In a partnership of nearly a century, United Way of Miami-Dade and YWCA South Florida have been solving our community’s issues together.
As one of United Way’s original impact partners, YWCA has been at the forefront of the most critical social moments offering life-changing services, supports and advocacy across Miami-Dade County.
“It’s been an honor and a privilege to be an impact partner for 97 years,” Kerry-Ann Royes, YWCA president and CEO, said. “The beauty of working with United Way is that it trusts it partners to know what is happening in the community and there is a high level and high measure of accountability and sense of responsibility that comes along with this partnership that is different from other funders.”
Four United Way-funded programs in all three impact areas help power YWCA’s work – in education, a preschool, early childhood program and an after-school program for youth; in health, a family wellness program providing breast and cervical cancer screenings and early detection; and in financial stability, an economic empowerment program providing financial education and resources.
Always forward-thinking, YWCA’s work looks at the intersection of race and gender. And what began with a vision and mission to benefit and empower women of color, grew into an organization which responded by building programs and homes where the community needed them the most.
Throughout its history, YWCA has been an organization of firsts:
… first to create after-school programs serving low-to-moderate income schools;
… first nonprofit to have “court-care”, a drop-in child care as well as case management services for women and parents defending their human rights in the courthouse; and
… first to build their home in Overtown, where they still remain today.
Among many other first, in the early years, YWCA housed women who were “going against the grain” and provided them workforce development, such as office skills. YWCA also provided housing to the wives of servicemen during WWII, while their husbands were away and they could feel safe and amongst a community of women.
In the 50s and 60s, YWCA integrated not only its buildings, but its board, which was revolutionary at the time, and in the early 70s, it opened child care centers to meet the needs of working mothers.
“You can’t survive 100 years without looking for what folks need next, to know where to show up,” Royes, said. “It’s not about staying where you are and addressing the issues as they are today, it’s looking forward to where those issues are going to show up in the lives of South Floridians tomorrow.“
Royes joined YWCA as president and CEO in 2017, when both the Black Lives Matter and #MeToo movements were gaining steam. She knew this is where she needed to be.
With its bold mission – eliminating racism and empowering women – embedded in its logo, YWCA once again is where it is needed next … providing programs for those who are often experiencing the inequities resulting from systemic racism, institutional issues, paid disparities and education disparities, and working to correct.
“One of the major shifts for YWCA is that is has come into itself and into its mission in the last few years by doing the work on the issue itself,” Royes adds. “Through the 21 Day Challenge, we want to build a kind of community bench, similar to a herd immunity, where each of us, in the place and space and influence we have, is able to build a level of awareness, a level of knowledge, a level of refusing to accept the inequities and injustices as they show up in our day-to-day lives – much like the rising tide raises all ships – we will create a South Florida we are all proud of.”
YWCA is changing the conversation and the narrative with the community as a whole and want people to have access to high-quality information to create a learning community where we have a common language, a common understanding, common believes – based on facts not on misinformation.
“I think we are your anchor institution for social justice and we always ask, “Where is it that”, one, we can serve the people that are often in the margins at the intersection of race and gender; and two, how we can affect the systems that keep those people in the margins,” Royes said. “Systemic issues take systemic solutions they are not short-term and it’s going to take a steady, steady drum beat of information and good activation to get us to a place that we need to.“
In 2020, YWCA of Greater Miami-Dade renames the organization to YWCA South Florida to reflect its expansion to Broward County and for the first time in its history, it allowed men to serve on its board.
Change is growth and in looking ahead to the next 100 years, YWCA South Florida is ready for what’s “next.”