Sunday, May 19, 2024

YWCA Cambridge’s building on Temple Street is shaded by Temple Place, 40 affordable units developed with a Cambridge Housing Authority affiliate. (Photo: Marc Levy)

Since 1891, the YWCA Cambridge has been paving the way toward eliminating racism and empowering women. As we move into the next decade, it is only proper to provide an overview of the successes and triumphs over the past decade, with contributions reached far and wide. Year after year, each of these accomplishments has supported the mission to eliminate racism, empower women and promote peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.

bullet-gray-small 2010: The YWCA Cambridge Rehabilitation Project begins. Renovations aimed to provide residents with the best accommodations possible by updating residential units, ensuring that each unit was fully furnished with new desks, beds, side tables, chairs, large dressers, energy-efficient refrigerators and air conditioners. It also helped 12 residents secure permanent housing and three to get home base rental assistance. Additionally, TD Bank awarded $10,000 to expand programming geared toward the mission of the organization, such as a leadership camp at the Marshfield branch where young women learned from experts on topics such as finance, law and health care.

bullet-gray-small 2011: Cambridge YWCA was one of three recipients of state grants aimed at improving affordable housing in Cambridge, getting $3.9 million – the largest award of the $9.5 million program. This grant supported the continuous improvement of precious affordable homes.

bullet-gray-small 2012: YWCA Cambridge celebrated the 20th anniversary of its flagship fundraising event, Tribute to Outstanding Women. This event supports the work of the organization while highlighting the accomplishments of female leaders in the community. The Tribute has also been a time to recognize outstanding young adults, such as Cambridge Rindge and Latin School students and community leaders.

bullet-gray-small 2013: The organization held a Marshfield summer camp that served more than 325 kids with activities including arts and crafts, archery, swimming lessons and hikes along nature trails. YWCA Cambridge has remained a prominent part of the community by remaining a meeting place for community engagement opportunities.

bullet-gray-small 2014: Women throughout the Cambridge area were able to find a home for their artwork in the lobby of the Cambridge YWCA; the organization also highlighted women authors by hosting talks with them at the Marshfield and main locations with interested and diverse audiences. In conjunction with this community programming, the YWCA Cambridge Family Shelter housed 17 women and their 21 children throughout the year. With the organization’s support, five families were able to find permanent housing.

bullet-gray-small 2015: With the support and advocacy of family shelter staff, eight residents among the 14 mothers with 17 children housed this year moved into permanent independent residences, two got their GEDs, seven found full-time work, four began part-time work and one graduated from a medical assistant program. In addition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health student Anvita Kulkarni promoted better health with women living in a YWCA housing facility, hearing their experiences and bringing a voice to the need for assisted living and support for women and families across Cambridge.

bullet-gray-small 2016: The Girls Only Leadership Development Program nearly doubled to 39 yearlong participants. In addition, the organization welcomed Darakshan Raja, co-director of the Washington, D.C., Peace Center, as the keynote speaker for the annual “Stand Against Racism” program. In collaboration with Transition House and Cambridge College, Cambridge YWCA sponsored a symposium on nonprofit community service for 25 African professionals from the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders Initiative.

bullet-gray-small 2017: Board members, staff and friends of the organization marched in the Women’s March Boston in support of legislation and policies supporting women’s rights, human rights, LGBTQ+ rights, racial equality, health care and immigration reform and many other efforts. In this year alone, 257 participated in racial and social justice events. In addition, YWCA Cambridge kept its doors open to grassroots organizations geared toward equality and racial justice, such as the Cambridge Forum for Feminist Discussion of Masculinities, Black Lives Matter Cambridge, Anti-Racist Collaborative and Cambridge African American Heritage Alliance.

bullet-gray-small 2018: In partnership with the city’s Department of Human Services, the family shelter moved into a historic mansion transformed into short-term housing for homeless families. The new space provided a more homelike atmosphere to families in need. In addition, the organization had a voice at the 2018 Women’s March in Cambridge through executive director Eva Martin Blythe, who spoke during the march.

bullet-gray-small 2019: The YWCA Cambridge joined the Roe Act Coalition, which is committed to passing legislation to protect and expand access to abortion in Massachusetts, and the Menstrual Act Coalition, which exists to pursue equity, act for justice and build intersectional feminism in the state. As a central hub for the Cambridge community, YWCA Cambridge also was granted funding from Cambridge in Motion to provide free summer yoga to the Cambridge community. More than 160 events were provided, from meditation to support groups. In addition, there was a two-part salary negotiation series for women presented in partnership with the state Office of Economic Empowerment.

Only a few of the many accomplishments for each year of the past decade are highlighted here. The YWCA Cambridge has started out the new decade committed to continuously increasing its impact, programming and access to those that need it most. While in the past month the desire for knowledge about racism and systemic oppression has become more apparent, the accomplishments and efforts of YWCA Cambridge have always been at the forefront of fighting to eliminate racism and empower women, and the groundbreaking work will continue.