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Child Care availability is an invisible crisis in our community

29 Apr


Beth Maczka, YWCA CEO

Beth Maczka, Asheville Citizen-Times Guest Columnist

Cultures are judged on how they care for the most vulnerable. How will our community be judged when the care for our youngest children is considered? Early learning programs are essential to nurturing children socially and academically while providing critical support to working families.


We all know that we have a less than 1 percent vacancy rate for housing in our community. Did you also know that we have well less than a 1 percent vacancy rate for child care?

Affordable child care is the biggest barrier to women’s economic security. Without child care, you can’t look for work. Without child care you can’t work. Without child care it is difficult, if not impossible, to complete your education.

For Mary, finding an available child care opening meant being able to get, and keep, a job for the first time. Yet for hundreds of families, the lack of childcare spaces is keeping them from working.

Over the last year and a half, we have lost 176 slots from our community’s child care services. For a number of reasons, including a 5-month freeze on state child care voucher payments, three 5-star-rated child care centers and two family child care homes closed.

Even if you can pay full price, there are virtually no open places for children, with the longest waiting lists for infants and toddlers. And if you have a child care voucher, a state subsidy to support low-income working parents, there is no place to use that voucher.

A recent survey of child care providers revealed only six openings for children in Buncombe County out of a population of 4,160 children enrolled in full-time care. This is a crisis.

Child care costs more than in-state college tuition. Child care tuition for an infant is about $12,000 a year. In-state tuition to UNC Chapel Hill, including books, is $10,033.

Even at the cost of $1,000 per child per month (or higher), 5-star child care centers lose money on every child under the age of three, due to the high standards of care and the required adult to child ratio. No wonder some centers only serve 3- to 5-year-olds and existing centers can’t afford to expand infant and toddler rooms.

Add on the fact that the state child care voucher reimbursement rate for an infant in Asheville in a 5-star-rated center is $757, while the same state-funded reimbursement rate for an infant in Charlotte is $870 and $1,066 in Raleigh. Yet the cost of living is higher in Asheville than it is in Charlotte or Raleigh.

We also have a critical shortage in early childhood teachers.

Given the challenge of profitability, paying competitive, if not living wages, to these hard-working saints who care for our children every day is challenging. No wonder we are seeing lower enrollment rates at community colleges and at universities in early childhood education.

Centers are also faced with the rising health insurance costs, which are projected to increase by 16 percent this year. It is no wonder that centers have closed.

Remind your N.C. state representatives that we have a less than 1 percent vacancy for child care slots, a critical child care teacher shortage, and that these conditions are unacceptable for our children, our families and our local businesses.

Ask your representatives to implement these recommendations immediately:

Make the child care subsidy market reimbursement rates fair — based on cost and adjust the subsidy market rate allocation so that it is more equitable.

Increase support for teacher training and compensation for birth to 5 years of age. School age teachers are not the only ones that need a raise!

Our child care center infrastructure is fragile, and we can’t afford to lose any more centers or family child care homes.

Working families need childcare now.

Beth Maczka is CEO, YWCA of Asheville. The mission of the YWCA is Eliminating Racism and Empowering Women. The YWCA of Asheville provides 5-star child care services from birth to 12 years of age along with a range of programs that address disparities in education, health and economic security.

This Op-ed is endorsed by the following 5-star child care centers and child advocacy organizations in Buncombe County:

Buncombe County Partnership for Children

Children First Communities in Schools

Verner Center for Early Learning

Asheville Jewish Community Center Childcare Center

First Presbyterian Church Childcare Center

Mission Hospitals Child Development Center

April is Stand Against Racism Month

11 Apr

SAR_Logo_RGBStand Against Racism is a signature campaign of YWCA USA to build community among those who work for racial justice and to raise awareness about the negative impact of institutional and structural racism in our communities.  This year, our theme is On A Mission for Girls of Color! We will amplify the national discussion about the impacts of institutional and structural racism on the lives of girls of color.

