Local Matters

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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."

April 3, 2018 - 11:24pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in YWCA, batavia, news, notify.

Millie Tomidy-Pepper and YWCA board members spent the day hunkered down in an office trying to figure out how to keep key programs running after yesterday's announcement that the 150-year-old community support organization is buried under a pile of debt, has no cash reserves, and can't continue to operate the multiple services it provides to the community.

The situation appears dire but Tomidy-Pepper today said she wants to emphasize this may not be the end for the YW.

"The news to bring to the community is that just because we're going through a really rough patch right now, the board hasgrown and is committed to helping us get through this," Tomidy-Pepper said.

She became executive director of the YWCA on Feb. 5, replacing Jeanne Walton, who served as director from July 2011 until Tomidy-Pepper was hired to replace her. Tomidy-Pepper said when she started there were only four board members and she made it one of her goals to increase board membership and the board's diversity of experience. There are now 11 board members, including ministers, educators, and people with business and nonprofit backgrounds.

That's the good news.

The bad news is, there is no guarantee the YW can be resuscitated.

A source tells The Batavian there have been pay periods recently when the YW couldn't make it's more than $20,000 payroll; that credit cards are maxed out at $53,000; that the YW is behind in sales tax payments for My Sister's Closet, (there are, however, no tax warrants outstanding with the state); that grant reimbursement requests are behind; and that the city was recently close to shutting off the water for the YW's building at 301 North St., Batavia.

It's through the generosity of a local, unnamed donor, that some of these issues, including payroll, have been resolved.

Thanks to this donation, Tomidy-Pepper and key staff members are still working, but reduced to 20 hours for the week and only for one more week of work.

Tomidy-Pepper said she will be putting in a lot more hours than just 20 in the coming week and beyond trying to help get things turned around for the YW and working to ensure key services, one way or another, continue.

How the YWCA sunk to this financial low is unclear.

In a statement released to local media tonight, Walton said the financial struggles of the YWCA of Genesee County started long before she became director and that under tough circumstances she did her best to hold things together.

"Managing the finances of a nonprofit is a constant challenge," Walton said. "As with most nonprofits, the YWCA has not been sitting on a large reserve of money in recent decades. Due to this, the organization has had to live 'paycheck to paycheck,' just as many households do."

Walton said she rejects the suggestion that the financial condition of the YWCA is currently any worse than what she dealt with during her entire seven years at the helm. She doesn't believe it was necessary for the YW to pull the plug on so many key services in the community.

As a nonprofit, the YW is required to file a Form 990 with the IRS each year. These public documents, available online, provide a summary of revenue and expenses. It also lists "net assets or fund balances" -- how much money the entity has in the bank.

For tax year 2001, the oldest 990 available online, says the YWCA had $462,390 in assets. There was $850,650 in revenue against $782,823 in expenses, so in the year 2000, the YW was cash flow positive by $4,929. That year, the YW did spend $61,000 of fund balance.

The next year, the YW lost $31,900 on operations and also withdrew $111,612 from reserves (CLARIFICATION: A closer reading of the Form 990, this was a loss in value of the YW's securities investment (stocks)). Some fund balance was restored the next year but over the next 15 years or so, the YW has been slowly bleeding down its fund balance with only a couple of years of small replenishment, including two years while Walton was the director.

Here's a year-by-year breakdown:

  • 2001 fund balance: $462,390
  • 2002: $318,878
  • 2003: $365,632
  • 2004: $280,724
  • 2005: $237,785
  • 2006: Not Available
  • 2007: $210,566
  • 2008: $228,934
  • 2009: $124,799
  • 2010: $93,109
  • 2011: $122,391
  • 2012: $74,300
  • 2013: $77,783
  • 2014: $97,601
  • 2015: $70,003
  • 2016: Not Available
  • 2017: Would not be available yet

The tax returns show Walton earned from $48,400 to $52,400 during the years reported that she was executive director, which is comparable to executive compensation for prior directors. Barbara Hale, for example, earned $48,277 in 2008.

The picture painted by Tomidy-Pepper of the current financial condition of the YWCA is that there simply isn't enough free cash flow to operate and no available credit or line of credit to float expenses until expected revenue arrives.

Termination of YWCA services, however, leaves county officials, local school officials, parents, and others scrambling to find ways to meet community needs.

One of the biggest services provided by the YW -- 40 percent of $1.1 million in expenses according to the nonprofits 2015 tax return -- is providing daycare services for students at eight school districts in the county.

Tomidy-Pepper she said she realizes shutting down this program suddenly is a hardship on local parents, and she's received complaints about the short notice. But she said she hopes that with the announcement of the possible closure coming during spring break, parents will have a week to make other arrangements for their children if the YW can't come up with another solution.

She's hopeful the YW will find a way to fill the gap.

