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Remembering Cheryl Chow, 1946 – 2013

Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Cheryl Chow, longtime Seattle civic leader and educator, who passed away last week at the age of 66. She served on the YWCA board from May 2002 to March 2013 and was admired and respected throughout her life as a strong and courageous woman. 

Cheryl Chow and her god daughter, Maile (left) and adopted daughter, Liliana (right) in January 2012.

A champion for youth, women and the Asian-American community, Cheryl leaves behind an impressive legacy of leadership and community engagement. She was known for her quick-wit, high standards and dedicated advocacy, and brought a wealth of valuable experiences to the YWCA board: as a teacher and principal, director and President of the Seattle Public School Board, Seattle City Council member, and dedicated community volunteer.

We are deeply appreciative to Cheryl and her family for their longtime support of the YWCA. Today, we celebrate her life and all that she’s given to our community, especially the young people for whom she was a tireless mentor and role model.

Please share your memories of Cheryl on the YWCA Facebook page. To learn more about her contribution to our community, visit the links below:  

Seattle Times photo gallery
Seattle Times obituary
KING 5 News video

Sue's View makes its debut!

Watch legendary newswoman and long-time
YWCA Board Member Jean Enersen interview
YWCA CEO Sue Sherbrooke about:

  • How community needs have changed since the recession
  • How the YWCA has adapted
  • What's new with the YWCA and its WE Campaign
  • What to expect from the YWCA in 2013

Proud to highlight YWCA’s commitment to our diverse community

Gay Pride Month provides us with a timely opportunity to highlight the important commitment that the YWCA makes in providing services to a diverse community of women, men and children – regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

We believe that every person has inherent dignity and worth. This belief guides everything we do at the YWCA: how we work with clients, our policies, our relationships with colleagues, partners and donors. It’s embedded in our mission/vision statement: “We believe that working together we can create a community where all people live in dignity, free from violence, racism and discrimination.”

The LGBTQ community has experienced a history of violence and discrimination, and we believe that standing with our LGBTQ clients, staff, volunteers, board members and supporters is one concrete way we express our belief in the dignity and worth of every human being.

In celebration of Gay Pride Month, YWCA staff and volunteers are looking forward to participating in the 38th annual Pride Parade: The Many Faces of Pride, in Seattle this Sunday (June 24). We hope to see you along the parade route – we’ll be the group dressed mostly in orange!

We also hope you will join us at the 14th annual LBTQ Rainbow Health Fair on June 23 from noon to 5 p.m. at Seattle Central Community College. This fun event features complimentary health resources–from Zumba to acupuncture, massage therapy and nutrition.

These are just two of the events that our YWCA will be participating in that celebrate our rich, diverse community. Please visit us here on or like us on Facebook to learn about the events that we are joining or hosting in the upcoming months.

Giving voice to economic solutions

As a record numbers of families join the ranks of the poor or low-income, we at the YWCA provide a powerful voice in response to this daunting issue.

U.S. Census numbers report that nearly 50 percent of Americans are now living in poverty or just scraping by. As a result, families are turning more frequently to the YWCA and other social service agencies to help endure these difficult times. This new reality rekindles our need to speak up and offer remedies to help those in crisis.

In a guest column published in The Seattle Times, YWCA Board Member Sonya Campion and her husband Tom Campion asserted that now is the time for all sectors —non-profits, government, businesses, philanthropists and churches — to join forces to help get our economy back on track and not let our existing safety net disintegrate.

“It’s irresponsible to unravel our social services that support so many working families, veterans, seniors and people with disabilities rely on,” the Campions wrote. “It is much more expensive to try to fix things once they have fallen into disrepair than to maintain them.”

The YWCA Women Empowered (WE) Campaign is a key part of the solution. The YWCA Board of Directors showed incredible vision in launching the Campaign, which will raise $26.5 million by the end of this year.

Yet the Campaign extends beyond funding — it encourages multiple ways of contributing, including a renewed commitment to advocacy — to give voice to solutions. And with that renewed commitment, we are excited to announce the launch of Firesteel, an interactive and participatory advocacy network in partnership with YWCAs all across the state.

