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YWCA

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.

April 3, 2018 - 10:33am
posted by Howard B. Owens in YWCA, Genesee Justice, news, Sheriff's Office.

Press release:

Genesee County Sheriff William A. Sheron Jr. would like to remind the public that one of the many roles of Genesee Justice, a division of the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office, is to provide assistance to crime victims, including domestic violence victims.

For more information, please contact Genesee Justice, located at 14 W. Main St. in the City of Batavia, (585) 815-7821.

Information from the Genesee Justice Web Page:

Becoming a victim of a criminal act is often a traumatic and disorienting experience for individuals. Victims are faced with an increased sense of vulnerability and threat to their personal autonomy and independence. Victims can also question their beliefs on safety and the order that they have come to expect from the community that they live in.

Genesee Justice works with victims to help them attain a more personal sense of justice. The investigation and prosecution of offenders within the criminal justice system is complex and foreign to most people, particularly as to how it impacts victims. Dignity doesn’t often come easy within the courtroom or the community. We encourage victims to empower themselves, which is critical to the healing process.

We will keep victims informed of what is happening with the investigation of the accused and guide them through any role they may need to play; we will take the time to explain to victims what they can expect during the proceedings of a case when it goes into court; we will accompany victims to any process and court proceedings; and we will assist victims in seeking counseling services; we will also help to address financial losses incurred as a result of the crime, including assisting victims in filling out applications for the New York State Office of Victim Services (OVS), if they are eligible.

The OVS helps victims with unexpected or unaffordable medical or funeral expenses, loss of work and counseling services.

A victim may be referred to Genesee Justice by the District Attorney’s Office, Family Court, or Law Enforcement. Our door is always open for victims to walk in themselves.

Victim Assistance Services include:

  • Assistance in filing Office of Victim Services application;
  • Provide information on VINE (Victim Information and Notification Everyday) and assist victim with VINE registration, if interested;
  • Provide updates on status of court case;
  • Assistance in preparing pre-sentence investigation packet:
    • Restitution information
    • Victim impact statementProvide home visits
  • Refer clients to appropriate agencies for further assistance;
  • Assistance in preparing right of allocution; (the victim’s right to speak in front of the Court at sentencing)
  • Assistance in preparing application for orders of protection;
  • Assistance in filing paperwork with surrogates court;
  • Accompaniment to court appearances;
  • Provide referrals for counseling;
  • Provide referrals for emergency items if needed by victims;
  • Assistance in writing letters to Parole Board;
  • Offer opportunity for victim/offender conference if desired by the victim.
April 2, 2018 - 8:47pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in YWCA, news, notify.

Press release:

After several weeks, nearly daily meetings with the Board of Directors and many sleepless nights, YWCA Executive Director Millie Tomidy-Pepper and board members made a decision Monday that will affect agency employees, programs and services.

“The cash position is such that we can’t continue to operate,” Tomidy-Pepper said. “When I was interviewed I was told that there was a first quarter cash-flow problem. Ever since I began here I have uncovered that it was much more than that.”

As a result of lack of funding, all YWCA programs are going to cease immediately. Those include domestic violence, before and after school child care, courthouse daycare, a food reimbursement program for home daycare providers, and crisis helpline services.

This move will put 36 YWCA staff members in the unemployment line, however, she doesn’t know if there will be anything for them when they get there.

“The history of the organization using an unemployment services trust, and the fact that it was not kept up-to-date by being paid, it’s questionable whether employees will be able to get unemployment insurance,” she said.

Tomidy-Pepper has been executive director since Feb. 5. During the interview process nothing was disclosed about the current fiscal condition of the nonprofit. The agency’s financial records are in such disarray that an audit cannot be properly conducted.

“We’re working to keep the doors open but right now we have to close, and we’re reviewing the finances,” she said. “There’s considerable longstanding debt and there’s no money on reserve to get us through this situation.”

The lack of funds is further exacerbated by a maxed-out line of credit and credit card, she said.

“I was not made aware of any of this,” she said. “I thought I could get past the first quarter, but there’s a mountain of debt and this has been a longtime problem. The finances are being looked into in depth.”

 A veteran executive, Tomidy-Pepper was assistant executive director of the Mental Health Association in Genesee County for seven years and another 12 years as executive director. She not only ran a nonprofit with a balanced budget but one with a surplus, which demonstrated her understanding of expenses and revenue and her management skills.

“I want my reputation to exceed me,” she said.

