YWCA aims to grow through partnerships

Kirsten Sikkelee (Photo by Ken Beebe, Kugler’s Studio)
Kirsten Sikkelee (Photo by Ken Beebe, Kugler’s Studio)

Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Bank of America employees, volunteering at a youth learning center run by YWCA Central Carolinas at Charlotte’s Southside Homes public-housing community, work with kids ages five through 12 in a program that focuses on bridging racial and social divides.

The program is part of a larger YWCA effort to improve racial justice and also reflects the organization’s strategy of advancing its mission through collaboration.

“We have deliberately and intentionally reached out to businesses and universities to form long-term partnerships,” says Kirsten Sikkelee, CEO.

Sikkelee, a 16-year veteran of the YWCA, became CEO in September, succeeding Jane McIntyre after she was named executive director of United Way of Central Carolinas.

Founded in 1902, the YWCA operates with an annual budget of $2.6 million and a staff of 80 employees, including 24 working full-time.

The organization has had to make cuts and hold the line on spending to cope with the impact of the recession, including a reduction to $700,000 from $1.2 million in funding from United Way, which slashed funding to its partner agencies after a big shortfall in its annual drive a year ago.

United Way funding now represents just under 30 percent of the YWCA’s annual budget, down from just over 40 percent.

As a result of that cut, the YWCA reduced to one full-time employee from three the staff of its fitness center, which saw its revenue drop by $38,300 in the fiscal year ended last June 30.

The Y also closed two of its 12 youth learning centers, which together serve about 350 kids a year, and reduced to 35 from 40 the hours worked each week by case managers for its Women in Transition program, which provides 66 units of housing for formerly homeless women.

Salaries also were frozen for all employees, and the leadership team of roughly 10 people all took salary cuts.

The YWCA, which in November received 1,134 hours of volunteer support, offers four programs, including the youth learning centers; transitional housing for homeless women; transitional housing for homeless families with minor children; and the fitness center.

The youth learning centers, each serving up to 30 kids ages five through 12, provide services for free, supported by contributions and grants.

Women in Transition, which Sikkelee started in 1996 and represents the primary transitional housing program in the region for homeless women, served 115 women in the fiscal year ended June 30, 2009.

Families Together, the transitional housing program for homeless families, opened in April 2008 and houses roughly 75 family members a year in 10 townhomes on the YWCA’s campus off Park Road.

And the fitness center has about 1,100 individual and family members.

The YWCA continues to develop partnerships, including a new agreement and talks with the Charlotte Housing Authority to use federal vouchers to reduce rent, respectively, for formerly homeless families and women who are its tenants.

Sikkelee says the YWCA aims to increase individual giving, which has grown to $135,000 a year from $6,000 six years ago, through cultivation events that feature tours of its 10-acre campus.

“It’s the way we let people know what we’re doing,” she says, “and it instantly engages them.”

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