The YWCA of Meadville plans to soon have a new name and a mission all its own.
Executive Director Judy Ventresca and the Board of Directors announced Thursday that the process of changing the organization’s name and ending its affiliation with the regional and national YWCA is now under way.
In a statement released Thursday afternoon, Ventresca said the structure of the organization will remain the same. “The only thing that is changing is our name,” she wrote. “We will continue to have the free Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, Martin Luther King Dinner and Program, the Annual Tribute to Women, and other events that have made the YWCA of Meadville a pillar in the community.”
The new name and mission statement are expected to be announced during the summer, wrote Ventresca, who has been in charge of the local YWCA since last July. “We look forward to continuing operations in Crawford and Venango counties.”
In addition to offering fitness facilities, classes and activities for the general public, the YWCA administers grants funding Child Care Information Service of Crawford County, CCIS of Venango County, Twin Creeks Head Start, Early Care in Education and RSVP, the Retired Senior Volunteer Program. Ventresca serves as both executive director and early care and education grant coordinator.
Earlier this week, Morris Waid, chairman of the Crawford County commissioners, said the commissioners have asked the state to take the county out of the funding loop for the Crawford CCIS grant. Waid, who was not available for comment Thursday, said last week that the county’s first choice would be for the grant to go directly from the state to the organization administering CCIS without “passing through” county offices.
A changing mission
According to Thursday’s statement, YWCA of Meadville’s decision to sever its ties with the national and regional YWCA is based on a change in the national organization’s mission statement and a dispute over dues charged by the regional YWCA.
On May 3, during the annual meeting of the YWCA General Assembly, 91 percent of the delegates approved a revised mission statement that now reads: “YWCA is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.”
According to YWCA of Meadville, this is not acceptable.
Specifically, the local organization objects to the removal of the words “The Young Women’s Christian Association of the United States of America is a women’s membership movement nourished by its roots in the Christian faith and sustained by the richness of many beliefs and values,” Ventresca wrote. “In their year of analyzing the previous mission statement and what it should change to, they concluded that it was not favorable for the YWCA to have any reference to being a Christian organization. The letters YWCA no longer have a meaning, they are just letters. The new mission statement does not spell out ‘The Young Women’s Christian Association,’ it only states YWCA.
“The YWCA of Meadville does not agree with the new mission of the YWCA,” Ventresca continued. “We are 95 years strong in the community; we were built on the foundation of Christian principles and our existence has been sustained over the years as a Christian Organization. We believe if God is taken out of this organization, it will eventually falter.”
Spokesperson Nancy Loving of YWCA USA’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., said Thursday that the revised mission statement was the result of “a two-year, thorough, inclusive process that involved the solicitation of ideas and comments from all 300 local associations as well as detailed discussions at their regional council meetings.”
As for the charge that the organization is abandoning its Christian roots, “No one has ever disputed our rich Christian heritage and legacy of social justice,” Loving said. “The YWCA is a national brand. It’s not that we’re denigrating our foundations and our values; we’re expanding and embracing the larger world. We’re embracing all religious traditions.”
Follow the money
A six-year-long dispute over dues the Regional YWCA has been attempting to collect from YWCA of Meadville is the second reason for the name change, according to Thursday’s announcement.
“We strongly believe that the (federal and state) grant money that is distributed to Crawford and Venango counties should be used for the purposes that it was intended for,” Ventresca continued, noting that the regional organization wants dues totaling $30,000 per year based on the dollar value of those grants.
“In our opinion, the YWCA ‘name’ is not worth $30,000 per year,” Ventresca wrote. “The regional and national levels do not financially assist the YWCA of Meadville in any way. They just want to take the money that is allocated to the families in our community.”
Because dues are collected at the regional level, Loving declined to comment.
Ventresca noted that the Meadville facility will follow the example of YWCA of Erie, which she said went through a similar process several years ago and is now known as Early Connections.
Mary Spicer can be reached at 724-6370 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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