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History of the YWCA of Northwest Ohio

The YWCA has existed in the Toledo area since 1892, when the Women’s Christian Association opened a residency for young women who came to “the big city” (Toledo) to work. In 1891, it incorporated to become affiliated with the National YWCA. It became the first YWCA in the state of Ohio.

During the early decades of the 20th Century, sewing and reading classes, physical fitness activities for women and advocacy on behalf of women were important issues. 1903, the YWCA was operating a cafeteria for 200 women and a two-floor residency. In 1905, the YWCA was helping women find employment and teaching English to immigrants.

The YWCA originally was located in a house. In fact, the YWCA had many “homes” within a two to three block area of its present location at 1018 Jefferson Avenue. In 1908, the cornerstone was laid for the residency and administration building. The residency entrance faced 11th Street and the administration offices faced Jefferson Avenue. They were connected by a covered walkway. The cost of construction was $125,000. In 1951, the Health/Fitness wing was added. The old building was razed in 1954 and the administration was moved to store rooms.

In 2005, a fire in the Battered Women’s Shelter caused smoke and water damage to a majority of the facility. Luckily, everyone was evacuated safely, the services and programs continued uninterrupted, and extensive repairs have been made. The facility has reopened completely, with the one exception being the closure of the pool.

Our Mission:

The YWCA of Northwest Ohio is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. This YWCA mission statement was adopted by the YWCA USA General Assembly in 2009.

Public Policy Addresses the Needs of Women
The goal of the YWCA is to pursue a public policy program, which addresses issues, and conditions, which affect women and children at the local, national, and international levels. Public policy issues are addressed by the Racial Justice Committee, the Board of Directors and staff in the areas of peace, teenage pregnancy prevention, racial justice, world YWCA issues, equity, domestic violence, health, and other women’s issues.

Sound Fiscal Accountability
The YWCA receives approximately 7% of its $3.8 million from Untied Way of Greater Toledo, and 74% from government grants. Other sources of income include program service fees, annual giving and investment income, as well as grants from foundations. Contributions and special events account for 7% of the annual budget.

Milestones: A Tribute to Women 
Each March during National Women’s History Month, the YWCA presents awards to women who have reached significant milestones in the areas of Arts and Sciences, Business, Education, Government, Social Services, and Volunteerism. More information about Milestones.

Woman to Woman
Woman to Woman is a yearly luncheon, which celebrates the power of women’s philanthropy while demonstrating to the community the programs of the YWCA and educating the attendees about important issues affecting all women. The first Woman to Woman luncheon was held in May of 2000 with great success. More than 200 women attended. Women and children who have directly benefited from the YWCA’s programs and services are the keynote speakers, describing the impact our agency has had on their lives.

A Pollyball Tournament developed and organized, by the Hylant family in memory of their sister Polly Hylant-Tracy. In 1991, Polly lost her battle with breast cancer, leaving behind her husband, three very young daughters and eight siblings. Now in its 21st year, the tournament supports the EncorePlus breast cancer program.

Since 1892, YWCA Northwest Ohio has stood for the empowerment and enrichment of women and girls. Our mission The YWCA of Greater Toledo is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. During Toledo’s industrial revolution in the late 1800’s, the YWCA opened its doors to provide safe housing for young women who were leaving the rural areas to seek their livelihoods in the city. As the needs of women in our community have changed, the YWCA has grown to meet these challenges. Among the many early accomplishments:

In 1874 the YWCA founded City Hospital on Union Street which in 1904 was renamed The Toledo Hospital.

  • Founders of the Sunset House, a home for elderly women
  • First free sewing class
  • First residence for unwed mothers
  • First women owned commercial laundry
  • First free typing class for women
  • Established the International Institute

Today the YWCA strives to meet many of the increasing needs of the community with eight programs that reach many diverse populations:

Domestic Violence Shelter
Since its inception in 1979, the Shelter has served 28,166 women and their children through crisis intervention, providing safe housing, support groups and community education. The Shelter provides safety from abusers, emergency food and clothing and access to police support. The staff and volunteers offer counseling and referrals to other community resources. The Shelter is an emergency crisis shelter that is open 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.