Last year, nearly 750 sites in 44 states participated. We are proud that Asheville-Buncombe County is one of the most active Stand locations with over 75 participating sites and 29 different public events in 2015.

A-B Tech Stand

Panel discussion featuring: Stephen Smith, Philip Cooper, Vanessa James, Brent Bailey and Dana Bartlett

This year’s Stand is sure to be just as successful with several exciting events taking place throughout the community. Our kickoff off event took place last Thursday, April 7th, at A-B Tech Community College. This event titled, Ban the Box: Promote Employment Fairness, featured two panel discussions that explored efforts to remove the box that asks about criminal records from employment applications.

Here is a list of upcoming Stand events in April:

  • Pack’s Tavern will Stand Against Racism by hosting Pack’s Day on Monday, April 18th, from 11 am – 11 pm. 10% of all proceeds from this day will benefit the YWCA of Asheville.
  • Pour Taproom will take a Stand by donating 10% of all proceeds from Thursday, April 21st, 6 pm – 9 pm to benefit the YWCA of Asheville.
  • Africa Healing Exchange will host a multicultural celebration and benefit to raise awareness and support trauma healing on Thursday April 21st, from 6-9:30  pm at White Horse Black Mountain. This event will feature grammy-nominated singer Laura Reed, with notable guest performers including African-inspired dancers, artists and speakers. African cuisine provided by Kente Kitchen (cash purchase); full bar; vendors featuring coffee, tea and artisan products for sale from Rwanda.
  • The Asheville Chamber of Commerce is joining with the Buncombe County Government, YWCA of Asheville and Mission Health to take a Stand Against Racism by helping businesses better understand how bias shows up in the workplace. Join Lisa Eby and Lakesha McDay on Thursday, April 28th, 11:30 am – 1 pm for “Grey Matter: Understanding the Brain and Bias”. Have you ever wondered where our biases come from? This session will give you insight into the “grey matter”, the brain, and you will learn that we are ALL wired to be biased! Through an interactive workshop, you will see how bias shows up in each of us and leave with concrete steps to minimize the effects of bias in you and your workplace, making Asheville a more inclusive community.
  • The Martin Luther King Jr. Association of Asheville Buncombe County and the Stephens-Lee Alumni Association are co-sponsoring a Stand Against Racism event on Friday, April 29th, 12 pm – 2 pm at the Stephens Lee Center. This program will focus on African American educators that have paved the way for people of color. The panel discussion will discuss the impact of segregation in the Asheville School system, integration, highlight African American educators, and discuss the role that the Stephens-Lee High School played in the education of African Americans.
  • Jubilee! Community will screen the movie “Cracking the Codes: The System of Racial Inequity ” and host a round table discussion on Friday April 29th from 6:30-8:30 pm. The film invites America to talk about the causes and consequences of systemic inequity, features moving stories from racial justice leaders including Amer Ahmed, Michael Benitez, Barbie-Danielle DeCarlo, Joy DeGruy, Ericka Huggins, Humaira Jackson, Yuko Kodama, Peggy McIntosh, Rinku Sen, Tilman Smith and Tim Wise.
  • Black Mountain Stand Against Racism will host a public event at White Horse Black Mountain on Sunday, May 1st from 2:30-4:30 pm. Award-winning performer Kat Williams, joined by acclaimed musician, author and speaker David LaMotte, will talk & sing about ways to “Stand Against Racism”. Also participating will be Rev. Hilario Cisneros of La Capilla de Santa Maria in Hendersonville, and Buncombe County Register of Deeds Drew Reisinger, who pioneered online postings of actual slave-ownership records. The event will be interspersed with Kat’s inimitable music. Tickets are $10 or $8 for students under 21; available online at or call (828) 669-0816, with net proceeds going to Kat’s fund for young black men and women.
  • The YWCA of Asheville will take a Stand Against Racism through a series of Racial Justice Workshops for staff, board and volunteers. The Racial Justice Workshops will be held in the Multipurpose Room on the following dates: Monday, April 25, 6 – 7:30 pm, Tuesday, April 26, 6 – 7:30 pm, and Friday, April 29, 12 pm – 1:30 pm. The goals of the Racial Justice Workshop are to learn shared language and concepts related to racial justice, become familiar with the YWCA’s racial justice framework, and grow more comfortable talking about race and racism.