With a focus on ending family homelessness in Washington state, Firesteel is a community where diverse groups connect and share their knowledge, believing that through our shared voices, we can end homelessness. Our Firesteel website invites you to contribute your voice toward advocating for policies and funding that ensures continuation of programs and services to help fill critical community needs. It also builds our foundation for a stronger future.

Join us on or through the WE Campaign and lend your voice to real solutions. By doing so, you play an important role in providing vital answers to our economic crisis. Your investment in women and families at this critical time helps to ensure that our friends, neighbors, sisters and children may continue to work toward an optimistic future.

Effects of recession spark new sense of urgency to invest in families in transition

New studies based on U.S. Census data reveal that our country’s “wealth gap” has swelled to its widest levels, as those at the very top of the economic food chain make the biggest financial gains while more families tumble out of the middle class.

The studies include research showing that the poverty rate among children has risen by 18 percent over the last decade. Such unsettling news emphasizes the importance – and relevance – of the YWCA’s mission to open doors to opportunity and self-sufficiency for women and families facing poverty, violence and discrimination. The information also brings into focus our Women Empowered (WE) Campaign— a bold three-year, $26.5 million fundraising venture to fill critical needs while ensuring a stronger future for our community.

We have myriad opportunities for you to join the YWCA as we empower women and families on their journey toward self-sufficiency. While our spring Inspire Luncheons remain our signature investment opportunities, we also host a number of fall and winter events that provide fun and meaningful ways to get involved in transforming lives.

These events include the popular YWCA Closet Treasures Sale, which supports YWCA Clothing Services; our grand opening celebrations for YWCA Family Village at Issaquah, our innovative affordable housing development on the Eastside; and the YWCA GirlsFirst Leadership Breakfast, which will benefit a successful program that encourages leadership and provides opportunities to high school girls of color.

Any donation you make through 2012 becomes part of the WE Campaign – whether you make a WE-specific gift or contribute during an event. What’s important is that you are helping to bridge the gap by investing in women and families as they transition to lives of self-resilience.

Your investment builds a firm foundation for our community by shoring up resources to ensure women have access to affordable housing, child care, education and job training, domestic violence resources and health services. Your investment empowers women to transform their lives and achieve lasting independence.

Sustaining the cycle of opportunity

This summer, the YWCA is opening the doors to two new innovative Eastside housing developments that will strengthen communities by unlocking a host of opportunities for women and their families.

The developments — YWCA Passage Point in Maple Valley and YWCA Family Village at Issaquah — will provide homes for individuals who face a variety of housing barriers.

YWCA Family Village at Issaquah offers 146 units of affordable, permanent housing in the Issaquah Highlands for working families, people with disabilities and seniors. Residents will pay rents at a reduced-market rate, enabling them to live in a community they otherwise could not afford.

YWCA Passage Point will provide supportive housing to parents leaving the corrections system who seek to reconnect with their children. The program will help these residents gain the skills and confidence necessary to be self-sufficient and create a stable environment with positive educational and social opportunities for their children.

The funding that makes both communities possible illustrates how the YWCA combines the investments that clients make in themselves with private contributions to leverage broader community support. This funding model relies on all three elements — private donations, client investments and public resources — to enable us to create sustainable opportunities for women in transition.

One vital community resource is the King County Veterans and Human Services Levy, which generates funding to help veterans, military personnel and their families, as well as other families in need. Both Passage Point and Family Village at Issaquah are supported by the levy.

King County voters will be asked to renew the Veterans and Human Services Levy in August. Voting “yes” will reauthorize the levy at its current level and will not raise taxes.

Last month, the King County Council affirmed the importance of this levy by voting unanimously to send the measure to the ballot. We encourage you to exercise your right to vote and show your support for this critically needed revenue source. Doing so will help sustain the cycle of opportunity.

Essential is not enough

YWCA clients know the extreme anxiety of being forced to choose between essentials. Our state is in a similar situation; community needs are peaking while coffers are nearly bare (check out the League of Education Voters website and use their interactive tool to try and balance the budget yourself).

We haven’t yet seen the real impact of budget reductions on the people of our state. We don’t yet know where the greatest impacts will be, but—we can imagine—reductions in basic assistance, health care and child care subsidies will drive an even greater number of families into homelessness.

