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YWCA History at the aSHEville Museum

24 Feb

Have you been to the aSHEville Museum yet????????????????????????????????

Opened just this past July, aSHEville Museum is a women’s cultural museum with a mission to contribute to the creation of more just and equitable world through its collection of intimate exhibits, which range from historic to contemporary in scope, and local to global.

Core exhibits include: Appalachian Women, 100 Years of Sexism in Advertising, and A History of Hysteria. aSHEville Museum also houses a variety of rotating exhibits.

???????????????????????????????The YWCA is proud that one of the current exhibits is a display of several historical panels created for our centennial celebration in 2007.

The panels address the YWCA of Asheville’s historical role in:Where It All Began (about the origins of the YWCA in Asheville and its founding in 1907), Health & Wellness, Guiding Teens, Empowering Women, E. Thelma Caldwell and the Boosters Club, Eliminating Racism in Asheville, and the Phyllis Wheatley Branch.

Heidi Swann, co-founder of the museum, says: “Having the YWCA Centennial Exhibit has afforded our museum visitors insights into the many significant accomplishments that have been achieved by decades of committed people in our local community, who have worked together for the common goals of providing greater opportunities for women and girls, and in addressing racism. It gives hope and perspective to see how many positive changes occurred over this span of time.”

The aSHEville Museum is located at 35 Wall Street downtown, with a sliding scale admission fee. More information here.

Special offer now through March, 2015: Mention this blog and receive a complimentary cup of hot tea when you visit the museum.

Our History: Nurturing Children

22 Aug

The YWCA of Asheville’s History of Nurturing Children*

The YWCA of Asheville, with a mission of eliminating racism and empowering women, has supported women and families in many ways over the past 106 years. An ongoing focus of the organization has been to nurture children.

The YWCA has offered various types of child care throughout its history. In 1924, CampKenjocketee, a summer camp for girls, was run by the Central YWCA. In 1954, the YWCA Young Wives Club offered child care during its meetings. A supervised playroom was made available to YWCA members in 1966.
Camp Kenjocketee

The YWCA Nursery began serving children in its “Drop-In Child Care Center” in 1973. Soon after, the YWCA received $60,000 in grants to form five family day care homes with 5 children in each, the first in this community. In 1981 YWCA started its teacher workday/snowday care and “Mothers Morning Out” program.
children's music

Today, the YWCA’s 5-star rated Child Care Center provides a safe, caring environment for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. The curriculum includes academic readiness, an appreciation for diversity, and age-graded activities. Individual portfolios for each child show that the youngest are reaching the early developmental benchmarks, and the oldest are ready for Kindergarten. Parental involvement in the Center is highly encouraged. Foster Grandparents are also very active in the Center.
child care center

The multi-cultural center has space for 75 children ages 6 weeks to 5 years old. It is open Monday through Friday from 7:30 am – 6:00 pm. Two meals and a snack are provided daily. Swimming lessons and field trips are also offered. Buncombe County vouchers are accepted.

We currently have openings in the 4 & 5 year old room of our Center. For more information, call Director of Child Care Wanda Harris at 254-7206 x 109.

* One in a series of blog posts about YWCA of Asheville history.

Our History: Aquatics

30 Jul

A History of Swim Instruction and Water Fitness*

The YWCA was officially incorporated in Asheville in 1907. The organization historically has put strong value on health and fitness and, in 1927, the swimming pool opened at the Central YWCA. Soon afterwards the YWCA held a “Swim the English Channel” contest in which participants crossed the swimming pool 1,760 times. Also in 1927 the YWCA began its long-standing relationship with the American Red Cross by offering certified swimming and lifeguarding classes.
Central YW pool 1959

The YWCA’s water exercise program featured “Water Ball” classes in 1937, not unlike the water exercise classes that are held at the YWCA today. In 1952 the Central YWCA began offering mother-child swimming classes.

YWCA Executive Director Thelma Caldwell integrated the swimming classes at the Central YWCA in 1963. This was a step towards integrating the YWCA, which at that time had two branches – an African American branch on South French Broad Avenue, and a white branch, the Central YWCA, on Grove Street. The two branches merged in the South French Broad facility in 1970. The pool at the French Broad Avenue facility opened in 1974.
handicap accessible lift

In 2009, the YWCA installed 30 solar panels to heat the water in the pool. The pool also features a handicap-accessible lift and stairs.

