Staff Spotlight: Amanda Read, Mother Love Coordinator

22 Jul

Our July Staff Spotlight features Amanda Read, MotherLove Coordinator. Amanda is new to the YWCA and to Asheville, and we couldn’t be more excited to have her part of our YWCA team & community.image1

How long have you lived in Asheville? I moved to Asheville in May, so I’m really new to town. Previously, I lived in Columbia, SC where I completed my Masters in Social Work at the University of South Carolina. I grew up in Greensboro, NC.

How long have you been at the YW? My first day at the YWCA was May 30th, so I have been here for just a little over a month.

Favorite thing(s) about the YWCA? I love the culture here at the YWCA. I am so happy to be a part of an organization that values the community served and its staff members. I like knowing that I am working for a purpose that will benefit peoples’ lives. It is also a perk to come to work every day and see people being active and working out. It motivates me to get moving for my own health and wellness.

What do you like to do in your spare time? I love to spend time with my family and friends. On the weekends, I like to watch live music. I will often drag a family member or friend to see a show with me regardless of the musical genre—I listen to anything from Hip-Hop, Indie, Grunge, R&B, Classical and Turkish music.

People would be surprised if they knew I… Love to watch Chinese and Thai soap operas. I find the acting and storylines more entertaining than American television. If asked, I will shamelessly recommend amazing dramas to watch on a rainy day.

Racial Justice Advocacy & Action in Times of Tragedy

12 Jul

We at the YWCA of Asheville are deeply saddened by the local tragedy of events resulting in the death of Jai “Jerry” Lateef Solveig Williams. We grieve with our community for the loss of another young African-American man.

RacismHurtsEveryone_BlackThis, compounded with the appalling deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile at the hands of law enforcement, deepens our resolve to work towards dismantling systemic racism that undermines our society and threatens us all.
The mission of the YWCA is eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. While details are still emerging through the ongoing investigation of local events, the YWCA of Asheville is committed to working with our community as part of the Racial Justice Coalition to eliminate any and all forms of institutional and structural racism.
Read this statement documenting a meeting with Asheville Police Department Chief Hooper and members of community organizations including the Racial Justice Coalition. As leaders within the Racial Justice Coalition, the YWCA will continue to work closely with APD to ensure truth and accountability emerge from this investigation. Stay connected with us for further updates and dialogue through this Blog and our Facebook and Twitter.

A conversation between Beth Maczka & Joshua McClure

29 Jun

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On a mission to serve school age children: Beth Maczka, YWCA CEO, recently sat down with Joshua McClure, the Director of our Primary Enrichment Program.

BM: Tell me a little about your background and why you were interested in working at the YWCA?

JM: I’ve been working with kids for 11 years now. As an African-American man, I want to be a positive role model for youth in the community.  I grew up at the YWCA – taking swim lessons, participating in after school and hanging out with my grandmother. The YWCA is welcoming and accepting. I think the mission speaks volumes, and it is important to me, but also coming here feels like home.

BM: How does your program relate to the YWCA’s mission of empowering women and eliminating racism?

JM: We’ve always been the voice and resource for single parents. They trust our staff and many have been a part of the YWCA since their kids were 6 weeks old. The thing that I hear from parents the most is that the counselors really care about the kids, as if they were their own, like family.  As it pertains to the child care and voucher crisis in our community – these parents want to continue all the way through the Primary Enrichment Program. They don’t want to leave.

BM: What do you think makes our After School and Summer Camp unique?

JM: First of all, we are diverse. Secondly, we have programming that will help meet all the different needs of our kids. We are striving to be more than just a “babysitter,” by having  a greater focus on bridging education gaps during the school year and combating summer learning loss during camp. The homework help we offer is a huge benefit to our kids and also their parents. The [Big Brothers/Big Sisters] mentoring partnership program will also help give kids a voice and help develop social skills – especially our shy and less engaged youth. The kids are also really enjoying other partnerships we are bringing into our program, including Girl Scouts, tennis and ABYSA soccer. 

BM: What is your approach and vision for the Primary Enrichment Program?

JM: I want to be involved. Set a new dynamic. Improve the whole ‘feel’ of the program. Make people feel welcome and engaged – the staff, the youth and the parents.

It is important that they [the kids] see me as more than just an authority figure. I try once a week to spend time in each room helping with homework or playing games. I want to show the kids that I care. I really want to be involved. And they love the time we spend together – they remember the games we have played.

