MLK Day of Service

26 Jan

By Gerry Leonard, Volunteer & Outreach Coordinator

019 - CopyOn January 16, 2016 the YWCA of Asheville hosted volunteers from the UNC-Asheville Key Center as part of our annual MLK Day of Service. To honor and celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr., the YWCA partners with volunteers from local colleges to work with our Primary Enrichment (formerly the School Age program) students to create posters to commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr., and his lasting impact on our society and the YW’s continued work of eliminating racism.

16 volunteers from UNC-Asheville spent their day at the YWCA – instead of taking the day off – and gave back, by giving their time to make a difference in a kid’s life. Volunteers worked 1-on-1 with our Primary Enrichment students, creating posters highlighted with images of MLK and inspirational quotes – along with glitter, feathers and other creative ways children decorate posters.

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This was not only a day of arts and crafts, but a wonderful opportunity for the Primary Enrichment students, K – 5, to engage with college students to understand the role MLK plays in all of our lives and how his legacy continues on. Some of the conversations I heard began with, “MLK had a dream, what is your dream”? The response from our YW kids ranged from grand dreams of flying in outer space or becoming President to more practical responses of wanting everyone to love each other. This in many ways encapsulates the true spirit of what MLK Day is all about: Honoring MLK and continuing to dream of equity and peace, while believing that you can achieve anything you want.

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The YWCA MLK Day of Service is as much of a service as it is enrichment. Many of the volunteers take this time to share with the Primary Enrichment students what their major is, and what they want to do when after college. This is particularly enriching as many of the children in the Primary Enrichment program come from low-income families where their parents are working full-time, often at multiple jobs. For the kids to hear first-hand from students about what college is like provides such a profound impact on their lives. So, as our young students continue to dream of being an astronaut and running for President, these conversations could very well propel them onward to making their dream a reality.

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We’re always looking for committed volunteers! Learn more at

Pizza – with a Side of Empowerment

19 Jan

As a nonprofit organization, it can be challenging to compete with other gyms in our community that have much larger marketing budgets with which to promote their services.

That’s why we’re grateful to generous partners in the business community that help us spread the word about what makes us unique. When you’re a member at the YWCA’s Club W Health & Fitness Center, you’re also supporting our mission and programs. 

Thank you to Asheville Pizza & Brewing, which is currently attaching hundreds of flyers promoting Club W to their delivery & to-go pizza boxes!

Asheville Pizza & Brewing

Mike Rangel of APB says:

“We are happy to be a supporter of such a great organization that is helping grow a healthier, happier Asheville. Club W is just one of the many awesome things about the YWCA. Power yourself up, and empower Buncombe County at the same time.”
Stay tuned for YWCA slides before APB movie screenings, too. We so appreciate their help getting the word out about the YWCA to a broader audience.

Interested in joining a gym where membership means mission? New Club W members: Sign up today and your joiners fee ($49) will be waived! Plus, receive a free fitness consultation and “We Are Asheville” t-shirt.  Learn more about Club W and come by 185 S. French Broad Ave. for a tour today.

What Makes the YW an Asheville Organization?

6 Jan

We asked some YW Members – what is your favorite thing about the YW? And what, in your opinion, makes the YW an Asheville organization? Here’s what we found out.

Name: Jessica Shrago
YW member since: July of 2014
Programs: Club W, Yoga teacher, student of belly dance
What is your favorite thing about the YW? The people!
What makes the YW an Asheville organization? All inclusive and laid-back


Name: Peggy Weaver
YW member since: 4+ years
Programs: Club W, Aquatics classes, tai chi, stretch
What is your favorite thing about the YW? It looks like REAL people belong here – diversity (demographic, ethnic, abilities…)
What makes the YW an Asheville organization? Proud tradition of mission-driven, community building awesomeness!


Name: Elaine Barnes
YW member since: 2 years
Programs: Club W
What is your favorite thing about the YW? Great classes
What makes the YW an Asheville organization? Its diversity

Name: Becky Stone
YW member since: 33 years
Programs: Club W, Board member
What is your favorite thing about the YW? The diversity
What makes the YW an Asheville organization? Broad representation of the Asheville population; service; women!

_SCS6004Name: Janet Stanhope
Programs: Club W, Diabetes Wellness & Prevention
What is your favorite thing about the YW? The classes
What makes the YW an Asheville organization? We are family! Friendliness & caring.

Name: Alex Mitchell
YW member since: 3 glorious years
Programs: Staff, Club W
What is your favorite thing about the YW? Classes and the food I can smell cooking in the kitchen
What makes the YW an Asheville organization? All inclusive! (Fringe Gym)

Name: Kay Kuczynski
YW member since: 5 months
Programs: Pool
What is your favorite thing about the YW? Friendliness, inclusivness


Name: Russell Sutton
YW member since:  February 2015
Programs: Club W
What is your favorite thing about the YW? Diverse group of people looking for different types of fitness
What makes the YW an Asheville organization? Focused on the local community and tied to people living around it.

New Club W members: Sign up today and your joiners fee ($49) will be waived! Plus, receive a free fitness consultation and “We Are Asheville” t-shirt.

Nurturing Children at the YWCA & at Home

5 Jan

By Wanda Harris, Director of the YWCA Early Learning Program and Empowerment Child Care

In our 5-star Early Learning Program at the YWCA we have the children in 5 classrooms, divided by age. Everything we do is centered around helping the children in our care develop, and play is a great way to help encourage this.
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In the infant room (6 weeks through 12 months) love and attention provides the stimulation they need.

