved. These leaders can be male or female, young or old, employed or volunteers. Women in leadership roles are making a difference in our community every day, and here are a few important keys about leadership as we approach the 15 anniversary event of the Women of Excellence Awards Luncheon on June 16, 2016.

Leading Requires Action (not Perfection)
Some people may shy away from stepping forward because they feel inadequate to lead. Nonetheless, history is full of tales of those who took action because they cared, not because they felt prepared. You may not feel equally passionate about every issue, but there is probably some issue that evokes an emotional response inside you. That issue likely concerns others, too, but they are waiting for someone to spearhead a response. There are women in leadership positions on many issues who are considered leaders not because they started out as experts, but because they were dedicated to seeing a problem resolved.

Leading Requires Identifying Issues
You can lead from anywhere. You can be the one who identifies and articulates a concern and then builds a team to address that concern. That means school teachers can inspire parents and fellow-teachers. Volunteers can advocate and work for change. Mothers can ignite other moms to action. Employees can affect the workplace or how the company interacts with the community. Leadership often happens right where you are.

Leading Requires Learning as You go
Some people are natural leaders but many people learn to lead as they go. That means that you may not know much about it when you start out, and you may fumble a few things along the way. Don’t hesitate to do something because you don’t want to make mistakes. People are waiting for someone to help them make a difference. Women in leadership are women who acknowledge that problem-solving will require learning along the way.

Here in St. Joseph women are making a difference in every part of the community. Every year in June, the YWCA takes time to recognize and honor some of those women. The Women of Excellence Luncheon on June 16 at the Civic Arena is our way of saluting women in leadership and, hopefully, inspiring more women to step out and lead the way in their own unique sphere. We invite you to come and join us this year for this memorable event. Learn more at www.ywcasj.org.

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Have You Taken a Moment to Celebrate the Women of Excellence in Your Life?

Have You Taken a Moment to Celebrate the Women of Excellence in Your Life?

Inspiring Characteristics of Women of Excellence

It’s good to pause from time to time and think about the people who’ve been especially influential in your own life. It’s also important to take time to recognize those who positively impact a community across their role as volunteer, friend, coworker, parent and leader. As the YWCA St. Joseph celebrates 15 years of the Women of Excellence Awards Luncheon program on June 16, 2016, it’s a good opportunity to consider the hallmarks of women with influence. Here are a few common traits found among women of excellence:

Tenacity
Since no life, goal or pursuit worth following can be had without some obstacles it frequently becomes a matter of persistence to make goals become reality. A woman of excellence is not a woman who never stumbles, but she is one who keeps pushing ahead and perseveres through challenges.

Pursuing a Passion
It’s easier to stay the course when your goal is something you truly believe in. Being a woman of influence and excellence comes naturally when you are focused on and pursuing your passion. Passion is inspiring and can be infectious, and many nominees across the Women of Excellence program share a passion for a cause – such as helping children and families or becoming a role model at their workplace.

Positive Attitude
Women of excellence know how to remain optimistic even in the face of setbacks. Positivity isn’t intentional blindness to problems, but it’s a determination to believe that problems have solutions.

Keeping it Real
Women who impact others are women who know how to keep things real. Sometimes this can be done with humor and sometimes it’s accomplished with a roll-up-your-sleeves and get the job done attitude. People are drawn to those who admit their errors, can laugh at themselves and deal with others honestly.

Sharing Confidence
Tapping into confidence is a powerful leadership tool. Women of excellence aren’t looking around for someone else to do what needs to be done. They step in and believe that they can do it. Leaders with influence believe in the power of a single person to make a difference – but they’re also willing to share this influence with those around them so that positive changes can be carried forward (even without their presence).

Who has been a woman of influence and excellence in your life? What have you learned from them? Women who are making a difference right here in St. Joseph and the surrounding areas will be honored at the annual YWCA Women of Excellence Awards Luncheon in June. Women in all kinds of roles will be recognized as making an impact and inspiring others. It’s good to recognize their contributions, and it’s even better to become inspired to make your own life one that impacts others in positive ways. If you’re looking for a place to make a difference, contact the YWCA and find out how your talents and passions can become even more impactful.

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Domestic Violence Affects Employees and Co-Workers

Domestic Violence Affects Employees and Co-Workers

Recognize the Warning Signs if an Employee or Co-Worker Might be a Victim of Domestic Violence

As much as we might not like to think about it, domestic violence happens and sometimes it happens to people we know and work with. Victims of domestic violence don’t always share their trauma. In fact, often they attempt to hide it. By becoming acquainted with common warning signs you can better understand behaviors that may otherwise be difficult to understand. Knowing what to look for can also put you in a better position for directing a victim toward help.