I look forward to the program blossoming with more people knowing about us…parents wanting to do more within the program. Cross promotion between After School, Spring Break, and Summer Camp. We are striving to help with education, enrichment, and health & wellness. I want it to be viewed as a great program in our community.

BM: What would people be surprised if they knew about you?

JM: One of my legs is longer than the other.

BM: You’re such a great dancer & teach our popular Hip Hop Cardio classes! That sure hasn’t slowed you down, has it!?

JM: Nope!

We Stand with Orlando

16 Jun

The mission of the YWCA is Eliminating Racism, Empowering Women and Promoting Peace, Justice, Freedom and Dignity for all.  Powerful, meaningful words and the last two words are the most germane, given the evil that occurred in Orlando – “For All.”

…for people of all races and skin color,
…for people of all gender identities,
…for people of all sexual orientations,
…for people of all ages,
…for people of all religions,

That is why the Orlando shooting is so truly tragic on so many levels.  The shooter professed to be Muslim, the victims were mainly gay, and many were Latino and African American.

The intersectionality of race, religion, gender and sexual orientation can be difficult under the best of circumstances. And early Sunday morning became the worst of circumstances – the single largest act of gun violence in our Country’s modern history.

As we try to move forward in this country under the shadow of gun violence, systemic and institutional racism, and the irrational fear that is homophobia, it is our commitment to make substantive changes, to join with the YWCA USA in advocating for stronger gun laws, to stay strong for one another, and to be our best selves with each other.

We at the YWCA of Asheville stand firmly with our brothers and sisters in Orlando. We mourn the loss of their loved ones and family members. We want all of our staff and members to feel safe and supported, particularly as we navigate events so tragic, so incomprehensible, so horrific as the mass shooting in Orlando.  The YWCA of Asheville, its leadership, and staff, are committed to living into our mission, especially in these times of great sorrow.

 

What I Have Learned from 5 Years with MotherLove

10 Jun

 

Holly Gillespie, MotherLove Coordinator

Holly and her daughter Juniper enjoying the MotherLove 2016 graduation pool party.

Working with MotherLove has been a gift that I will always cherish.  I have been let into young lives at times of crisis, transition, power, and transformation.  I have spent my career at the YWCA so far.  I can’t imagine how different my life would be had that not been true.  I have learned so much from working in our community…

  • I have learned that listening matters more than I ever imagined.
  • I have learned to let go of trying to find the perfect thing to say to fix it.
  • I have learned that caring deeply for others means you must care deeply for yourself.
  • I have learned that teenagers can act like adults.
  • I have learned that adults can act like teenagers.
  • I have learned that teenagers often do act like teenagers, and that’s ok.
  • I have learned that you can’t really talk to someone about their love life.  You just have to listen and hope they can hear what they’re saying.
  • I have learned that the love a mother feels for her newborn baby is more powerful and magical than I ever dreamed.  I knew how it felt from the inside, but I cherish having witnessed the beauty of it time and again.
  • I have learned how tough and strong and determined and resilient a young woman has to be to have a baby and finish high school .
  • I have learned to ask for help.
  • I have learned that joy and support and laughter make a heavy load seem light, even if just for a moment.
  • And I have learned that we all have the power to affect each other deeply as we cross paths, and that small gestures of kindness and concern can impact others more than we can imagine.

Life must be about connections, or we are lost.

 – Holly Gillespie, MotherLove Coordinator

Holly Gillespie has been with the YWCA for 10 years. For the past five years, MotherLove has been a big part of Holly’s life.  At the end of the month, Holly will leave the program in the capable hands our new MotherLove Coordinator, Amada Read. We wish Holly the very best – we know she will continue to inspire and empower – and to learn.

The MotherLove program is made possible with support from the City of Asheville, NC Dept. of 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.

The invisible child care crisis: school age children

6 May

 

Beth Maczka, YWCA CEO

Beth Maczka, Asheville Citizen-Times Guest Columnist

 

Last week’s op-ed highlighted the Invisible Childcare Crisis in early childhood, but the crisis doesn’t stop when a child enters kindergarten.

Access to affordable, quality childcare remains the biggest barrier to a woman’s economic security, even as her child transitions from early learning programs to school.