For more information about these events and a full list of Stand Against Racism events visit

A-Team Stand SelfieWe encourage you to take a Stand Against Racism by participating in one of these community events, organizing an event of your own, or simply dining out at Pack’s Tavern or having a beer at Pour Taproom to support the YWCA.

Any group of any size can become a participating site of the Stand Against Racism. Participating can be as simple as hanging a poster or wearing your “Stand Against Racism” t-shirt and tagging the YWCA of Asheville as part of our Stand Selfie Campaign. Or you can host a public event, rally or day of service. No matter what shape the “stand” takes in each participating site, you can unite our community in a bold demonstration that delivers a clear message: We are on a mission to eliminate racism.

If you would like more information about Stand Against Racism or are interested in becoming a participating site, please contact Gerry Leonard at 828-254-2706, ext. 219 or

YWCA CEO Delivers Opening Address to WNC Women Change Makers

23 Mar

On Monday, Beth Maczka of the YWCA of Asheville spoke at the Women Making History Celebration presented by the Asheville Citizen Times. In honor of Women’s History Month, this event recognized twenty women change makers who have shaped Western North Carolina and made Asheville what it is today. Beth picture WomenMakingHistory51These women are:

Anni Albers, Black Mountain College
Becky Anderson, HandMade in America
Leslie Anderson, rejuvenation of Asheville
Terry Bellamy, former mayor, brought affordable housing to the forefront, was on Council when Asheville left the water agreement
Emoke B’Racz, started Malaprops bookstore
Willie Mae Brown, served on myriad nonprofit boards, director emeritus of Asheville GreenWorks
Lillian Clement, first female state legislator in the South
Marie Colton, first woman to serve as speaker pro-tem in the North Carolina General Assembly
Karen Cragnolin, environmentalist, RiverLink
Francine Delany, UNCA’s first black graduate, principal
Wilma Dykeman, author and environmentalist
Frances Goodrich, founded southern highland craft guild
Wanda Greene, county manager (behind the scenes on huge county growth, school construction, A-B Tech)
Deborah Miles, founder and ED of Center for Diversity Education
Susan Roderick, Asheville GreenWorks
Wilma Sherrill, former state legislator
Oralene Simmons, first black student at Mars Hill
Leni Sitnick, first woman mayor, but also grassroots activist who shifted the political landscape with her election
Pat Smith, leader of Community Foundation of WNC
Edith Vanderbilt, essentially created Pisgah Nat’l Forest, Biltmore Industries, etc.

Beth celebrated these women’s groundbreaking achievements and activism with a toast:Beth pic 2 2016WomenMakingHistory18

“Welcome – I am Beth Maczka, CEO of the YWCA of Asheville where our mission is eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.

I am humbled to be asked to recognize this group of 20 amazing women.

It is truly impossible to do justice to them in a few minutes, for all that they have accomplished and achieved.

  • Each one of these women is a sheroe in her area of work
  • Each one of these women has a story that is both unique and also shares experiences among other women leaders

Theirs are the shoulders on which we stand today.

Please join me in a toast – albeit a long – a toast to celebrate these amazing women – our foremothers, our sisters, and our friends. 

Today we celebrate women…

  • Who revived and inspired our community
  • Who broke through walls and shattered glass ceilings
  • Who spoke up, spoke out and led

We celebrate our foremothers

  • Who wrote laws when women did not have the right to vote and
  • Who wrote books when women did not have a voice

We celebrate groundbreakers who built, who created, who dreamed. 