"We know it's a huge burden on families," she said. "We're working diligently with other service providers and hoping by Monday to have an answer. I want people to know we're not giving up. We're not throwing in the towel."

She thinks a solution has been found but can't announce it yet.

"If that happens, hopefully, that will keep our employees employed," Tomidy-Pepper said. "That would be wonderful. That would take 18 people off the unemployment line."

The county has $160,000 in contracts with the YWCA for the Care and Crisis Helpline, the Domestic Violence Safe House, and other programs. County officials were meeting today to figure out how to meet the needs of these programs without the YW but Tomidy Pepper said she and the board members are also working on these issues.

She said they expect Verizon to soon provide another number for the helpline and the board will meet with officials in Niagara County about helping with the safe house and the domestic violence program. (The County also has a domestic violence program available through Genesee Justice.)

The YWCA also staffs a daycare center for Family Court in the County Courts facility. Tomidy-Pepper said she and the board members haven't figure out yet what to do with that program.

She did say the building at 301 North will remain open. Besides My Sister's Closet, which is staffed by volunteers, there are tenants in the building.

"We're not locking the doors and shutting down completely," she said. "We want people in the building."

When she started, Tomidy-Pepper, who has nearly 20 years experience in the nonprofit sector, said she was told of the YW had an annual operations budget of $1.2 million.

She did explain that there was another recent audit but that auditor was never paid in full so the auditor wouldn't release the results. Tomidy-Pepper tried to hire a second auditor but that auditor wouldn't do the job without seeing the first auditor's findings. A community member -- the donor mentioned above -- provide funds to pay the first auditor and hire the second auditor.

It was that second auditor who said there was no realistic way to complete an audit.

One issue Tomidy-Pepper said she uncovered is that the YW needed to apply for grant reimbursements but the vouchers needed for the reimbursements were either missing or not completed.

She said with the help of former and current staff, she has been able to resolve that issue and the grant reimbursements are in the works with the state.

"We've faced many challenges and we're meeting that challenge," she said.

Tomidy-Pepper said she really wants to see the YWCA of Genesee County come back strong and she is grateful for the help she's receiving.

"The board members, the people in the community, want to help," she said. "They want to help. They want us to succeed."

We also reached out to YWCA USA to try and find out more information about whatever oversight the national organization might provide and how one of the national organization's affiliates could reach the state of near if not total financial collapse.

A spokeswoman declined an interview request and issued this statement:

Statement by Alejandra Y. Castillo, YWCA USA, CEO
YWCA USA recognizes the critical role YWCA Genesee County plays in the community and we are dedicated to providing tactical support to help them during this difficult time. Our chief concern is for the women and families who rely on YWCA services and we are collaborating with our strong network of New York YWCAs to identify alternative programs and resources to assist through this transition.

Here is the statement released by Jeanne Walton:

The financial struggles experienced by the YWCA of Genesee County predated my tenure as Executive Director and continued during the nearly seven years I served in that capacity. Managing the finances of a nonprofit is a constant challenge. As with most nonprofits, the YWCA has not been sitting on a large reserve of money in recent decades. Due to this, the organization has had to live “paycheck to paycheck”, just as many households do. Over the years, I learned to manage this so that the organization remained solvent. The YWCA USA and Board of Directors of the YWCA of Genesee County were kept apprised of the organization’s financial condition. As required by law, independent audits were conducted annually. Corresponding tax returns (990s) were filed and these records are publically available.

Five months ago I announced my decision to resign as Executive Director and offered to assist with the process of selecting and training my successor. In January 2018 my replacement was chosen, and it was agreed that during my last weeks at the YWCA I would focus on working with the new Executive Director to educate her on all of the financial and executive level challenges faced by the organization. I felt this would be a great deal to accomplish in a short period of time, and was quite surprised when I was informed that, while I would be paid for my last two weeks, it would not be necessary for me to work with the new Executive Director. Nonetheless, I recently reached out to the Board of Directors Executive Committee, the auditor, the Executive Director and the YWCA USA to offer my assistance.

Nothing about the YWCA’s financial situation changed for the worse during my years of service. The challenges currently faced by the YWCA are nothing different than what I handled along with our Finance Manager the entire time I was there. Strategizing and having a full understanding of the cash flow are imperative to the financial health of the organization. The finances of this organization are extremely complicated and it is a necessity to have an individual familiar with them involved in the audit process and the ongoing financial operations. Prior to my departure, my leadership team suggested changes to my successor and the board President that we felt were necessary for the financial health of the organization.

After my many years with the YWCA and the expansion of services provided, I am heartbroken that the decision was made to terminate the programs that are vital to this community. I cannot understand how it makes sense to end programs that are 100-percent grant funded, such as Domestic Violence Crisis and Prevention Services, Care + Crisis Helpline and the Children’s Center at the Courthouse. I am shocked by this news and know that it is an extreme decision that could have been avoided.

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