YWCA to celebrate 100 years, looks ahead to next century

·3 min read

Aug. 6—The YWCA is celebrating 100 years in Boulder County by honoring women who have served as mentors or helped the community, hosting a luncheon with the theme "Better Because of Her."

Janet Beardsley, who retired as the YWCA Boulder County's executive director in 2016 after 30 years, is the luncheon's honorary chairwoman.

"We're hoping that people will honor and speak about the women in their lives that have made a difference," she said. "Boulder is just filled with women who have given their passion and commitment. And we have to keep going. We can't give up yet, there's so much more to be done."

She plans to honor Debbie Pope, the current CEO.

"The YWCA has really been a place for women to come to have support," Pope said. "I feel like we've always been a step ahead."

A hundred years ago, the YWCA Boulder County provided women with safe lodging, an employment registry and assistance in finding long-term housing, as well as hosting social events, classes and outings.

The organization has evolved over the years, shifting its focus from a women's community center to a human services provider.

Deidre Farrell, chairwoman of the Boulder County YWCA board, said she's most proud of the organization's increasing focus on racial justice and equity in education.

"There's been a lot of work and a lot of progress made," she said.

Current programs include Persimmon Early Learning, an affordable child care center; Reading to End Racism, an elementary school program; STEM E3, a program for young girls of color; and Latina Achievement Support, a program to help Latina high school students reach academic goals.

Kate Hise, director of early childhood education and family services, said she brought her son to the YWCA's emergency child care program as a young, single mom while interviewing for jobs, setting her on a career path that culminated with her current job.

"If I hadn't done that, I wouldn't have this job," she said. "It lifted me up."

She added early childhood programs have changed to meet the community's needs.

Even before the pandemic, she said, the organization was seeing more families who made too much to qualify for subsidized child care, yet not enough to afford child care in expensive Boulder County. In response, the YWCA expanded and renovated its space to offer regular, affordable child care along with drop-in care.

The program also increased pay for teachers. With teachers reporting leaving child care jobs because of a combination of low pay and burnout, YWCA teachers are paid for a 40-hour week while working 32 hours.

"I hope this can be replicated, because we're making really flexible, affordable child care work," Hise said.

Giving women avenues to have their voices heard is another ongoing value.

The Boulder County YWCA hosted a February webinar on "Changing the Conversation: Taking Action to End Sexual Assault," along with helping organize July's Women's Freedom March in Boulder.

"This year, it does feel like we are having to retrace steps that women who came before us already took," Pope said. "We're really focused on getting the vote out. It's important for people's voices to be heard on the issues that are most important to them."

Going forward, she said, it will be important to continue to encourage women to work together on equity issues, including economic advancement and pay equality.

"There are issues that impact us all," she said. "We can rally around those things that connect us more than the things that are perceived divisions. There are a lot of places where we have made some really great strides. We need to make sure we're looking forward and moving things forward in the direction they need to be going."

The 100th anniversary luncheon is Aug. 26 at the Hotel Boulderado. While the event is sold out, a wait list is available at tinyurl.com/y4wurwvh.