We celebrate women who fought for a seat at the table and then moved forward to lead the City, the County and the State.

  • Who led banks and foundations,
  • Who created schools and guilds and bookstores
  • Who birthed numerous nonprofits, community initiatives and treasured institutions

We celebrate artists who envisioned a more beautiful, unified, and resilient community.

  • Who reminded us of the importance of our elders, our sacred spaces and our heritage
  • Who hoped and created and saw a way forward because art and beauty creates clarity and inspiration

We celebrate women who worked and raised families and women who worked and raised organizations and changed systems.

We celebrate every woman who ever doubted that it was possible, but got up the next day and made it so.

  • Made it so despite set-backs, made it so despite illness, and made it so despite lost funding
  • Made it so out of sheer determination and sweat and sometimes, just by showing up

We celebrate women who reached down and lifted up their sisters to help and follow.

  • Who nurtured an idea, encouraged a hope and mentored a young woman just starting her career

We celebrate women of color who broke the double barriers of racism and sexism.

  • Who opened doors at school systems, at colleges, at universities, at City Hall and organizations throughout our community
  • Who showed us that we gain strength and knowledge through diversity and increased opportunities for all

We celebrate women who celebrated!

  • Who created the Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer breakfast, the RiverLink Float Parade and the Power of the Purse luncheon
  • With music and art and food and dancing, these women showed us all what was good and right and worthy. And they showed us the importance of celebrating our victories and our struggles and the importance of just coming together

We celebrate women who saw potential…

  • Who saw potential in rural towns, in a forest, in a polluted waterfront, in a vacant lot and in a boarded up downtown
  • Who saw potential in local crafts, in neighborhoods, in community centers, and in community gardens
  • Who saw potential in other women, in children and in families

We celebrate women who laid down, Woulda, Coulda, and Shoulda and raised up, Will, Can and Did!

These women, our foremothers, our sisters and our friends, showed us the way.

  • They lit the path
  • They gave us a vision when we couldn’t see what was possible
  • They created clarity out of red-tape and bureaucracy
  • They saw, they collaborated and they did.

Today we celebrate

  • Our ground breakers – Edith, Becky, Pat, Leslie, and Karen
  • Our game changers – Lillian, Marie, Wilma, Wanda, Leni and Terry
  • Our justice makers – Francine, Oralene, Willie Mae and Deborah
  • Our artists and creators – Annie, Frances, Wilma, Emoke and Susan

To all of you, our foremothers, our sisters and our friends, thank you!

Thank you for your vision, your courage, your audacity, your voice, and your wisdom. Thank you for:

  • Your years of number crunching, proposal writing, strategic planning and law making
  • Thank you for your years of attending board meetings, community meetings, public hearings, and fundraisers and cleaning up when the charette, program, forum or gala were over
  • Thank you for your years of creating art, music, and literature, and your years of building institutions to make our community more livable while honoring our rich heritage

Thank you for changing the rules and changing the diapers

Thank you for seeking justice and pursuing peace

Thank you for making a way when the way was not clear

Thank you.

We are a better community, a better city, a better county, a better region, and a better state because of each of you.

You are the women who match these mountains – and you made it so.”



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!

Meet Two New Staff: Our Director of Women’s Empowerment and Volunteer & Outreach Coordinator

8 Sep

 Diana Sierra, Director of Women’s Empowerment012

We are excited to welcome Diana Sierra to the YWCA as our new Director of Women’s Empowerment. Diana will oversee our MotherLove program, as well as get our new program dedicated to women’s financial empowerment up and running.

Diana was born and raised in Brooklyn, the first generation of her family to be born in the U.S. – her father is Dominican and her mother is Puerto Rican. She moved to Northern Virginia while she was in high school, and attended James Madison University for undergraduate studies, where she “fell in love with the mountains and the outdoors.” Diana received her Masters in Social Work and then worked for 8 years in the education field. Most recently, Diana ran social services and family engagement for the East Harlem Tutorial Program.