YWCA HOPE Center Rape Crisis Services
Formerly the Rape Crisis Center, the HOPE Center provides a 24-hour crisis hot line, including services for the hearing impaired. The Center provides advocacy and support by appearing with survivors in court, meeting with survivors at the hospital and providing legal information regarding victim’s rights. In collaboration with local hospitals, the HOPE Center has developed and is coordinating a community-based program for the sexual assault survivor to expedite treatment in the hospital and improve the quality and consistency of evidence collection.

The YWCA HOPE Center continues to collaborate with the Lucas County hospitals and law enforcement agencies to provide Lucas County and the surrounding area with a specially trained and coordinated Sexual Assault Response Team (SART). The SART addresses the medical and emotional needs of the sexual assault survivor while collecting invaluable evidence needed for successful prosecution. The YWCA HOPE Center provides leadership and financial support through an Ohio Department of Health grant for a SANE Coordinator, and SART Training. St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center, The Toledo Hospital, and St. Luke’s Hospital have committed special rooms, equipment, and personnel to the SANE/SART Program.

Youth Development
The YWCA Youth Development Department empowers youth by providing national best practice teen pregnancy prevention programs in Toledo Public Schools. Youth Development serves over 5,000 Toledo Public School students annually, and the YWCA’s teen pregnancy prevention efforts are making a significant difference. Teen birth rates in Lucas County have dropped nearly in half as part of a national trend that researchers attribute in large part to comprehensive sexuality education programs such as those that the YWCA provides. Although the state of Ohio and Lucas County have seen a decline in teen birth rates, it remains a problem for area youth. Teen pregnancy is associated with increased poverty, increased school dropout rates, low educational obtainment, and increased health issues. Through our programs, students learn resiliency, refusal skills, and goal setting which result in the ability to make more responsible and healthy choices.  Our goal is to assist schools, parents, and the community in providing a unified voice in the promotion of healthy life-style education.

Permanent Supportive Housing
YWCA Northwest Ohio Apartments: The YWCA is permanent supportive housing (PSH) project operates from a “Housing First” Model: The “Housing First” model assumes that the primary and most critical need of homeless people is safe and stable housing. The YWCA PSH program assists single women and/or women with children who are experiencing a housing crisis, to obtain appropriate, affordable housing, and providing or linking them to mainstream services that will help them maintain housing. The YWCA endeavors to combine long-term housing with wrap-around services that will lead to improved residential stability and consequent reductions in psychiatric symptoms as well as enhanced life satisfaction and self sufficiency. “Homeless household” means a household made up of one or more individuals, who:

  1. Reside in overcrowded housing; “overcrowded housing” means a housing unit occupied by more than one household or any housing unit with an average of more than two persons per sleeping area (including a living room as a sleeping area); or
  2. Are facing imminent loss of their home due to condemnation or eviction; or
  3. Lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence; or
  4. Has a primary nighttime residence that is: a) A supervised publicly or privately operated shelter designed to provide temporary living accommodations (including welfare hotels, congregate shelters, and transitional housing for the mentally ill).

Healthy Connections
Healthy Connections encompasses two major programs: EncorePlus for breast health and HeartPlus for heart and lifestyle health. EncorePlus targets women over the age of 40 who are either underinsured or underserved and provides them with education and free screening services for both breast and cervical cancer. EncorePlus has provided education to over 31,000 women and 937 women have been documented as receiving clinical screening service. Fatalities resulting from women’s cancers can be directly linked to income. This program provides education to underprivileged women to help in early detection of these cancers.

A breast cancer education, screening, and support program that links medically underserved women age 40 and over to no-cost mammograms. Services include transportation, language translation, advocacy, and referral to community resources.

YWCA Child Care Resource & Referral
Over 24,000 working parents and 38,105 providers of child care have been assisted through the YWCA Child Care Resource & Referral service. The goal of YWCA CCR&R is to increase the standards of quality child care providers, while matching those providers with parents who are in need of child care. YWCA CCR&R has also developed after school programs for school age children for home based and center based child care providers.