As the safety net frays, there’s an expectation that our YWCA, our sister YWCAs across Washington state, and other human service providers can fill in the gaps left by city, county, state and federal governments. We are essential; but we’re not enough. For example, more than 90 percent of the money spent to run programs serving homeless people in King County was provided by public sources in 2009 (Source: The CEH Funders Group 2009 Financial Plan).

While some tell us that the only choice is an all-cuts budget, we know in advance that some of these cuts will be false economies—that the state may save tax payers pennies in the short-run, but all of us will ultimately pay far more down the road.

Granted, this is new territory for everybody. I’m confident that our economy will eventually recover. In the meantime, we hope our Legislators can make the best possible choices in the spirit of their commitment to public service.

Here are a few things you can do:


Stay informed. And, make your voice heard.

Share our updates on Twitter or Facebook.

Thank you for keeping up your support
in whatever way you can.

Mr. President: Here's some straight talk about women and the recession

Think back to when you were in elementary school, to the time when you were a little girl or a little boy in the second or third grade. Think about your mother, or perhaps your grandmother, or maybe it was a foster mom who might have raised you. Did your mother work in a full-time job outside the home to help pay the family bills? Chances are, less than half of the moms of today’s adults did.

Now, let’s imagine a room full of second- or third-graders — the kids who go to school today, throughout the Seattle area. How many would be the sons and daughters of dual working parents? Of single employed mothers? Or of jobless mothers looking for work, and hoping beyond hope that they won’t lose their cars or their homes or their health insurance?

The fact is, in the United States today, about two-thirds of all mothers of school-age children are working outside the home. Compare that to 1967, when only slightly more than one-quarter of moms were in the workforce. Today, a home with a husband as the only breadwinner accounts for less than one of every five families. Mothers are co-breadwinners in two-thirds of marriages, and one of every three working moms today are the only wage-earner in their families.

Women as a whole — whether they have children at home or not — now comprise fully half of all working Americans. Economist Heather Boushey of the Center for American Progress, in her essay for the report, “A Women’s Nation Changes Everything,” calls the movement of women into the labor force “not just enduring, but certifiably revolutionary … and perhaps the greatest social transformation of our time.”

Continue reading the article on

Notes on yesterday's meeting with DC delegation

Yesterday afternoon I met with key local government funders, representative from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and a delegation from Washington DC at YWCA Opportunity Place. Two YWCA directors, Matt King and Scott Pinegar, made presentations on behalf of the YWCA.

Our primary topic was how policy could incentivize the integration of housing with WorkSource and employment services (which is exactly what we’ve done with our Opportunity Place building, combining 145 permanent apartments with employment services, health access and Angeline’s Center for Homeless Women).

Here are a few of the folks I chatted with:

  • Fred Karnas, Senior Advisor to the Secretary for US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
  • Don Moulds, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation
  • David Harris, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Human Services policy (Health and Human Services)
  • Barbara Broman, Associate Assistant Secretary for Human Services Policy

I found this group to be really interested in adapting policy and federal grant-making to maximize scarce resources to better serve homeless and vulnerable families. We discussed the disconnect that can happen when separate agencies are administering services to a single family: it can prevent us from focusing on their overall strengths, which is what we need to do to help them overcome barriers and achieve goals.

We also recognized some key challenges between funding sources and agencies like ours: 

  • Homeless individuals and families don't effectively access traditional Workforce Investment Act (WIA) services. Response: use outcome standards that take into account the barriers homeless job seekers face and develop eligibility options that allow young parents, homeless youth and young adults to participate.
  • Communities have different needs and strengths. Response: look to priorities set by local funders and allow more flexibility.

Other solutions discussed, included:

  • Devising and using a limited number of common impact metrics that: 1) cross traditional funding boundaries and 2) measure progress of people/families (to limit data collection overload).
  • Consider revising eligibility standards for post-secondary training and education that disproportion ally disadvantage young people of color, e.g. Pell Grants.

A great start to the school year for YWCA kids, thanks to you

It's the first day of school in Seattle… what a perfect time to say thank you to all the generous businesses and individuals in our community who donated school supplies and money to YWCA School Days.