Common Signs of Domestic Violence

Physical Signs
One sign of trouble is when a person comes to work with injuries that don’t appear to match with their story of what happened to cause the injury. If someone at work explains away black eyes and bruises, burns or broken bones by saying that they fall a lot or are just clumsy then it may be time for a closer look. If the person minimizes their repeated physical injuries this, too, could be a sign of domestic violence.

To avoid having to give explanations, the person may attempt to hide their injuries. Take note of unusual apparel choices such as long sleeves or turtlenecks in summer or wearing dark glasses in odd locations. Reluctance to share about the home environment or home relationships can also be a signal.

Work Signs
Even if you don’t see physical signs of abuse, there may be other clues that point to an abusive home situation. Distinct changes in work ethic can sometimes stem from issues of violence. If a characteristically on-time employee is repeatedly tardy or absent from work, if there are sudden change in their quality of work (errors, inability to focus or abnormal slowness in job performance) it could be related to trouble at home.

Other work-related signs of domestic violence include needing time off to attend court hearings and repeated and inappropriate interruptions at work by a partner in the form of abusive phone calls, emails or personal visits. You may also observe that the person becomes increasingly quiet and withdraws from coworkers. Even an excessive workload or unexpected overachievement can point to domestic violence, since the person may be burying themselves in work to escape relationship problems in the home.

At the YWCA we have several ways to help victims take steps toward hope and healing. We staff a 24-hour hotline that can be used by the victim or by someone else on their behalf. We also offer emergency shelter at no charge through our Shelter for Abused and Homeless Women and Children. We provide victim advocacy services to offer support, help with transportation and information on available resources. We also provide confidential, professional counseling at no cost to participants. Don’t allow domestic violence to continue unchallenged. You can learn the signs and point victims toward real help. It may be happening to someone near you, and today we invite you to take action.

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Mentoring Parenting Teens is Making a Difference in Our Community

Mentoring Parenting Teens is Making a Difference in Our Community

How and Why Mentoring Parenting Teens Works

Pregnancy among teens brings its own unique set of challenges and circumstances, affecting all levels of the community. According to DoSomething.Org, nearly one-third of teenage girls will become pregnant and 60 percent will give birth. Many of those girls will raise their child without help from the father. That leaves many young ladies facing single parenting before turning 20. Mentoring parenting teens can help to bridge the gap between what babies need and what a teenage mother is prepared to give.

For many girls, having a baby during high school can mean a permanent interruption in their education. Statistically, less than half of teenage mothers earn a high school diploma and just over one percent finish college. Raising children is demanding for all mothers, but teenage moms without a partner face additional challenges. Providing for their child is one of those challenges. So, too, is the lack of a healthy support network. Mentoring parenting teens aims to encourage and enable young parents to complete their education and, at the same time, offers skill development along with positive social support.

Skills and Support

JUMP is our YWCA program designed for mentoring parenting teens. The acronym stands for Journey to Unite Mentors and Parents and is open to pregnant teenagers or teens raising a child under the age of three. All JUMP mentors are volunteers who receive training in how to be supportive. The program offers monthly meetings for learning key parenting skills, playgroup opportunities, home visits and more. Incentives such as diapers, baby bottles and baby wipes encourage attendance at meetings. With JUMP young moms are surrounded by a caring group of adults who encourage them to stay in school. They also find strength through meeting other young girls in similar circumstances who are working to be the best moms they can be for their child.

The Impact of JUMP in our Community

The YWCA JUMP program is unique in the area and worked to help 70 young people and 75 children in 2015 alone. The JUMP program represents a cooperative effort with Mosaic Life Care and the St. Joseph Youth Alliance. These agencies work hand in hand with the YWCA to ensure that babies of teen mothers stay properly immunized, healthy and well-supported. Mothers and babies receive benefits through JUMP. Last year the program experienced a marked increase in the number of teen moms willing to be paired with a caring adult mentor.

Mentoring parenting teens works because it meets identifiable needs. Young moms need encouragement that they can be good parents and finish their education. Children need parents who understand basic parenting skills and who can create positive homes. If you are a pregnant teen or know someone who is, check out JUMP. If you are a caring adult who would like to make a genuine difference in the lives of others, contact us today and find out about becoming a trained mentor.

