A map of Alaska with the Southcentral / Municipality of Anchorage region highlighted.
Organization: YWCA Alaska
City: Anchorage
Region: Southcentral / Municipality of Anchorage
Program Area: Human Services
Grants Received:
2015: $25,000  1999: $6,000
2013: $243,115  1998: $799
2011: $60,000  1997: $11,305
2006: $16,344  1996: $2,048
2003: $18,729  1995: $6,000
2001: $250,000

You have the power to make a difference

Mission Statement
YWCA of Anchorage

To empower women and girls, and to eliminate racism.
Every year, I sit at the YWCA of Anchorage's Women of Achievement luncheon, and I hear the stories of astounding women. Superlative women. Women who fought upstream their entire lives, make a huge difference, mentor other women, and usually there's always something to top it off bake their own bread, make their own clothes, or outfit the residents of homeless shelters in homemade sweaters. And this is
what's always amazing: in many cases, I have never heard of these women before.

An interior photo of the YWCA of Anchorage.Spacer Image Before the YWCA, who discovered these women? Who gave them recognition? At one of the first luncheons, my boss looked around and said, "Where are their husbands? If a man won recognition like this, you can bet the wives would be here." And now, fifteen years later, the luncheon is a thousand strong, with plenty of husbands and bosses in the cheering section as ten new women are honored each year.

When I walk out of those luncheons, I always feel a little mediocre, a little run-of-the-mill, but a lot inspired. "I'm going to go home and Commit!" So inch by inch, step by step, all of us walk away changed. That's how the YWCA does it, girl by girl, woman by woman.

Go to any YWCA event, and the women are a feast of colors. Call the YWCA on the phone and you can speak to someone in your own language. Maybe in high school cafeterias, often still in the real world, people separate into their clusters of color, but not at the Y. It's not just their workshops and conferences that focus on diversity and cross cultural communication it's their hearts and intentions.

The YWCA's annual program of women writers, all reading in an on-stage living room, is one of my favorite evenings of the year. I cried when Joanne Townsend read a poem to her son, undiscovered after a car accident: did you lay there dying long? And roared with laughter over Elise Patkotak's shopping sprees: if it fits, buy ten in different colors and you're done. Cinthia Ritchie's sister flew in from Outside and they stood there together at the podium, one reading the words of the other's pen.

Friends have written business plans and started businesses with the help of the YWCA's Women$finances program. I couldn't understand why the YWCA had a fishing workshop until someone told me that casting is good exercise for women's bodies after a mastectomy, that you could "Cast for Recovery" with the Y. Who can use a restroom in Anchorage without seeing the stickers and posters that advertise mammograms or Pap smears at free or reduced cost through the YWCA?

Sharon Richards talked with me many long years ago, when her plan was to start a YWCA in Anchorage. I wasn't very interested; I thought it was a gym or church group, the "Young Women's Christian Association." Besides what would a Christian organization have to do with Jewish me? With the opening of the YWCA of Anchorage in 1989, Alaska became the 50th state in the nation to join the YWCA family an international movement in 110 countries.

Sharon was so principled, had such high hopes, was gathering such support. How could I resist? And now, with fifteen years under its belt, thirteen employees, its own building, and serving 11,000 people annually; the YWCA of Anchorage has even survived the departure of its founder. Other women so many other women have taken up the reins.

The YWCA tells us, You have the power to make a difference. "Eliminating Racism. Empowering Women." is the mission of the YWCA. Can it get any clearer than that? No beating around the bush, no dilly-dallying on the way to social change, no bureaucracy of boilerplate language.

Just "Eliminating Racism. Empowering Women." Feel the boldness! You've just been touched by the YWCA.

Barbara Brown, an award winning columnist for the Anchorage Daily News for eight years, is now Director of Leadership Anchorage, a program of the Alaska Humanities Forum in which she leads conversations with leaders on "Practicing Courage" and Earning Trust." Barbara has written and starred in a one woman show for Out North Theatre, her essays, short stories and columns are in several anthologies, most recently Traveler's Tales Alaska. Barbara is also the "Werd Nerd" for the annual Anchorage Literacy Project adult spelling bee and spends summers as the Storytime Lady at the Alaska Botanical Garden in Anchorage, where she lives.