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April 19, 2021 - 5:34pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in YWCA, news, Frances G. Frances Empowerment Awards.


The local chapter of the YWCA celebrated 110 years of service to the community by honoring three people and another organization that have helped make Genesee County's recent history a bit better on Saturday evening.

Receiving Frances G. Francis Empowerment awards were Dorothy "Cricket" Avery, Nancy C. Brach, Jill Kratz, and the Rotary Club of Batavia.

Francis was the founder of the YWCA in Batavia.

The event was held at the Genesee Country Village and Museum in Caledonia.


Photo: Jill Smith with award winner Dorothy Avery.

Dorothy (Cricket) Avery

Dorothy Avery has been employed for 21 years as the Exhibits Manager for Guilford Press, based in New York City.

Before Guilford, Avery worked for the St. Lawrence County Department of Social Services, Planned Parenthood of Northern New York, Tennessee Protection & Advocacy, and the New York State Child Care Coordinating Council.

She graduated from SUNY Cobleskill with an AA degree in Social Science, and from the University at Albany with a BA degree in Political Science.

Avery is a founding member and president of GLOW Women Rise, which is an all-volunteer organization committed to elevating and empowering women in the GLOW region. GLOW Women Rise (GWR) started in August of 2018 and since that time has become an incorporated 501c3 not-for-profit organization.

GLOW Women Rise’s goal is to raise our collective voices supporting all women while recognizing the need to center our work on Black, Asian, Indigenous, Latinx, Trans, and other groups of women who have been ignored and perpetually left out of conversations.

GWR has assisted women from the YWCA Domestic Violence Program, has provided court support for women and their families, cosponsored anti-racism community discussions, and facilitates an annual Empowerment Forum.

During COVID-19, GLOW Women conducted numerous food drives and collected personal care items for women and families in need. After being on the sidelines for much of 2020, GWR looks forward to a robust calendar this year.


Photo: Millie Tomidy-Pepper with award-winner Nancy Brach.

Nancy E. Brach

Brach is vice president and co-owner of Brach Machine Inc., a worldwide supplier to the high-pressure die-casting industry. The business was started in 1985 and incorporated in 1993. It currently employs 19 people.

Her background includes a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration from the University of Buffalo School of Management, several years of retail banking experience, and more than a decade of tax preparation.

In addition to her career, Brach served as treasurer for the Batavia First Presbyterian church for 14 years and is currently on their personnel and finance committees. She also sang in the choir for the last 20 years!

Brach volunteered at the YWCA from 1997-2007, serving both on the board of directors and as a member of both the finance and personnel committees during that time.

She is currently a member of the North American Die Casting Association, the Genesee Area Personnel Association and she serves on the Perkins Advisory Committee at Genesee Community College.

When you don’t find Brach at work or busy with one of her volunteer pursuits, you may find her riding her bike somewhere within a 30-mile radius of her home.


Photo: Lucille DiSanto with award winner Jill Kratz.

Jill Kratz

Husband: John
Children: Colin, Kaylie, Kaitlin
College: Fredonia State and Buffalo State College Business: Owner and Operator Commit to Well (local meal-prep company)

Commit to Well was founded three years ago to fill a need in our community for easy access to fresh, nutritious, prepared meals. Being a family living with various autoimmune diseases, we wanted our meals to fill a void in our area for people who wanted to keep up with their nutritional needs in their busy lives.

Our mission quickly became clear: reach out to as many people in our community and give them access to overall better health and wellness with our prepared meals. We have clients both young and old. Some have special dietary restrictions and some just want to maintain better overall health and wellness.

Since its founding, Commit to Well has been out in the community donating to organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, United Memorial Medical Center, the YWCA and its Safehouse.

Commit to Well has also reached out to our youth with after school programs empowering children with the knowledge and importance of your health through nutrition as well as movement and positive behavior.

Programs such as Commit to Well kids where children made healthy meals and snacks, and Like a Girl where young girls did small workouts and enjoyed a heathy snack.

We hope to continue to help our community achieve superior health and wellness!