Diana has lived in Asheville since June. “I’m loving it! I had been visiting for the past 5 years. I finally thought: ‘I’m coming down here all the time – I might as well move here.’” She enjoys hiking, canoeing and kayaking, running, and working out. She’s also a “big foodie” – she loves trying new restaurants, wine bars, and baking.

Diana has hit the ground running in her work. She says: “I’m most excited about the combination of working with a reputable, long-standing program like MotherLove, combined with launching a new program focused on low-income parents that can fill in service delivery gaps. Being a licensed social worker will allow me to infuse that clinical depth to our women’s empowerment programs.”

Diana believes that the YWCA is a great fit for her: “The YWCA is a well-known organization with long-standing roots in the community. I like that there’s a variety of programming – there are so many things going on – and that there are children in the building. I really believe in the mission of eliminating racism and empowering women. I want to be part of an organization that puts that at the forefront.”


Gerry Leonard, Volunteer & Outreach Coordinator002

We would also like to welcome Gerry Leonard, our new Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator. As part of Gerry’s position at the YWCA he will also help coordinate outreach activities and the Stand Against Racism.

Gerry grew up in Richmond, VA where he attended Virginia Commonwealth University. After graduating, Gerry traveled around the country and spent a time in Europe, specifically in the Netherlands. He only has lived in Asheville for a year; he chose to move to Asheville for the mountains, vibrant music and art scene, and all the delicious food that Asheville has to offer. In Gerry’s words: “The writing was literally on the wall as to why I should move here, and on whim, I just decided to uproot my life and start anew in Asheville.”

Through Gerry’s passion for traveling, he helped start and organize the first ever hostel in Richmond. Gerry has also worked in the fields of animal welfare, environmental justice, immigration policy, food access and other social justice related issues. He is looking forward to bringing his experience in community organizing and activism to Asheville.

Describing his interests outside of work, Gerry says: “I like to play and see music, which Asheville has an abundance of. I’m an avid reader, with a huge literary soft spot for fantasy novels and comics – I also write poetry on the side! I’m a massive soccer fan. I enjoy hiking, running, biking, and generally just being outside. Probably my favorite thing is hanging out with my dog Fernando – he and I do everything together.”

Gerry was drawn to the YWCA because of the organization’s diversity, positive energy, and rich history. Most importantly, “the mission of the YWCA is at the core of my own philosophy and beliefs. It coincides well with my deeply-held values and passion to work towards creating social change. I’ve spent much of my career working on grass-roots efforts, and it’s exciting to have an opportunity to have a larger, more robust platform to speak out on issues of system racism.”

In his role he’s looking forward to developing personal relationships with volunteers and other organization members. “In my role, I’m in a unique position to connect with people who share the same passion of getting involved in an organization whose mission statement is ‘eliminating racism and empowering women.’ It will be rewarding for me to get to know folks and the narrative of what brought them to the YWCA.”

Gerry is also excited about his involvement in the Stand Against Racism. “Bringing awareness around institutional and structural racism is a massive deal for me. Often we look at racism through the vantage point of interpersonal bigotry and discrimination. A campaign designed to look at how systemic racism impacts us all will hopefully wake people up to what they can do within their sphere of influence to dismantle racism. It has to be something that is in the forefront of all of our thinking. Hopefully the work around Stand in our community will lead to a bigger movement nationally, and even globally.”


15 May

The YWCA of Asheville would like to share an important message from the AAUW‘s Action Network about how we can all take action to #BringBackOurGirls in Nigeria – and to help prevent and respond to violence against women and girls around the world. From Lisa M. Maatz, AAUW Vice President of Government Relations: ???????????????????????????????

Like many of us, I’ve watched with horror as the days have stretched on without any news on the kidnapped Nigerian girls’ whereabouts. Though comforting to know many of them are still alive, the video footage released earlier this week only intensifies the need to #BringBackOurGirls.

