Warren, Youngstown YWCAs Merge to Secure Future

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – It was no coincidence that the YWCAs of Youngstown and Warren chose Thursday — International Women’s Day — to announce that the organizations are merging.

“Serving women and families in the Mahoning Valley is what drives our respective organizations, and by combining forces it makes the community as a whole even stronger,” said Leah Merritt, CEO and president of YWCA Youngstown, who will retain that role in the unified organization.

YWCA Warren and YWCA Youngstown will be merging operations, effective April 1, to become YWCA Mahoning Valley.

Merritt, who made the announcement to a group of about 20 women at YWCA’s Youngstown site. “Competition for funding among area nonprofits is a challenge we all face,” she said. By regionalizing our efforts, it not only makes us more efficient operationally, but it gives us a more unified voice in the donor community.”

YWCA Youngstown opened in 1904 and YWCA Warren in 1916. The nonprofits are affiliated with the national organization and share the mission of eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity.

“As early as 1918 we have documentation of the [Youngstown and Warren] organizations attending meetings together, youth participating in camps together, playing basketball and swimming,” said Kenya Roberts, executive director of YWCA Warren, who will serve as a strategic integration consultant for YWCA Mahoning Valley and plans to join the board of directors after the merger.

“It only makes sense that these two organizations would start looking at ways to strategically integrate and utilize their resources in the best manner possible,” Roberts said.

The executive committee of the YWCA Warren and Youngstown began meeting in June 2016 to look at strategic restructuring of the organization.

The organization serves more than 12,000 women, girls and their families each year in the Valley. Typically, there is a waiting list of about 80 to 100 women for housing services, said Roberts. “So the need is very great.”

By joining the forces of the two organizations, YWCA Mahoning Valley will be able to expand program offerings, share best practices and ensure its future in the area.

“We confidently feel this merger allows us to offer the best possible programs for the women, children and families who need our assistance,” said Rhonda Warren, chairwoman of the YWCA Youngstown board of directors.

Among the programs the organizations offer are:

  • Housing services for low-income single women with or without children and support services.
  • Childcare programs for children ages six weeks to five years for working families or those who are furthering their education.
  • Empowerment initiatives, such as financial literacy workshops, job skills training, Women’s Leadership Conference, and the Young Women With Bright Futures.
  • Girls’ Leadership for high school students.
  • Enrichment programs for kids, including the Summer Manufacturing Institute and Girls’ Camp, a STEAM-based summer camp for middle-school girls.
  • Advocacy programs that encourage civic engagement, centering on the needs of women and girls in public policy, and civil rights and justice initiatives that provide educational opportunities.

Funding primarily comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Child Care and Development Block Grant Act, Community Development Block Grant Program, and support from local foundations and individuals.

“Our intentions as a unified voice will resonate with the donor community,” Merritt said. “Although our administrative costs will diminish with the merge, we still need financial support more than ever.”

The YWCA Warren employs 12 and YWCA Youngstown 32 full- and part-time employees. No employees are expected to lose their jobs, Merritt and Roberts said.

Administrative offices will be housed in the Youngstown building, 25 W. Rayen Ave. The YWCA centers in Youngstown and Warren will be maintained.

As part of the celebration of the merger and International Women’s Day, testimonials from YWCA residents were given on how the nonprofit has impacted their lives.

One of those speaking was Eileen Kinnard, who said she came to YWCA Youngstown 35 years ago without a job or place to live. With the support of the YWCA, Kinnard went back to school to get her GED, and then to Youngstown State University for an associate’s degree in hospitality.

“I can work and I’m independent now,” she said.

Another YWCA resident, Quanishia Fayne, found herself homeless at the age of 20, she said. She heard about the YWCA Warren apartments for women with little or no income. She decided to fill out an application and was accepted to move in.

“It helped me to gain a support system that I did not have before and to surround myself with positive people to help me get my life back on track,” Fayne said. “We are all stronger when we work together as a team.”

Pictured: YWCA Warren Executive Director Kenya Roberts and YWCA Youngstown CEO and President Leah Merritt announce the organizations are merging.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.