For years, overcrowding was an issue at the 36-year-old shelter operated by YWCA Evansville – a place that many have called a temporary home in times of crisis. In just one year alone, 209 women and 129 children used a common lounge area with roll-away beds, couches and temporary mattresses due to increased demands and calls for assistance. With a HopeLine grant from Verizon, the shelter now has an updated Family Lounge and a new YW Wonderland just for the children in 2015. Both areas serve a common purpose: To help stabilize families in crisis.
Today, we’ve asked Erika Taylor, CEO of YWCA Evansville, to help explain the magnitude of corporate gifts and what it means to this shelter that services six Indiana counties in Southwest Indiana.
Q: Tell us how the new shelter common area and children’s playroom serve to help YWCA clients reach their goals.
A: At the heart of our shelter is our communal lounge, a common area where clients and their children perform the everyday tasks of living such as reading, doing homework, watching TV and simply relaxing. Thanks largely to the generosity of Verizon, our dream of a newly refurbished and reconfigured space came to life. Comfortable seating, improved lighting, lockable storage cabinets, sleeping space for overflow clients — the list of beneficial features goes on and on. In addition, the improved room now emits a healing, nurturing environment which is the perfect backdrop for individuals who are working hard to rebuild their lives.
Q: We understand this was a long-delayed project. How was Verizon’s gift used to secure pledges from others in the area?
A: Sometimes it takes just a single spark to ignite an idea. When Verizon agreed to become a major sponsor for this renovation project, interest immediately spread throughout our community. Once that momentum started, other businesses and individuals came forward with their support. Assistance came in the form of not only monetary donations, but in-kind contributions like toys, furniture, accessories, etc. Other local individuals volunteered their talents, which resulted in the donation of electrical work and mural-painting. This project is the result of many supporters coming together to help our clients feel worthy and supported in a home-like atmosphere.
Q: What have survivors shared with you about the newly renovated spaces?
A: At the YWCA, we believe that given a supportive environment free from abuse, victims are capable of developing the strengths and abilities necessary to manage their lives and the lives of their children. It is heart-warming to see our clients fully embracing the refurbished lounge and play area. Time and time again, we hear positive comments about the soothing tone of the new space and its efficient layout for clients who must use the area for sleeping space when all of our shelter bedrooms are full. The lockable storage units are a particular favorite, as these individuals now have a safe place to store their belongings while they’re with us.
Q: We know your goal was for clients to “feel a sense of home” when staying at the shelter. Why is this sense of community so important to families on the mend from domestic violence situations?
A: Our clients are a vulnerable population with many strikes against them. In addition to homelessness, most of our clients face unemployment, lack of a support network, extreme poverty, and a lack of resources to provide for the needs of their children. Simply arriving at the YWCA is a feat for many victims, who often have been isolated from family, psychologically beaten down, financially controlled, or physically threatened. Adding to the pressure is the fact that many victims blame themselves for the abuse. While at the YWCA, we have limited time to help clients make informed decisions as they strive toward violent-free relationships. A productive living space is crucial to helping our victims heal and find their voice. Our newly-refurbished lounge is an ideal setting for these activities.
Q: As one of the first established shelters in the region, how else can others assist — either individuals or local companies?
A: The YWCA provides services to hundreds of domestic violence victims and their children annually. Last year alone, over 7,400 nights of safe shelter were enjoyed by clients who looked to our organization for help in changing the course of their lives. We rely heavily on local individuals and businesses in order to keep our doors open. Monetary donations, in-kind contributions and volunteer services are a few of the ways interested parties can support our efforts.
You can also make a difference to organizations like this one!
HopeLine from Verizon is a national program that has supported organizations like YWCA Evansville since 2001. You can donate your no-longer-used electronic devices like phones, tablets and chargers from any wireless carrier to Verizon’s company-owned retail stores across the nation.
Need more information about your wireless donations and the impact those devices have on your local community? You can learn more about HopeLine from Verizon here: http://www.verizonwireless.com/aboutus/hopeline.