Because of you, 1,380 children in YWCA programs, whose parents are working to achieve self-sufficiency, are starting school this month with fully-loaded backpacks.

A very special thank you to the Seattle Times Fund for the Needy and the readers who donated to it. Gifts allocated to the YWCA have totaled $14,500! Our School Days program would not be possible without this support.

At their 22 branches in Snohomish and King counties and at their Main Office, Cascade Bank ran an employee school supply drive that resulted in more than 20 boxes of supplies plus hundreds of dollars in donations. This is the sixth consecutive year Cascade has conducted a school supply drive for the YWCA.

Finally, Another Source (a long-time donor and volunteer group for the YWCA) collected 500 flash drives. Cobalt Mortgage donated 250 of the flash drives, valued at just over $2,500.




The unique needs of refugee families in crisis

A refugee from Cambodia and a single mother, Linh had a difficult time finding work and adjusting to a new life in Seattle. YWCA Greenbridge Career Development Center helped Linh find resources and gave her the encouragement she needed to improve her English, computer and typing skills. She made frequent use of the job bank to search for an administrative position close to home—which she found. Her case manager also made sure that she and her kids received holiday gifts through Adopt-A-Family, school supplies from School Days and interview clothing from Dress for Success Seattle.

YWCA Career Development Centers in White Center (Greenbridge) and Auburn (Green River) are uniquely equipped—through location and staff—to serve refugee and immigrant populations. More than half of our clients in these two locations are refugees and immigrants.

During the live chat follow-up to the Seattle Times Invisible Families series, the reporter Lornet Turnbull commented that while the story about Cherie Moore and her son Cody prompted words of encouragement and even job offers, the second story about refugee families received considerably less of a positive response.

Our YWCA is committed to helping all individuals and families achieve self-sufficiency, including refugee and immigrant ones. To that end, we offer culturally-sensitive environments, bi-lingual staff and access to classes that teach professional and life skills, and help with citizenship and immigration. We provide job listings, case management to help find and keep a job, assistance with applications, resume and cover letter writing, access to computers with Internet access and specialized employment services for young adults.

Responding to families in crisis

The Seattle Times’ series Invisible Families is a thoughtful and thought-provoking view on the emotional stories and human tragedies of homeless families trying to navigate the system and get help. At times it is utterly heartbreaking.

Issues of emergency shelter availability and difficulty accessing services emerged as significant themes. At the YWCA, we sympathize with the pain and frustration families feel when they ask for help and don’t get it. Community needs outstrip available resources—and they have for years, unfortunately—which means we have to turn families away who we really want to help. We are grateful when the same families continue to call us. Because when space does open up (and it does), the YWCA has one of the best models for overcoming family homelessness.

Each of the families depicted in this series (and in reading the stories and watching the videos online, it’s evident that Seattle Times and its partners were diligent in their research and outreach because they captured numerous viewpoints and situations) could be helped by an existing YWCA program. That is validation; we’ve allocated our resources appropriately—investing in an overall approach that despite the complexity of homelessness, despite systemic issues like the wage gap and lack of affordable housing, is both relieving immediate needs and helping entire families build lasting skills and independence.

In addition, the YWCA has worked with The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for years, both as a grantee and an expert resource on direct service for homeless families, through its Sound Families initiative and in the early stages of its proposed coordinated entry program. We applaud their leadership on this issue and in our region. The overall approach set forth by their five pillars is consistent with and reflects what the YWCA has learned through our direct service. We will continue to be partners in improving the process for all homeless families seeking assistance.

The fastest-growing group among local homeless: families
Seattle Times | August 29 | Video story

“Parents with children are the fastest-growing yet least-visible segment of the homeless population, far more likely to be doubled up in the homes of friends or living in their cars than to be at a busy intersection asking for help.”

Gates housing-first plan doesn’t come with housing money
Seattle Times | August 29

YWCA CEO Sue Sherbrooke believes: “Coordinated entry will certainly provide better customer service to homeless families, and we’re eager to see that happen. At the same time, we’re concerned that as we roll this out and get better coordination, we'll find a long and heart-wrenching wait list. While we will be able to provide families with information more efficiently, we worry that no amount of coordination will increase the number of apartments or beds available.”