Photo: Lucille DiSanto and Ed Leising, representing the Rotary Club of Batavia.

Rotary Club of Batavia

Batavia Rotary is a community service organization whose stated purpose is to bring together business and professional leaders in order to provide humanitarian services, encourage high ethical standards in all vocations, and help build goodwill and peace in the community and world.

Rotary is a secular organization open to all persons regardless of race, color, creed, religion, gender, or political preference. There are 34,282 clubs and over 1.2 million members worldwide. Rotary’s primary motto is “Service above Self” and we abide by the 4 Way Test.


The Gala Committee: Millie Tomidy-Pepper (executive director of the YWCA in Batavia), Jill Smith, Sue Chiddy, Cindy Zarcone, Lucille DiSanto, Eva Graham, Lindsey Reed, Justina Garner. Lindsey Reed is holding a portrait of Frances G. Francis. Not pictured, Rosalie Maguire-Simon.


Photos by Howard Owens. Write-ups of award winners submitted by the YWCA.

February 18, 2021 - 12:40pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in YWCA, live stream, video, covid-19, coronavirus.
Video Sponsor

Interview with Charitie Bruning, YMCA Child Care Director. We'll talk about services being offered by the YMCA to families during the coronavirus pandemic.

November 14, 2020 - 6:05pm
posted by Press Release in Frances G. Frances Empowerment Awards, YWCA, news, batavia.


The YWCA honored local residents who have been making a difference in the community with the inaugural Frances G. Frances Empowerment Awards in a breakfast at Batavia Downs on Friday.

Executive Director Millie Tomidy-Pepper said of the winners:

Dorothy “Cricket” Avery: Cricket personifies the true spirit of this award in every sense. In August of 2018, Cricket founded GlOW Women Rise an organization who’s mission it is to "Engage, Elevate, and Empower Women of the GlOW region" while promoting social justice for all. Cricket spearheaded and organized the first ever Women’s March in Batavia; organized a highly successful Women’s Empowerment Forum, and has collaborated with us on Stand Against Racism, Voter Registration, an Anti- Racism Workshop. Cricket and the women of GLOW Women Rise have also supported our Safe House clients by helping them attain household items and help move them into their new homes. GLOW Women Rise are in the process of incorporating and we could not be happier for the success the group has achieved in such a short time. We have built a strong partnership to address the needs of women in our community and therefore it is our honor to select Dorothy “Cricket” Avery as a recipient of the Frances G. Francis Empowerment Award.

Our next recipient is Nancy Brach, Nancy has been co-owner of Brach Machine since 1993. Nancy’s co-ownership in this male-dominated profession came long before it was common for women to do so. She and her husband, Bill, have built a very successful business together. While this alone is an amazing accomplishment, Nancy also chose to become involved in the YWCA in 1997 when she joined the Board of Directors and served until 2005. I think it is safe for me to say that while Nancy may have left the Board, the YWCA never was far from her heart. In 2018, Nancy came to the YWCA’s rescue. When Nancy heard of the agency's financial plight, she didn’t waste a minute reaching out to me to offer assistance. Her extraordinary generosity and belief in the mission and programs of the YWCA assisted us at a critical time and literally saved the organization from closure. I personally cannot thank Nancy enough for putting her faith and trust in me and the Board of Directors. We are here today because of you, Nancy. 

Our next recipient is Jill Kratz. Three years ago, Jill saw a need in our community for easy access to fresh, nutritious prepared meals for people who wanted to keep up with their nutritional needs but were too busy to come home and prepare meals themselves. Jill seized the moment and opened Commit to Well, preparing and distributing meals out of the YWCA kitchen. Her clients are both young and old, some have special dietary restrictions and just want to maintain better overall health and wellness. Since its founding, Commit to Well has been donating to organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, United Memorial Hospital, and the YWCA’s Safe House. When a family arrives at our Safe House, they can put one worry aside and not have to think about what they are going to prepare for dinner. Jill’s meals welcome them so they can focus on settling in, feeling safe and eating a healthy meal as they begin to build a new life free from abuse. We are so thankful for you and your generosity!