Today, the YWCA Aquatics Department continues to offer lessons taught by Red Cross certified instructors in seven different levels for children under 6, six levels for ages 6 and up, as well as beginning through advanced lessons for adults. As part of Club W: The YWCA Health & Fitness Center, there are several levels water exercise and water aerobics classes. The Aquatics Department also offers open swim and lap swim. A new session of YWCA Red Cross Swim Lessons begins the first Monday of every month. For more information, go to http://www.ywcaofasheville.org.
YW swimmers 2013

* Part of a series of posts about YWCA Asheville History

Julia Ray: Living Treasure

7 May

Report by Director of Development Tami Ruckman:

This past Sunday, at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute on the campus of UNC Asheville, a very special ceremony was held to honor four of Asheville’s “Living Treasures.” Spring 2013 Designees included Thelma Porter, Julia Ray, and John and Hazel Robinson. These four individuals join only 13 other individuals who have been named as Living Treasures.

Julia Ray was nominated by the YWCA because of her involvement with the YWCA of Asheville as the Black and White branches integrated. Julia remembers attending events at the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA from the time she came to Asheville.

Julia Ray 1955In 1954, the election of Lucille Burton—the first Black member of the Central YWCA board of directors—put the YWCA on what proved to be a long path towards integration. Black and White branches of the Asheville YWCA finally merged, moving into the formerly Black facility in 1970. With this merge, the YWCA of Asheville became the first integrated YWCA in the South. Thelma Caldwell, then acting Director, became the first Black YWCA Executive Director in the South, and the second in the nation.

In 1976, determined to carry on the work of Thelma Caldwell, twenty-two Black former YWCA board members including Julia formed the YWCA Booster Club to supplement the current Board’s efforts and in particular to be a support to the first Black board president, Ollie Reynolds. This group supported the work of the YW in myriad ways up until only a few years ago.

Julia Pauline Greenlee Ray was born in Marion, NC in 1914. She graduated from Barber-Scotia College in Concord and later attended the University of Pittsburgh. After graduation and before going to Pittsburgh she came back to Marion. While there she would visit her aunt in Asheville because Marion had “little social opportunity.” Because the South was still segregated at that time blacks “made their own social events”. They able to meet in restaurants or bars so they met at each other’s homes and churches.

Both of Julia’s parents were masters of their crafts. Julia’s father was a well-known ornamental plasterer and her mother was a seamstress and needle worker.  Julia learned her intricate sewing skills from her mother. Julia won numerous awards for her cross-stitch.

Julia met her husband Jesse Ray when his mother showed him a picture of a beautiful young woman in the Pittsburgh Courier, a nationally circulated newspaper for Blacks. Her picture was on the front page. Julia had been Julia and Jesse Rayaccepted to the University of Pittsburgh and was attending college there. He decided to write to her When Julia visited Asheville, she had the chance to meet Jesse at the home of a cousin. Julia decided not to return to Pittsburg, but married Jesse instead. They were married for 59 years until his passing in 1994.

After WWII, the Rays purchased the Asheville Colored Hospital at the corner of Biltmore Avenue and Charlotte Street, and began Jesse Ray Funeral Home. They ran this business successfully for many years. Early on, the lower level served as the funeral home and the upper floor as the family residence.

Julia was the first African-American on the Board of Trustees of Mission Hospital, and served for 8 years as a trustee of UNC Asheville, appointed by the Governor. She served on the first board of the NC Center for Creative Retirement at UNC Asheville. She also served on the Friends of the YMI and helped to establish the Goombay Festival.

Beth Maczka

YWCA Executive Director Beth Maczka speaking at the Living Treasures event.

In 2003, the YMI rededicated their auditorium to honor Julia and Jesse. In 2007, Julia received the annual Mission/MAHEC Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of her pioneering service to the Asheville medical community. In 2012, Julia traveled to Las Vegas to receive than award from the National Funeral Directors Association proclaiming her a Living Legend of Funeral Service for her 74 years of service.

julia ray and holly jones

Julia Ray and Holly Jones at the Living Treasures event.

Julia will celebrate her 99th birthday this October. We are immeasurably grateful to her for years of service to the YWCA of Asheville.