Domestic violence happens fast. A woman does not have time to think about anything except escaping her abuser. “Victims leave with very few things because they can’t bring personal items with them,” said Kerrie Wolf-Piechota of YWCA.
For the past 15 years, YWCA of Northeastern New York relied on a “rusted van with a lot of wear and tear” for all of the organization’s transportation, according to Wolf-Piechota, the organization’s marketing and public relations manager.
The rundown nature of the van forced the YWCA to use unreliable taxi services to help women escape their abusers. The victims often had to rely on these same taxi services, or the barely functioning van, to return to pick up items they forgot when fleeing.
“We were getting concerned that we were not providing the safest and most efficient transportation for our clients,” said Kim Siciliano, CEO of the YWCA. As a result, the organization reached out to CDPHP, requesting assistance to buy a new vehicle for victim transportation.
The seven-seat minivan, donated to the YWCA by CDPHP, will be able to reliably take victims from their abusive situations to a shelter, and bring victims back to recover lost items. It will also be used to bring women to appointments for tasks such as getting a new Social Security card once they are in the shelter.
With 833 female domestic abuse victims in Schenectady County in 2019, there is a clear need for the safe and reliable transportation the YWCA van will provide.
The new vehicles will give victims more confidence and safety when they leave either their abuser or their housing units, said Siciliano. In the white minivan with the CDPHP logo on its side “they will be riding in style, which is what they deserve,” she added.
On Monday morning, CDPHP officially gifted the van to the YWCA, along with a utility truck, which will be used to move supplies between YWCA facilities.
“We were thrilled to be able to help out, especially for these essential services that the vehicles provide,“ said Kathy Leyden, CDPHP vice president of community engagement.
According to Kristen Cargill, vice president of membership at the Capital Region Chamber, a donation of this kind is significant. “Women and children in the community will benefit from these two vehicles.” The organizations have “come together to provide these essential vehicles to provide essential things for the community in Schenectady.”
CDPHP and the YWCA had been fostering a partnership before they collaborated on the new vehicles. The two organizations launched the Community Connect Partnership at the Schenectady YWCA facility in April 2019.
The partnership serves as a “customer service outpost,” and provides “health education, access to information, coordination care, and anything folks need to navigate the healthcare system,” Leyden said.
The in-person service was forced to shut down in March 2020 due to COVID, but will be reopening this Thursday, June 10 from 3 to 5 p.m. Like the transportation for domestic violence victims, anybody from the community can walk into the YWCA facility and receive healthcare advice from a CDPHP representative.
The YWCA NENY Instagram and Facebook will be updated daily with information on when the CDPHP representative will be at the YWCA facility for advising.
The two organizations said they plan to continue working together on other community initiatives in the coming months. “We are moving up, and it is all because of CDPHP,” said YWCA Board President Carole Merrill-Mazurek.
The YWCA’s motto is “fighting racism and empowering women.” By providing victims with a “dignified and nice, clean way” of escaping their domestic abusers, the new van is furthering the mission of the YWCA, said Wolf-Piechota.