Jill, would you please stand to be recognized for being a Woman-Owned Business that provides a healthy way of eating to the community and also for your charitable giving to local agencies including the YWCA’s Safe House.

Our next award recipient is The Rotary Club of Batavia! The motto of Rotary is “Service Above Self” and this was clearly evidenced in late February of 2019. President Laurie Mastin called me and said that we were being awarded a small grant to “fix-up” the Safe House. What happened next was something right out of a movie. I received another phone call not long after the first and Laurie said they received a District Designated Matching Grant, doubling our funding, and (and being the keyword) the Rotarians wanted to do a hands-on project and complete all the work! As Laurie put it …. “We are People of Action.” The project commenced in February and took almost eight weeks to complete. Every room of the house was tended to with love, care, strength, and old-fashion elbow grease. Rotarians, staff and board members worked side by side, and after hours of coordinated efforts to repair and replace items in need from the roof to the basement, the “Safe House” was transformed into a “Safe Home.” Their commitment, energy, and “get it done” philosophy created a home where families escaping abuse will find warmth, shelter, and safety while they work to rebuild their lives.

We have built an unbreakable bond of friendship with this amazing group of people from Rotary.

September 10, 2020 - 12:45pm

Press release:

GLOW Women Rise and the YWCA of Genesee County want to help families going back to school. On Monday, Sept. 14th in the City of Batavia's Austin Park, there will be tables set up offering school supplies, voter registration if needed, a light snack and, most important, support for moms!

Mothers and others are invited to come to Austin Park from 6 to 7:30 p.m. to pick up school supplies and have a light snack with other women who understand the ups and downs of "back to school" in the time of COVID-19. People can hang around and chat with friendly faces, or pick up supplies and go. We will have voter registration available as well!

"We thought providing free school supplies would be one way of expressing support for all the women who have been struggling through this unprecedented period in time," said Dorothy Avery, president, GLOW Women Rise. "We have all worked hard trying to figure out what is best for each of our families related to going back to school.

"We asked the YWCA to partner with us and they naturally were enthusiastic about the chance to help. We suspect there will be more upheaval through this school year so if we can introduce women going through the same types of things to each other, it will create a support system for them. Nobody should go through these times alone and we want women to know we are out here and we support them."

Millie Tomidy-Pepper, executive director, YWCA of Genesee County, said "We at the YWCA of Genesee County are pleased to be able to work with GLOW Women Rise to provide school supplies and register people to vote on Monday.

"As the YWCA of Genesee County works to empower women and eliminate racism, we see assisting women and children prepare for school and helping people register to vote to be at the core of our mission. The idea of helping women to join with other women to provide support through difficult times is essential.

"We need each other. We look forward to meeting you next week and to being a part of working together over the next months and years."

Women from anywhere in the GLOW region can come to Austin Park on Monday evening for the free school supplies -- while they last, enjoy light snacks, and register to vote. The park is located at 15 Jefferson Ave.

August 31, 2020 - 4:42pm
posted by Press Release in Batavia Area Jaycees, YWCA, annual 5K, virtual fundraiser.

Press release:

For the first time ever, the annual Jaycees Labor Day 5K will be completely virtual this year! This will be an unprecedented event for the Jaycees and the YWCA, and it has unlimited flexibility to meet your schedule!

Tickets MUST be purchased through our Eventbrite page hereThis event is a fundraiser for the YWCA of Genesee County.

You get to choose where you run or walk and how far you will run -- it could be 5 feet or 50 miles or anything in between! You also can choose what level you're comfortable donating. 

A $25 donation will enter you into the many prize* contests we will have, including longest distance run or walked, best costume, largest team, and more!

Just take a picture of yourself walking or running and post it to Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #JayceesYWCA5K, or email it to [email protected] (make sure your privacy settings are set so we can see the photo!).

For the speed and distance prizes, just take a picture or screenshot of your smart watch or fitness tracker on your phone, and then post it with the hashtag. The prize competitions will be open for photo submissions from 7 a.m. - 7 p.m. on Sept. 7th, so you can also choose when you want to run!