In the toddler room (12-24 months) they need more one-on-one interaction on the floor. They need a lot of back-and-forth dialogue because they’re building up their language skills, leading to what we call a ‘vocabulary explosion.’ They love music and things that make sounds and talk to them. You have to be deliberate with what you do because they’re learning how to mimic.

In the Pond classroom (24-36 months) it’s even more about language. They know what they’re saying and language skills are exploding. They love to be read to and to “read” to themselves. It’s the independent stage – ‘I can do it for myself and by myself.’ Emotions are big, and friendships are developing. They are learning how to start being independent and can be encouraged in this direction – to put on their own coats, and put their own socks and shoes on.

In the Bees and Pre-K room (3-5 yrs.) it’s important to have activities that develop the children’s fine and gross motor skills – they are learning how to cut paper, maneuver with their fingers, jump and run. They’re also getting better at following directions – knowing that they can listen and how to listen.

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Beginning in the toddler room we focus on the importance of good nutrition and exercise in developing brains. Our Rainbow In My Tummy nutrition curriculum means freshly prepared meals with whole grains, fruits, and vegetables and no added sugars. To further our children’s knowledge and awareness of nutrition we have our own nutritionist does a segment called “Farmer’s Market Friday” where the children do taste testing on new healthy fruits and vegetables each week. This is imperative because the foods we put into our bodies play a very important role.  We also stress the importance of at least an hour of outdoor playtime every day.

Outside we encourage free play, where the children are using their imagination and developing their gross motor skills – they run, jump, skip, utilize the riding toys, and even balancing activities. We also have a board outside with attached pots and pans to make music.

Starting at age 3 every child in our program starts taking swim lessons in our solar-heated pool. The water is a great place for children to get exercise and have fun with friends and family, and it’s also very important for their safety that they learn how to swim from an early age.

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Families don’t need expensive toys to play with their children! Here are some l0w-cost items that are good to have on hand for playing games:

  • Take a plastic ziplock bag, fill with oil, non-toxic paints or just food coloring and seal – let the child make patterns and enjoy squishing it around.
  • Take sticky clear contact paper, let the children put different colored tissue paper on it, and put it up on the window – children will enjoy rubbing it to feel the textures and make designs.
  • Create “sensory bottles” by filling clear bottles with oil, glitter, buttons, food coloring, pipe cleaner and then seal them with hot glue.
  • Make a dress-up box filled with old clothes and accessories to encourage dramatic play.

Finally, talk to your children as much as you can. If you know a second language, even if it’s basic, start it when they’re one year-old. As soon as they can say yes and no they can start saying “si” or “uno”; it’s important to start early.

Wanda Harris is Director of the YWCA’s Early Learning Program. She is a Level 3 Child Care Administrator, State of North Carolina, holds an MA of Education, is an MBA Candidate, and has 28 years of child care experience.

Happy Holidays – and Thank You – from MotherLove

21 Dec

The MotherLove Alumni planned, coordinated, and led the festivities at a recent holiday party for MotherLove participants, their family members, and their children.

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Many donors participated in our Giving Tree, generously donating gifts for 32 families led by teen parents. These gifts were much appreciated!

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Thank you to Alpha Delta Kappa, an educator’s service sorority, for their contribution of food and decorations.

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And thank you to WNC Knitters and Crocheters for Others for their contribution of blankets, books, hats & burp cloths for our families.

The MotherLove program is made possible with support from the City of Asheville, NC Dept Health and Human Services – Women’s Health Branch – Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative, Bank of America, TD Bank, the United Way of Asheville, Buncombe County Services Foundation and YWCA donors.

Thank you, and happy holidays!

Getting Ahead Graduation

16 Dec

On December 15th, 12 new graduates of the Getting Ahead In a Just Gettin’ By World program celebrated completing the 16 week curriculum.

This group of ladies – ranging in age from 19-80 – have explored the causes of poverty, the hidden rules of class, and the importance of language and communication.  They have all formed plans to achieve the ‘future stories’ they have planned for themselves.



The YWCA will support these graduates through follow-up support for  the next 18 months, and we can’t wait to see what they accomplish!


Here is some of what the graduates had to say about their experience in the program:

It has been amazing to learn about everyone’s stories! I have learned a lot of tips of how to get ahead in my future!


My overall experience was wonderful. I was able to learn many things that can help me in the future….The class was never a “sit and read the book” experience. It was a pleasant place to be.

This class has reshaped my thinking process – the way I approach situations as possibilities, not as obstacles.

I liked the friendly, respectful atmosphere I encountered with the other Getting Ahead Investigators!


I learned to plan ahead and think about my actions before I actually do something.

Getting Ahead was a great experience to learn about how I came into poverty and it wasn’t all my fault. But how easy it is to get yourself out and it can be done. I love the class and the people, you all are so supportive.


Beginning now I am going to take control of my finances and get them under control. And by that I mean to pay them off one by one or get help and do it right and fast.

The Getting Ahead in a Just Gettin’ By World program is made possible through funding from the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina’s People In Need grant, as well as the Sisters of Mercy of North Carolina Foundation. Thank you!

Check Out Our Club W Facility!

10 Dec

Curious about what our Club W Health & Fitness Center looks like? We’ve put together a simple slideshow that will give you a sense of our building.


Of course, nothing beats coming in for a tour! Visit us at 185 South French Broad Avenue today.

Learn more about Club W at or call 828-254-7206 for more information.


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