At times like these, I am reminded of the power we can have when we combine our voices to make change – in addition to joining the Twitter conversation to #BringBackOurGirls, we can help protect women and girls worldwide by urging our representatives to support the International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA)

I-VAWA would support proven strategies to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls, and it would bolster the efforts of women and men around the world who are working to reduce gender-based violence in their communities.

Many of the I-VAWA programs help women and girls do things we so often take for granted: go to school – as the kidnapped Nigerian girls were doing; earn an income to take care of their families; collect food or water without fear of rape; and bring perpetrators of abuse to justice. I-VAWA would increase the effectiveness of existing U.S. foreign policy to end and respond to violence against women and girls around the world.

Throughout 2012 and the beginning of 2013, your persistent advocacy helped pass a comprehensive Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that will protect all survivors, including Native American and immigrant women; lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals; and students on college campuses. However, VAWA only helps survivors in the United States – that’s why Congress needs to pass the International Violence Against Women Act, known as I-VAWA.

Contact your representative and senators today: Their support of I-VAWA could change the lives of millions of women and girls around the world, so we need them to take this important action!

When implemented, I-VAWA would help put an end to the fear, pain, and suffering experienced by countless women and girls globally. AAUW joins the rest of the U.S. and the international community in praying for the safe return of the kidnapped Nigerian girls – I hope you will join us in urging Congress to pass I-VAWA so we can prevent these tragedies in the future.


Advocacy Alert for New Choices

3 Jun
Dear friends,
I am writing to ask you to spend 5 minutes calling in support of the YWCA’s New Choices Program and the Drop-in Child Care Center. As most of you know, the New Choices Program removes the barrier of access to childcare for women who are working to improve their work skills and gain employment. Additional support such as credit classes, resume writing, job seeking and job keeping skills help women improve their economic stability.
The proposed senate budget has zeroed out the funding for these services which would mean a significant reduction in work force development services available to women trying to become more economically secure. It could also mean a reduction in the hours of free drop-in childcare which is a major obstacle to parents trying to return to school or work. The YW currently receives $55,000 of combined Displaced Homemaker Funds and Divorce Filing Fees. This is the base annual income for the New Choices program which is supplemented by grants and contracts when we can get them.
Please call all of the key representatives of the House Appropriations Committee:

Nelson Dollar    (919) 715-0795
Justin Burr          (919) 733-5908
Bryan Holloway   (919) 733-5609
Linda Johnson   (919) 733-5861
Susan Fisher      (919) 715-2013

Background information:

*  The NC Senate’s budget elimination of funding for displaced homemaker programs will have a devastating impact on the ability of the YW’s New Choices Program and 34 other programs across NC to provide services that help participants get reintegrated into our economy.
*  Last year, 5,790 individuals received training through NC’s Displaced Homemaker Programs. That training helped them learn job skills, achieve financial literacy, and work toward community college certification, all skills necessary to move them from dependence to independence. They include the persistently underemployed, a category where NC has the sad distinction of ranking fourth in the nation.
*  The Senate’s budget redirects monies from Divorce Filing Fees, which has funded Displaced Homemaker Programs, to the Domestic Violence Fund. The new legislation does not require workforce development services be provided by domestic violence programs.

The main points to make are:
If the house does not move to reinstate the monies, the impact will be stark:

*  35 Existing Displaced Homemaker programs will be eliminated
*  Unemployed and dislocated workers will have far fewer workforce development programs to help them access the skills and support needed to reenter the workforce
*  Domestic violence services, while very important, are targeted to victim assistance and awareness programs
*  By definition, not all displaced homemakers are domestic violence victims, thus many “displaced homemakers” will lose vital workforce development services with the elimination of DH programs.

beth maczka blueThank you for your time and attention to this important issue!
Beth Maczka
YWCA Executive Director