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Victims of Domestic Violence Find Space to Regroup in Supported Housing

Victims of Domestic Violence Find Space to Regroup in Supported Housing

Bliss Manor Supported Housing Helps Women and Children Find a New Start

Homes where domestic violence occurs can be chaotic in many ways. Not only is personal safety uncertain, but many times things like income, food and utilities can be erratic as well. At Bliss Manor we help women and children looking to escape domestic violence by providing a safe, consistent home. Supported housing provides space for victims of domestic violence to find needed employment and the chance to find permanent housing for a new future. Supported housing offers the answer to a critical challenge facing women who are homeless or are escaping domestic abuse, meeting their needs for safe, supportive transitional living space.

Finding Hope for a Better Future

Creating a new future can seem daunting for anyone, but when a person has been living under extreme stress for extended periods of time, finding hope that things can be different can be especially challenging. At Bliss Manor, not only do we provide women and children with a clean, safe and secure temporary home, but we also come alongside families with the hope they need to move forward. We provide services for children, resources for parents and help in creating a personalized goal plan that outlines concrete steps toward a better life.

Bliss Manor is Making a Difference

In 2015, our supported housing sheltered 42 adults and 37 children with 17,393 nights of safe and supportive living. Each and every woman (100 percent) who spent time at Bliss Manor developed her own goal plan with 78 percent of them going on to either secure permanent, private housing or to enter a treatment facility. Our staff provided 1,323 hours of individual case management or advocacy. We view all these milestones as major successes and good news for women and children looking for the chance to make a fresh start.

A Safe Home, a Fresh Start

By alleviating a woman’s most immediate concern – the need to provide a safe and stable home environment for herself and her kids – supported housing frees women up to address other pressing things. Most of the time women need to find steady employment. At Bliss Manor, we seek to enable women to find steady, satisfying work that will support their needs and the needs of their family. If that requires added education, we work with women to find ways to help that happen. If it means getting help with health issues, addiction issues or other obstacles, we look for available resources.

Victims of domestic abuse can find a new and better future. At the St. Joseph YWCA we believe in empowering women to be their very best. We believe in taking steps to help women in crisis so that they can begin anew. If you are a woman in crisis, don’t wait – come talk with us. If you’d like to be part of empowering women, we welcome your support in a variety of ways. Providing a safe home is a small gift that can make a huge difference.

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La’Porsha’s Story: One Woman’s Inspiring Story of Leaving Domestic Violence and Pursuing Her Dreams

La’Porsha’s Story: One Woman’s Inspiring Story of Leaving Domestic Violence and Pursuing Her Dreams

Men and women who are victims of domestic violence can feel trapped. Sometimes the fear of what will happen after they leave seems like the biggest hurdle to actually getting away from the situation. Physical abuse may be matched with verbal abuses that wear away at the victim’s self-esteem until they doubt they’d be able to make it on their own. Having a safe place to go and a support network who will speak truth and hope back into life can make all the difference.

Reclaiming Identity

One of the top finishers on the final season of American Idol, La’Porsha is from Mississippi and is a domestic violence survivor. As a young 18 year old, she met a man who was romantic and charming. But over time this man became abusive. He hurt her physically but he also tore at her identity. Piece by piece he berated everything she felt was key to who she was. Her hair wasn’t right. Her voice wasn’t right. Eventually she says she was left feeling like something other than a woman.

When she finally took her baby daughter and left, she had nowhere to go but the local woman’s shelter. There she found the courage to defy those messages of domestic violence. Within two months she was auditioning for a spot on American Idol. La’Porsha finished second in the competition and won a great deal of support and admiration in the process.

Finding Safety and Support

As La’Porsha’s story illustrates, abused partners may be crushed under the weight of lies. La’Porsha’s partner did not like her singing and vocally let her know consistently, yet she was talented enough to win a top spot in a nationally televised competition. Having some place safe to go and a supportive group enabled her to find the courage to reclaim her dreams.

At the St. Joseph YWCA we help women regain hope, build confidence and take next steps toward their goals as they heal from abuse. If you’re in an abusive relationship – you have somewhere to go. Our team is ready to help. If you know someone in an abusive relationship, encourage them to reach out to the YWCA St. Joseph as a first step toward a new start.

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Regular Breast Cancer Screening Reduces Risk for Women

Regular Breast Cancer Screening Reduces Risk for Women

How the YWCA Helps Ensure Breast Cancer Screening Takes Place

Although breast cancer does affect both men and women it is a particularly high-risk cancer for women. Close to 30 percent of new cancer diagnoses in women are breast cancer. In 2015, there were nearly a quarter million new cases of invasive breast cancer in women and over 60,000 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer. One of the best preventive measures a woman can take to protect herself against this disease is to schedule a regular breast cancer screening. Here are some additional tips to know and share:

Family History is Not the Only Clue

It is true that a woman with breast cancer in her immediate family history faces twice the risk of developing breast cancer as other women. However, that represents just 15 percent of breast cancer cases. Breast cancer also shows up in women with no family history of the disease. This means that keeping an eye on breast health is a must for all women.