A $50 VIP donation will get you entry into all those prizes, PLUS you will be mailed a certificate and a participant medal after the event! 

A $100-sponsor-level donation you get all that, PLUS a framed photo of your choosing commemorating your race participation, AND you will be highlighted as a sponsor on the Jaycees' Facebook page!

Come support the YWCA and their amazing mission of empowering women and eliminating racism and have some fun while you do it!

*All prizes will be mailed after the event to the address you list on your ticket form unless otherwise requested.

Follow us on Instagram: bataviajaycees

Like us on Facebook.

About the Batavia Area Jaycees

The mission of the Batavia Area Jaycees is to provide young people (age 18-40) with the opportunity to develop personal, professional and leadership skills through community involvement and specific trainings tailored to enhance their abilities for future endeavors. Our chapter was established in 1934 and is the second largest in New York.

July 17, 2020 - 1:22pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in social justice, YWCA, batavia, video.
Video Sponsor

The YWCA in Batavia held a vigil on Wednesday at its North Street location to rally against racism. Featured speakers included Rev. Shiela Campbell McCullough and local businessman Brandon Armstrong.

July 9, 2020 - 2:44pm

A vigil against racism and in support of Black Lives Matter will be held at the Batavia YWCA at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 15.

The event is organized by "Community Leaders of Genesee County."

Featured speakers will include: Rev. Dr. William Wilkenson and Rev. Shiela Campbell McCullough.

The YWCA is located at 301 North St. in the City of Batavia.

All are welcome.

July 1, 2020 - 11:58am
posted by Howard B. Owens in YWCA, Three Little Birds Pediatrics, batavia, business.

Press release:

The Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) board of directors will consider final approvals for a $1.4 million mixed-use proposal by Fraser-Branche Property LLC at the agency’s July 2 board meeting.

Fraser-Branche Property LLC is proposing to remodel the majority of the 13,000-square-foot YWCA facility on North Street in the City of Batavia to enable the expansion of the Three Little Birds Pediatrics medical practice. The remainder of the facility will support the YWCA and other existing tenants.

A public hearing on the proposed incentives was held Nov. 20.

Fraser-Branche Property LLC’s proposed investment contributes to Genesee County’s growth strategy in the City of Batavia through the Batavia Pathway to Prosperity (BP2).

Launched by Genesee County, the City of Batavia, the Batavia City School District and the GCEDC, the BP2 program provides support to future brownfield redevelopment projects through the benefits generated by projects in the City of Batavia.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the meeting will be conducted via conference and online at www.gcedc.com.

April 7, 2020 - 10:59am
posted by Howard B. Owens in live stream, video, YWCA, news, covid-19, coronavirus.
Video Sponsor

This morning, we're talking with Millie Tomidy-Pepper, director of the YWCA. 

January 7, 2020 - 12:09pm
posted by Billie Owens in Get Fit, news, GC Public Health Department, YWCA.

From the Genesee County Public Health Department:

Looking for something healthy and free to do this winter with your family? Join the Get Fit program!

Get Fit is an eight-week program that encourages a healthier lifestyle through physical activity and nutrition.

The Get Fit program will begin on Thursday, Jan. 16th at the YMCA in Batavia from 6 - 7:30 p.m.

Thursday evenings from Jan. 16 through March 5, families will participate in 45 minutes of FUN physical activity followed by a 45-minute nutrition lesson where participants will get to taste healthy and delicious treats.

The Get Fit program is put on by the Healthy Children and Families Coalition.

The goal of the coalition is to reduce and combat childhood obesity. Locally, 38.7 percent of adults and 20 percent of youth in Genesee County are obese.

According to the Surgeon General, overweight children have a 70-percent chance of becoming overweight or obese adults. This increases to 80 percent if one or more parent is overweight or obese.

Being overweight or obese also increases a person’s risk of heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, certain types of cancer and other medical diseases.