For Melanie, a childcare voucher for her two school age children allowed her to work and support her family. Working increased her self-confidence and supporting her family increased her self-worth. Ironically, earning a small raise tipped her over the income limit for eligibility, resulting in the loss of her childcare voucher. We call this an “income cliff” and it is very real in our community. Melanie’s situation is not unique. This is happening to hundreds of families in Buncombe County, and we all lose.

Parents lose opportunities to advance in their careers and support their families; employers lose valuable employees and are forced to re-hire and re-train staff. And children lose the chance to gain critical educational enrichment during their most formative years.

In the last 18 months alone, 242 of Buncombe County’s children lost access to school-age childcare.

A primary reason families lose school age childcare vouchers is due to income eligibility requirements being tightened during the 2014 NC legislative budget process. Previously families could earn up to 75 percent of the State Median Income (or $4,187 monthly) for a family of 4 to qualify for childcare vouchers for children ages 6-12. Now that same family can only earn up to 133 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (or $2,688 monthly).

For example, Joyce is a mother of three and makes $32,000 or $2667 gross monthly. That allows her three children to receive services valued at $412 per child per month for a total of $1236 per month. Joyce receives a raise of $500, and she is now making $32,500. Under the new income guidelines, she makes $ $20 over the monthly limit, causing her to lose the $1236 a month in subsidy. A raise of $500 a year means that Joyce will now need to spend an additional $14,100 each year for childcare, or 43 percent of her income. This is a crisis.

Another income cliff occurs when a child who’s been receiving a voucher from birth to age 5, turns 6 years old. The NC state income level for a younger child is $48,504 for a family of four, but when the child turns 6, a family with earnings over $32,256 will lose childcare assistance. This happens immediately, regardless of when in the school year the child turns 6, leading to disruption of care, relationships and routines. Parents still need to work and their children are not able to care for themselves. The crisis is growing.

School age childcare programs are essential for families needing care till the end of the work day or throughout the summer. And low-income children who most need support to participate in quality afterschool and summer camp programs are also most likely to be impacted by summer learning loss.

Quality afterschool and summer camp programs keep children safe, provide nutritious snacks and meals, and provide essential academic supports including homework help, fun educational activities, and enriching field trips.

Remind your NC State representatives that school age children need afterschool care and summer camp to keep them safe and learning, and working families need access to year-round care for their school age children.

Ask your representatives to implement these recommendations immediately:

Make the income eligibility for early learning and school age programs consistent at 200% of poverty.

Create a system to pro-rate fees rather than forcing parents with all or nothing choices. If a family is $200 over the income limit, charge them a slightly higher co-pay rather than removing the full subsidy support.

Support the continuation of a child’s school age services for the school year during which they turn 6.

Working families need school age childcare now.

Beth Maczka is CEO, YWCA of Asheville.

This op-ed is endorsed by the following 5-star centers and child advocacy groups in Buncombe County:

Buncombe County Partnership for Children

Children First Communities in Schools

Asheville Jewish Community Center

Spotlight On: Melinda Aponte, Nutrition Coordinator

5 May

 

Our Staff Spotlight features Melinda Aponte, Nutrition Coordinator. Melinda brings a rich culinary background and a New York state of mind to the YWCA team. Here is more about Melinda:Melinda

How Long have you lived in Asheville? My husband and I moved to Asheville last May from Brooklyn, NY.

How long have you been at the YWCA? I started at the YWCA in February of this year, as the Kitchen Manager, and became the Nutrition Coordinator officially in March. My background is in culinary, and in this position I’m able to try different aspects outside of the kitchen, providing nutritional and health education opportunities. I’m thankful to the YW for giving me the opportunity to grow, and it speaks a lot about this organization.

Favorite thing(s) about the YWCA? One of my favorite things is how the YWCA truly lives up to its mission – how everyone here is working toward eliminating racism and empowering women. I get the opportunity to teach children how to eat healthy at a young age, so they have the tools to be better adults. That’s a great feeling. All the staff here are great, and there’s always someone to give you a helping hand. It’s truly a community here. 

What do you like to do in your spare time? I’ve been hiking a lot, and I love it! I never was a nature person living in the city, but since moving here I have a new-found appreciation for nature. My five-year-old Jack Russell Terrier, Cody, loves it too! 

People would be surprised if they knew I…  put on Spanish music every night, Salsa and Merengue, and just dance to it. It’s a form of meditation for me! It helps with stress and to feel better about everything. 

To learn more about the YWCA and ways to get involved visit our website, or call us at 828-254-7206. 

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