The YWCA’s newly instated board of directors faces challenges as the organization struggles with financial issues, but members say they are dedicated to finding ways to ensure the 124-year-old institution will continue to serve Schenectady’s women and children for years to come.
The organization, which employs 80 people and has an annual operating budget of approximately $3.1 million, has been plagued with financial issues for years. This month, the YWCA took out a loan to stave off foreclosure brought on by unpaid sewer and water fees.
Executive Director Rowie Taylor said the board of directors has been actively addressing cash flow issues.
“The board has done a magnificent job in the last couple of years of analyzing programs and services and making sure that our programs and services meet the need in our community and meet our mission, so that we’re really looking at programs and services that are able to sustain themselves,” she said, noting that hard decisions have been made about program cuts.
According to Taylor, finances are looking better right now than they have in four years. “It’s not good, but it’s getting better,” she said.
The YWCA’s board is an active, hands-on group that focuses on fiscal management and fundraising, said Dot Valachovic, who is in the second year of her term as board president.
The board just completed a lengthy analysis of the YWCA’s programs and in the coming term will respond to the results of that analysis, in the areas of financing and programming. No new programs are in the works. Instead, the organization will carefully monitor and manage existing ones, she said.
Although she admitted being part of the board is a lot of work, Valachovic said people often ask to join the group.
“We know that these are hard times, and we certainly ask our board to participate, so I think that’s a compliment,” she said.
Valachovic, who has been involved with the YWCA since the 1980s, described the organization’s board members as dynamic, dedicated women who will work together to see the organization through any crisis.
“I think it’s easier to go through the tribulations when you believe in what you’re doing and you’re working with other people who feel the same way and will pull out whatever it takes to do that,” she said.
The dedication of the board is evident in the fact that all members have been retained from last term. One new member has also joined the group — Marsha Mortimore, an employee of the New York State Department of Labor who is returning to the board following a three-year hiatus. She became involved with the organization in the early 1990s, when she took yoga and swimming lessons there.
Mortimore voiced her admiration for the board as a whole. “They’re there to help, to make a difference and each board member that comes wants to help to make a difference, and if it means we have to contribute a little bit more money or whatever they need, we want to be part of that, to ensure that it will be here for another 50 years,” she said.
The programs the YWCA offers are vital to Schenectady, she insisted.
“It’s a beloved community. It’s there to help. Mothers have gone to school [there], you have women who are protected with the domestic violence program, women in transition are there in our housing program, the child care is important. Every service they have is important, even the exercise programs,” she said.
The board will continue to look for ways to address the community’s needs, despite diminished funding, she said.
“We’re gonna survive,” she vowed. “It’s gonna be a struggle, but we’re gonna survive.”
The YWCA’s 2012-2013 board roster also includes: Sonia Casella, community volunteer; Julie White Eklund, financial analyst for U.S. Dept. of HUD; Nohelani Etienne of Liberty Mutual Insurance Co.; April Fernandez, reference librarian at the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library and a branch manager at the Schenectady County Library; Goldie Harald of the Golub Corp.; Donna Hermann, sales operation manager with MVP Health Care; Rebecca Jarczynski, of Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corp.; Bonnie Keller, vice president and branch manager of NBT Bank; Irene Kestner of State Farm Insurance; Catherine Lewis of General Electric; Louise Macuirles of GE Global Research; Paula Ohlhous of Schenectady County Community College; Christine Pangburn of Angers & Litz Associates; Shirley Readdean, community volunteer; Laura Schweitzer, president of Union Graduate College; Trish Williams, dean of students at Union College; and Kerrie Wolf-Piechota, assistant director of student activities at Union College.