The increased cost of nutritious foods, larger portion sizes, increased consumption of processed foods (typically having higher salt concentrations), and decreased physical activity are some of the common reasons why we are facing an obesity epidemic.

The Get Fit program encourages families to take action together by using simple ways to improve nutrition and fitness levels. Get Fit makes exercising and eating right enjoyable and realistic.

Throughout the program, families will bond together through exercising, sampling healthy food choices, discovering simple and great tasting recipes, as well as learning how to eat right on a budget. Exercising is made fun with different activities each week including yoga, swimming, and team games.

Over the eight-week program, families who register will receive a FREE family pass to the YMCA that they may use anytime the facility is open. Get out of the house this winter and burn off some energy at the Get Fit program!

Enroll your family today by visiting www.GetFitWNY.org or calling 585-344-5420! Hurry, limited spots available!

Enrollees get a chance to win a YMCA Family Membership, too!

October 15, 2019 - 2:05pm
posted by Billie Owens in Cornell Cooperative Extension, batavia, news, YWCA.

Press release:

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Genesee County will hold its Annual Meeting beginning at 7:30 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 21, at the YWCA of Genesee County, 301 North St., Batavia.

The theme this year is "Impact -- The Power in Partnerships."

The local Cooperative Extension is committed to pursuing partnerships that benefit Genesee residents. The organization believes in the transformative power of partnership to accomplish our mission: putting research based knowledge to work in pursuit of economic vitality, ecological sustainability and social well-being; helping families and communities thrive in our rapidly changing world.

Presenters for the morning will be Morgan Harrington and Emmaline Long. Cornell Cooperative Extension friends, volunteers and members of the community are welcome to attend.

Please RSVP to Yvonne:  [email protected] or 585-343-3040, ext. 101.

August 3, 2019 - 1:24am
posted by Howard B. Owens in YWCA, my sister's closet, video, batavia.
Video Sponsor

The staff at the YWCA of Genesee County in Batavia has taken what was once a kind of drab thrift store and turned it into a hip, modern boutique.

In this video, Executive Director Millie Tomidy-Pepper explains the transformation and gives us an update on how the YWCA is doing following its financial troubles a year ago.

August 2, 2019 - 11:24pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in UMMC, Rochester Regional Health, YWCA, Healthy moms, video.
Video Sponsor

It can be tough being a mom and Friday, UMMC and the YWCA came together for a Mom's Health Resources Fair at the Y to provide local moms with help and advice.

December 13, 2018 - 7:46pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in YWCA, batavia, news, notify.


The financially troubled YWCA in Batavia has reached an agreement to sell its building at 301 North St., Batavia, to Dr. Emily Fraser-Branche, a pediatrician in Batavia who will relocate her practice to the building and lease back space to the YWCA.

The sale of the property is contingent on Fraser-Branche obtaining a use variance from the City of Batavia for a medical office at the location.

When the YWCA opened in 1968 at 301 North, the neighborhood had not yet been declared R-1 (single-family residential) so while the YWCA's use of the property is grandfathered in, any other non-single-family use requires a variance.

The planned sale was announced to a group of YWCA supporters and area residents at a meeting Wednesday night.

Reid Whiting, a municipal attorney with an office in Le Roy, explained to the audience the basis of the variance application, which must be approved by the city's planning board and zoning board of appeals.

There are three criteria that must be met for the variance to be approved, Whiting said.

First, that the change is needed because the current building cannot make a reasonable rate of return; second, that the building is experiencing a unique hardship; and third, that the hardship was not created by the YWCA.

On the first point, the building is not suitable as a single-family residence and therefore couldn't be sold at a reasonable rate of return and further, the YWCA's financial difficulties demonstrate that its current use is not generating enough revenue to maintain a reasonable rate of return.

On the second, because of the building's size and location in an R-1 zone, it creates a hardship on other uses for the building.

And on the third, the financial difficulty of the why and the city's decision to change the zoning is what created the hardship that necessitates the need for a variance, Whiting said.

Fraser-Branche grew up in Batavia and obtained her medical degree from Univerity at Buffalo. She returned to Batavia to practice medicine in Batavia and a few years ago opened Three Little Birds Pediatrics at 314 Ellicott St.

At Wednesday's meeting, she explained that it was the death of her father who inspired her to open her own practice. He encouraged her to strike out on her own and follow her passion.

She's been able, she said, to avoid being swallowed up by a regional hospital group and remain independent. Her practice she said is focused on taking care of her patient's physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.

When she realized she might be able to acquire the YWCA building and move her practice there, she said it was an opportunity beyond her dreams to give her practice room to grow. It was a big decision, she said, that led to a lot of sleepless nights and a lot of prayer but in the end, it just seemed like the right thing to do.

“This is my home community," Fraser-Branche said. "I want to remain here. I want to continue to practice here. I want to continue to watch families grow and thrive.”

In response to residents' questions at the meeting, she said her office will only be open during standard, daytime business hours. Her business doesn't require big dumpsters and what little medical waste is generated by the business, it is safely stored in regular-sized, but sealed, garbage bins and safely removed from the property.

Whiting, in answer to a question, said a variance for the YWCA will not make it possible for other properties in the community to open businesses.

Whiting also said that if, for whatever reason some time down the road, another business wants to use the building, that business would require its own variance unless it was also a medical practice.

If the variance is to be granted, Whiting suggested, community members who support the YWCA will need to speak up in support of the variance.

"We hope anybody here who feels strongly about the future of the YWCA, its place in this community, and the chance to foster a great pediatric practice within this community, we hope that some of you, if not all of you, would take some time out of your busy schedules, particularly around this time of year, to put in favorable word to the planning board and the zoning board," Whiting said. "It’s very important because frequently the only people who show up at variance application hearings are opponents of the variance."

One argument in favor of the variance, Whiting said, is there is already medical uses in that part of Batavia, from UMMC to several medical offices. He said residents won't notice anything different with Three Little Birds Pediatrics than what they're used to from either those medical practices or the YWCA.

The medical practice will be in the back, roughly two-thirds of the building, while the YWCA will continue to operate in the front of the building, still offering its current programs and services, with My Sister's Closet moving to a room in the front of the building.

Millie Tomidy-Pepper, the current executive director, said the YWCA's office hours will remain the same, which are weekday, daytime hours.

The Batavia YWCA, founded in 1910, served the community from various locations, including its own downtown building for many years, until launching a building fund in the 1960s, raising more than $200,000, purchasing the property at 301 North, and finally opening the new building in 1968.

This spring, it looked briefly like the YWCA in Batavia was going to have to close up shop. It was out of money and Executive Director Jeanne Walton was replaced by Tomidy-Pepper, who took over an organization with debt and no reserves. The community rallied around the YW and between donations and the support of other YWCA's Tomidy-Pepper and the board, they were able to keep the doors open.

The sale of the building will help the YWCA continue to serve the community, Tomidy-Pepper said.

"I think it’s a good fit," Tomidy-Pepper said. "I can’t think of anybody else who could have put an offer in on the building who could have fit any better, honestly."


Dr. Emily Fraser-Branche


Millie Tomidy-Pepper


Reid Whiting

July 28, 2018 - 3:41pm

Pictured from left are: Ellen Bachorski, Carol Grosso, Millie Tomidy-Pepper, and Barb Toal.

Submitted photo and press release:

On Tuesday, July 23rd, officers of the Friends of Batavia Peace Garden presented Millie Tomidy-Pepper, director of the YWCA, with a donation in the amount of $400.

The gift came as a result of a hot dog sale fundraiser hosted by the Peace Garden committee on Saturday, July 7th.

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to contribute to this outstanding organization that does so much for our community," said Barb Toal, co-president of the Friends of the Batavia Peace Garden. "When the going gets tough we need to stick together. Our community needs the services of the YWCA. We want to support that and do our part.”

Tomidy-Pepper was delighted to receive such a generous donation and stressed that “the mission of the YWCA is to eliminate racism and empower women. We will strive to keep this mission alive and going."

The Friends of the Batavia Peace Garden gained nonprofit status in 2013. They continue to partner with other community organizations including Domestic Violence Against Children, Holland Land Office Museum, United Way and Crossroads House.

"Although the Garden is a thing of beauty it also symbolizes a sense of pride for this community and all who dwell here," Toal said. "It takes a lot of effort to maintain it. Volunteers are needed. If you enjoy gardening we have just the right spot for you. An hour or two of your time once a week can make a big difference.”

Visit www.bataviapeacegarden.com or text 585-300-9252.

May 6, 2018 - 1:02pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Cedar Street Sales & Rentals, YWCA, batavia, business.


For Cinco de Mayo yesterday, Cedar Street Sales and Rentals, served up $1 tacos to store visitors. The proceeds, along with any donations, are going to the local YWCA to help the 109-year-old service organization out of its financial difficulties.

April 29, 2018 - 3:36pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in YWCA, first presbyterian church, batavia, news, notify.


Saturday morning was cool, damp and overcast but the mood at the YWCA on North Street, Batavia, was anything but downcast as more than 20 volunteers tackled a massive spring cleanup of the building and grounds in the belief that community organization has a new, brighter future.

Just a few weeks ago, the outlook for the YW was dire. Executive Director Millie Tomidy-Pepper announced the YW was out of money, in debt, and couldn't continue to operate without assistance.

"The community is showing an outpouring of support," Tomidy-Pepper said. "They want us to be here. This organization has helped so many people and I honestly didn’t know how much until I got here. Everybody has a story of how this organization helped them or they had a piece involved in it at some point."

The clean-up effort Saturday was massive, clearing away old broken toys, gardening supplies, and decorations, broken office furniture, and junk piled in the boiler room.

It felt like a fresh start.

The volunteers were among the 40 who showed up at the First Presbyterian of Batavia -- coming from churches in Byron, Corfu, Le Roy, Attica, Bergen, Batavia, and East Bethany -- that morning for three "Mission Day" projects, at Crossroads House, the Child Advocacy Center, and the YWCA.

"There are so many people here today helping," Tomidy-Pepper said. "There are people here rolling up their sleeves because this means so much to the community. My biggest thing is, we're open. We're open for business. We never stopped being open for business."

But some things have changed. The Crisis and Care Hotline is now run out of Niagara County and a group called Healthy Kids has taken over the before-school and after-school child-care programs.

"We realized that as we regroup and as we take a step back to analyze, that we can get stronger and go forward, we needed to kind of downsize a little bit," Tomidy-Pepper said. "We didn't want to do it haphazardly. We wanted to do it in a well-thought-out plan in order to transition to quality services so people will never know anything is different than it's being done by somebody else now."

Parents in the daycare programs won't notice a difference, she said. Healthy Kids is retaining all the staff at the same pay, all the same locations, the same hours, at no price difference for parents.

"They (Healthy Kids) are the rock stars here," Tomidy-Pepper said. "They really are. They did everything we asked."

Tomidy-Pepper is also getting help from the national YWCA. 

Eileen Mershart, a retired YWCA executive director, is in Batavia for more than a week to help Tomidy-Pepper and the board, with an assessment of their situation and strategic planning.

"After about a two-hour board meeting last night, I told them, they are a pretty feisty group," Mershart said. "They are committed to turning this organization around.  With that board support and the community support that I see today, and the interest from a variety of people, as the outpouring of people for friends and fundraisers, I see a path forward here.

"It may not look like it did before, but we will stay true to the domestic violence program and stay true to the mission to take this time to look at the community and community-wide needs."

Going forward, Tomidy-Pepper said there are other programs she things the YW can take on. At the top of the mission statement for the YWCA is eliminating racism. Tomidy-Pepper said she doesn't have specific ideas for programs at this time but that is important to her, she said. 

The YW also has a mission of empowering women, especially women going through difficult times, so she would like to bring back a program called "Power Up."

Along those lines, Tomidy-Pepper decorated her office with two pictures of purses from the 1970s that she found in storage at the YW and a quote from Susan B. Anthony, "Every woman should have a purse of her own."

Among the people in the community coming forward to support the YW is Guy Clark Jr., owner of Cedar Street Sales and Rentals. He's holding a Cinco de Mayo celebration May 5 and $1 from every taco sold will go to the YWCA.

That's the first of a new series of fundraisers. The second one is hosted by Rick Mancuso, owner of T.F. Brown's. The date in May hasn't been selected yet and there are still details to finalize but it will be at the restaurant.

Tomidy-Pepper also praised Bob Swinarksi and students from Genesee Community College who have come in and taken care of all the YW's IT needs, including the computer system, the website, and social media.

"I remember in the interview process (for the executive director's job), I talked about how the foundation of any organization needs to be on a solid foundation before you build a house on top of it," Tomidy-Pepper said. "We’re rebuilding the foundation."

Even with the difficult transition, Tomidy-Pepper said, "I'm staying."

She added, "There on of people who came before me. The women 108 years ago (who founded the Batavia YWCA) had more challenges than I do right now. They’re the people who worked for the right to vote. They’re the ones who went into jails. They’re the ones that risked their lives.

"I’m not risking my life here, but it’s a mission and I believe in the mission and I believe it’s going to work out."


Millie Tomidy-Pepper, left, and Eileen Mershart, under the picture of purses and the quote from Susan B. Anthony.









April 5, 2018 - 5:40pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in YWCA, news, notify.

Good news for parents who have depended on the YWCA for after-school child care -- the YW's program will be running as normal at all locations starting Monday.

The Children's Center at the County Courthouse will also remain open.

Earlier this week, the YW announced that because of financial difficulties, all programs and services were being terminated immediately.

Executive Director Millie Tomidy-Pepper has been working the phones to find ways to keep vital community programs going and staff from the YWCA in Niagara County rode to the rescue yesterday.

According to board members Roula Alkhouri and Patti Michalak, staff from the YW in Niagara visited 301 North St., Batavia, yesterday and provided the help needed to get the necessary vouchers filled out to keep the funds flowing from the state to pay for the daycare program.

Parents can expect that by Monday everything with YWCA-provided daycare will be back to normal.

The Batavian was speaking with Alkhouri and Michalak at the YW's office while Tomidy-Pepper was in a meeting with a staff member when a pair of parents walked in to confirm the news, which was sent out this afternoon to parents in the program in an email, that the daycare program was saved.

They said all of the current board members and Tomidy-Pepper have been working hard to save YW programs and bring the 108-year-old Genesee County chapter of the YWCA back from near extinction.

"We don't want this to go under and it's not going to go under," said Michalak, who became a board member two weeks ago.

She said Tomidy-Pepper has been putting in 12 hour days both to save programs and to save the YW.

There has been a tremendous outpouring of support from the community, they said.

The Crisis Care Hotline will also continue but outside of the YWCA. The Crisis Care Hotline call center in Niagara County started today receiving calls to the Genesee County number.

April 4, 2018 - 2:59pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in YWCA, news.

We received a copy of this county communication about the closure, possibly temporary, of YWCA services related to mental health and domestic violence:

"In light of the current YWCA closure situation, most recent update as of 11 a.m. 4/4/18 is as follows:

The Genesee and Orleans County Mental Health (GCMH and OCMH) departments are working together to address contracted services previously provided by the Care & Crisis Helpline.

Another vendor is being secured as a temporary service for crisis patients. GCMH is working with Verizon to keep the current Care + Crisis Helpline number and have it (with minimal rings) be transferred to the temporary crisis call center. Verizon is working to have the switch-over process happen as soon as possible.

Orleans County Mental Health Dept. is taking similar steps.

Both Genesee and Orleans Mental Health departments have provided the temporary crisis call center with general county information to assist with information-only calls.

Domestic Violence services fall under the Department of Social Services. DSS is currently in the process of working out an arrangement with a local entity (likely our local Genesee Justice Program). Genesee County Mental Health will continue to take referrals from that program.

GCMH and Orleans County Mental Health departments are working to develop next steps for a long-term solution."

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