This article also references the success of the Landlord Liaison Project: a collaboration by King County, United Way of King County and the City of Seattle, run by the YWCA.

Health and homelessness in Seattle
Seattle/LocalHealthGuide | August 29

“[Cynthia] Nice and her grandchildren were about to move into her van, when a relative suggested she contact the YWCA to help.

She made the call.

Cynthia Nice's grandson Larry Nice and her grandchildren, Denetriah 8, Alexis 7, Larry 6 and Dovantae 3, were quickly provided temporary shelter in a motel and in a week were placed in a third-floor, three-bedroom unit in the YWCA’s Fir Street shelter near Downtown just off Boren and Yesler.”

Part 1 of Refugees: From East Africa to City Hall to Aurora Ave. 
Aurora | Seattle | August 30 | Part 2
An Eritrean family was helped by sympathetic community members and eventually received shelter and services from the YWCA. 

specialized services for children

Things can be more than they seem.

When the Play & Learn group takes a walk from the Family Village at Redmond, they talk about how early literacy can happen anywhere. For example, "Look at the bank. Bank starts with the letter b." The parents begin sharing resources for diapers and formula. They get together with their babies and meet outside the group. Their friendship has a hidden value. It gives them a sense of confidence – and community. It makes them feel on equal footing with middle- and upper-income parents.

During 2009, the YWCA gave 1,576 children and teens (birth to 18) a safe place to live – many with unique needs due to domestic violence and homelessness. We served more than half of them with these specialized Children’s Services:

Domestic violence counseling:

10-week, in-home curriculum for children to express themselves through drawings and create their own safety plans.

Play & Learn:

Parents are guided through play with their babies and toddlers to advance early learning and parenting skills.

Mental health counseling:

Through a team-based approach, preschool-aged children at the YWCA Family Village child care receive counseling and support services.

School liaison/child advocacy:

Parents learn to advocate for their children in the school system – ensure they receive school supplies, adequate transportation, immunizations and specialized education services – resulting in improved school attendance and academic progress.

Kid’s Club:

While mothers participate in the adult domestic violence support group, their children meet with counselors who use art and other affirming tools to develop safety awareness, help children learn to cope with emotions like anger and shame, and realize they are not to blame.

Flexibility is essential. These programs meet children and parents where they are – in their
homes and at YWCA program offices. Parents can maintain work, school and counseling schedules, while developing skills and networks that will improve their children’s emotional
and academic development as they grow. That is exactly what it seems: invaluable.

Sue Sherbrooke
CEO, YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish

A Giving Moment

What did Alana Elop do for her birthday this year? “Donated to the YWCA and had a swimming party.”

In 2009, Alana and her two sisters (they’re triplets) turned 11. They had pretty typical 11-year-old birthday parties, with lots of laughing and playing, friends and family. Except that after the cake and candles, the girls didn’t open presents. They opened donation checks and counted them up so everyone could cheer – for the YWCA, Seattle Cancer Care and Seattle Children’s Hospital.

How many of us hope that by the tender age of 11, our own children could possess such generosity and vision? Last August, Alana, her sisters and their mother, Nancy Elop, packed backpacks for the YWCA’s School Days program (which gives kids in YWCA housing a new
backpack loaded with fresh supplies so they can get a good start back to school each fall).

After the backpacks, they toured our YWCA building at Fifth and Seneca, including the emergency shelter where women and families can stay for 90 days before moving on to more permanent housing. Alana met some of the women who were staying in the shelter and saw an apartment. Her mom said that really made an impact… such an impact that Alana decided, “I didn’t need anything for my birthday this year.”

Instead, her birthday money will go to buying seeds for kids at the Family Village Redmond child care to plant this spring. She raised $230 – that’s going to buy a lot of

Resources for nonprofits come in many forms. Certainly the greatest asset we have in these difficult economic times, as we all struggle to recover our confidence and
stability, are stories like these: stories in which lasting needs are given priority over ephemeral wants and every person in our community is empowered to make a difference.

Thank you and happy 2010!

Sue Sherbrooke
CEO, YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish