Column: The YWCA is Onto Something

By Mary Lee A. Kiernan

YWCA Greenwich is onto something. Something different and something special. Something contemporary and something important for our community.

We are bringing a fresh approach to our one hundred-year-old mission: YWCA Greenwich is on a mission to empower women and girls and promote inclusion and dignity for all in our community. Through leadership, innovative programs, services and educational opportunities, YWCA Greenwich is a driving force for a healthier, safer and more equitable community.

Walking through the YWCA’s doors, you are immediately aware of a warmth and a sense of caring—a rarity in a world dominated by technology and short of human interaction. You are greeted by friendly and knowledgeable YWCA staff at a modern, new reception desk. They smile, they laugh, and they try to improve your YWCA experience and your day.

A few feet away, Arcuri’s Café is providing fresh and healthy food with a smile. Looking around the lobby, you see your neighbors and friends from all across this community—from babies to seniors, from Byram to Old Greenwich—all exercising, learning, laughing and connecting. On September 7th, hundreds of families will pack the YWCA campus for our free Family Fun Fair, enjoying every activity in the building, from arts and crafts to our splash pad.

Preschool students starting at 15 months are learning in a new STEAM Lab with a modern and focused curriculum. They graduate knowing how to swim and speak basic Spanish vocabulary. They have learned gymnastics, yoga and elements of cultures from around the world. Veteran staff like Vicki Ditri teach critical academic and social/emotional foundations, while providing the warmth and support that help children thrive.

Our licensed afterschool program, Kaleidoscope, provides time for homework, athletics, chess, and computer science in a fun and engaging atmosphere. Arthur Smith, YWCA’s Director of Youth Programs, or “Mr. Arthur,” as he is known throughout Greenwich, leads a highly structured program where the low counselor/student ratio gives parents confidence in the attention and support that their children receive. Middle schoolers have now joined YWCA during afterschool hours as part of our new program called “The Hub.”

Our new Women’s Health and Wellness series is educating women in the community about critically important issues that impact the quality of their lives. YWCA recently hosted a groundbreaking discussion on ovarian cancer, and we will feature a new Workout With A Doc in late September in an effort to optimize female exercise and address gender-specific risks such as osteoporosis. An upcoming evening event called Wine, Women and Soy will bust myths about diet and provide important tips on food and alcohol.

The Dolphins Swim Team continues to dominate the competition, and two of our swimmers have recently qualified for the next Olympic Trials! Our new Aquatics Director, Shanna Sudderth, has recently modernized our swim instruction at all ages, starting with the babies program—my personal introduction to the YWCA facility many years ago. The YWCA’s new Babe Ruth baseball teams are swinging for the fences, and players are learning solid baseball and teamwork foundations from Kyle Wirtz and Garrett Withiam.

The YWCA’s brand new D.I.V.E. Program (Diversity, Inclusion, Values and Equity) will build the YWCA staff’s capacity in these profoundly important areas, and we will provide education on how we prioritize human dignity and promote a more inclusive community. We will deliver early childhood, young adult and adult D.I.V.E. curricula, starting with programs we will deliver to the vibrant YWCA community at our facility in the heart of town.

Several new YWCA initiatives address the serious issues of teen dating violence and intimate partner violence. YWCA Greenwich is partnering with four other organizations in the Sexual Violence Prevention Collaborative of Fairfield County. The Collaborative will teach violence prevention strategies and concepts to athletic directors and coaches. Coaches are critical influencers in the lives of our young people, and they play a pivotal role in team cultures and school communities. The intended result: prevention and reduction of youth sexual violence in our region.

Our new YWCA Domestic Abuse Services Civil Legal Clinic is providing free civil legal services to victims of domestic abuse—a critical unmet need of victims within our community. Our new Financial Empowerment Services program is teaching financial literacy basics and providing customized budget planning for these victims—a more modern approach to building a sustainable future for victims. Come Walk the Walk with us in Bruce Park on October 6th as we raise awareness about the insidious and chronic problem of domestic abuse—the number one violent crime in our community.

YWCA Greenwich is onto something. That “something” is serving and connecting our neighbors in a contemporary and effective way. We look forward to seeing you very soon at the YWCA Greenwich campus and around the community.

Mary Lee A. Kiernan is President & CEO of YWCA Greenwich