Screening Has Improved (But it’s Still Dependent on a Woman Scheduling the Screening)

The good news is that clinical exams and mammography make an enormous difference in early detection. In recent years there has been a large drop in the number of breast cancer deaths in women under age 50 largely due to improved breast cancer screening and greater participation rates. Improvements for women over age 50 are also seen with regular check-ups and awareness. For women ages 40-50 with an average risk a yearly breast cancer screening is recommended. In women ages 50-70 undergoing breast screening every two years is recommended. High-risk women should begin screenings around age 30. (Note: These are general guidelines. Women should follow the screening schedules recommended by their individual health care provider).

The YWCA is Helping Women With Important Breast Cancer Resources

For some women, getting regular health care is a challenge. The cost, transportation barriers, language barriers and low information can hinder preventive breast cancer screening. This is precisely where the YWCA steps in to help. The ENCOREplus breast cancer outreach program reduces barriers that keep women from going to annual mammogram appointments. ENCOREplus provides community outreach, education, resource referral, barrier reduction, year-round events and more. We can also connect women with financial aid resources needed for regular mammogram check-ups. (When necessary, we can also help with transportation to mammogram appointments).
Last year, ENCOREplus offered services to 2,000 plus Northwest Missouri women. By giving women needed health information and supporting women’s access to appropriate health care, we help women in our area take responsibility for their own wellness and well-being. If you’ve been putting off your breast cancer screening, we encourage you to call our downtown YWCA office and find out how we can help.

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Know the Recognized Signs You Should Leave an Abusive Relationship

Know the Recognized Signs You Should Leave an Abusive Relationship

Signs You Should Leave, and a Safe Exit Strategy

Every day in America a woman is assaulted by her domestic partner every 15 seconds. It’s important to make yourself aware of the  signs you should leave an abusive relationship.

Emotions can cloud clear thinking. You may not feel emotionally ready to leave the person, but ignoring warning signs can have serious consequences. Three women die every day in this country as a direct result of domestic violence. It is important to know and recognize the signs you should leave – and then know the steps to develop a safe exit strategy.

How to Know You Should Leave

Research shows that women often sense when they are in danger. If you feel threatened, don’t ignore that feeling. If someone near you mentions that she fears for her own safety, take her words seriously. Apart from a personal barometer, there are other clear signs you should leave the relationship:

 

  • Abuse occurs even in very public places
  • The level of abuse is increasing
  • There are overt threats made to harm you or themselves
  • The person becomes excessively jealous
  • There is easy access to a weapon such as a gun
  • The person has problems with mental health or substance abuse
  • There is a history of sexual abuse

Even if you’re only starting to realize that it’s time to leave, you need a safe exit plan. If you announce your plans to leave or separate this can make the person feel as though they are losing control of the relationship and that can spark renewed violence. Records reveal that three-quarters of all severe cases of domestic abuse take place after the victim decides to leave.

A Safe Plan for Leaving

So how can you (or someone you love) get safely out of a dangerous relationship? Here are steps to follow:

1. Pick a time to leave that will be safe.

2. Have some place to go right away – a shelter or somewhere the person won’t find you right away. Read more here about the YWCA Shelter for Abused and Homeless Women and Children.

3. Take children and pets with you when you leave or make arrangements for their safekeeping.

4. Have a bag packed in advance that contains important documents like your social security card, passport, birth certificate, health insurance and so on. This bag should also have a spare set of car keys, house keys and some ready cash. Put in a few changes of clothes. When the bag is packed, keep it somewhere outside of the home so the partner will not discover it.

At the YWCA we are here to help domestic violence victims and survivors. We offer shelter to victims of domestic violence and their children, a rape crisis program, professional counseling for victims and the Bliss Manor Housing Program. If you recognize signs you should leave and you realize it’s time for you to go, let us help. If you are a victim in need of immediate assistance, call our 24-hour hotline at 816-232-1225 or 1-800-653-1477.  If at any point you feel you are in immediate danger call 911. If you recognize the warning signs in the life of a woman you care about, share what you know and help her to make a safe exit strategy. Knowing the signs and having a plan can be the critical steps needed for a new future without abuse.

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