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YWCA launches drive

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By Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Families account for 43 percent of Mecklenburg County’s homeless population, and YWCA Central Carolinas wants to help address their needs.

At an invitation-only event April 4 at the new Tiffany & Co. store in South Park Mall, the YWCA kicked off the public phase of a campaign to raise $7.5 million, much of it to support new transitional housing on its campus on Park Road.

Chaired by Anne Pipkin Benson, owner of Around Town, the “More Than A Roof” campaign already has raised $3.5 million in a quiet phase that began five years ago, says Jane McIntyre, executive director.

The campaign, advised by Capstone Advancement Partners, aims to raise $4.1 million for renovations, improvements and new facilities, $1.6 million to cover maintenance costs, and $1.8 million for programs.

Funds raised so far include $1.4 million to complete renovation of transitional housing for single women, $1 million for new transitional housing for families, and $1.1 million for infrastructure improvements to the YWCA’s campus facilities, including its fitness center.

Construction should begin this fall on the family housing facility, which will include units for 10 families with minor children, plus a computer lab, library, laundry and playground, and could open next spring.

The YWCA also will work to provide all members of the families with a full range of support services to prepare them to be independent and to rebuild their lives, McIntyre says.

The women’s facility, which cost $1.4 million and includes 66 units, houses single women who are homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless, as a result of domestic violence, mental illness, recovery from substance abuse, a lack of credit or other problems.

Case managers work with the women, who can stay up to two years, helping them set goals to become economically independent and move toward stable housing, McIntyre says.

After its founding in 1902, the YWCA chose housing for women as its inaugural program, which it launched in 1909.

The transitional housing for families represents the YWCA’s first new program in 40 years, and the capital campaign is its first in 20 years.

For its annual budget of $4 million, the YWCA generates $2 million from fees, receives $1 million from United Way of Central Carolinas, and raises $1 million more from individuals, religious congregations, foundations, and city and state government.

In February, the YWCA raised nearly $180,000 from an annual luncheon that drew roughly 1,000 people.

It serves roughly 700 women, children and families a year, plus another 1,500 members at its fitness center on the main campus.

Closed for three-and-a-half years, the fitness center reopened in January 2001 after getting repairs and renovations.

The YWCA also operates 12 after-school programs in Mecklenburg and Union counties, including a child-development center for 135 children at 4th and Trade streets in downtown Charlotte.

And it plans to launch a new after-school program for children living in the new transitional housing for families.

The YWCA, McIntyre says, “believes that every child deserves a safe place to play, a safe place to learn and a safe place to call home.”

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