The site at 301 North St. will remain open to accommodate current tenants and My Sister’s Closet Boutique, a women’s and children’s clothing and accessories thrift shop.

The agency has been the sole provider of domestic violence services in Genesee County and has served about 650 new victims each year. The agency has also provided before and after school child care for hundreds of families and answered the call for thousands of people in crisis. It is uncertain as to how those people will be taken care of in the future.

The board, which has grown from four to 11 members since Tomidy-Pepper took the helm, will embark on a “Save the YWCA” campaign. Up to this point the new executive director has experienced open arms to welcome her.

“The community has been reaching out to help us any way they can,” she said. “We have been working day in and day out trying to figure out what happened and how to put a plan in place to move us forward.”

March 15, 2018 - 11:05am
posted by Howard B. Owens in YWCA, news, batavia.

Press release:

YWCA of Genesee County is facing major financial challenges, including problems of cash flow. The Board of Directors, working with newly appointed Executive Director Millie Tomidy-Pepper, who began Feb. 5, has retained an independent auditor to assist in determining the extent and causes of the problems.

They are also actively pursuing financing options and revenue-generation opportunities to enable the 150-year-old organization to continue its mission of eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. Details will be shared with the community as soon as they become available.

February 9, 2018 - 3:28pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in YWCA, news, batavia, business.

Press release:

Timing is everything, and now is the time to leave as executive director of YWCA of Genesee County after six and a half years, Jeanne Walton says.

“I have been fortunate to work with a lot of people and take the organization to a new level,” Walton said. “And we’re at a point where a lot of things need to be addressed and we need a person with a different skill set to work on them.”

When Walton took the position in July 2011, her goals were to work with staff to increase exposure and awareness of YWCA, its offerings and mission to empower women and families and eliminate racism.

That tall order was achieved with the addition of the Care+Crisis Helpline in 2015; a total renovation of the My Sister’s Closet thrift shop; expanding the agency’s awards event into a nationally aligned Women of Distinction function; and increased devotion to serving the needs of domestic violence victims and child care families.

“Being here has taught me a lot about the need for these services in the community. I was not aware, especially, for the need of crisis services,” Walton said. “We’ve worked hard to change things in the domestic violence department to provide services we hope will urge clients to make significant transformations in their lives.

"For the past four years we’ve really brought some significant change to the lives of people, especially those who have gone into our Safe House; some have completely turned their lives around. And the Care+Crisis Helpline has filled a huge void.”

Although some ventures have come and gone, such as the Artisans at North Street and a teen youth program, they have all been important “to the process and to our learning development,” Walton said.

She is proud of the agency’s more recent and ongoing programs and events, which have also included the Stiletto & Sneaker 5K, a Healthy Relationships course taught in local schools, peace and justice vigils, support groups and the You Engaging Success transition program for domestic violence victims.

They all prove that the agency’s vision can be interpreted in a variety of ways, she said.

“I’m appreciative of the continuous support the community has offered to me, but more importantly, to YWCA as a whole in supporting new ventures we’ve undertaken,” Walton said.  

On behalf of the Board of Directors, Board Member Roula Alkhouri said that Walton’s experience in management and business helped YWCA raise awareness about the needs of those affected by domestic violence and other related struggles.

“Her personal passion for helping others has enabled the YWCA to grow its programs and increase its outreach and funding,” Alkhouri said. “We are indebted to Jeanne’s steadfastness, commitment and vision for all the new programs that YWCA offered in our community.”

Millie Tomidy-Pepper has begun her new role as executive director and looks forward to working on agency initiatives to eliminate racism and empower women.

As a former executive director of the Mental Health Association in Genesee County, Tomidy-Pepper brings several years of experience and a background in nonprofit management, including the oversight of fiscal stability and growth, employee and facility management, advocating for clients at a national, state and local level and strategic planning to reach fiscal stability, quality service and enhanced community awareness.

She has a bachelor’s degree in organizational management and has received many awards for significant accomplishments in leadership, staff management and community involvement.

"At this time in our nation’s history, when women's rights and civil rights are being challenged every day, I cannot think of a place I would rather be working than the YWCA, an organization whose mission is to eliminate racism and empower women,” Tomidy-Pepper said. “This job is a dream come true for me."

YWCA of Genesee County’s three primary programs are Domestic Violence Crisis & Prevention Services, Children & Family Services and the 24-hour Care+Crisis Helpline.

The agency is the sole provider of domestic violence services in Genesee County and offers before and after school child care at seven sites in Genesee and Livingston counties. For more information, call (585) 343-5808.

January 19, 2018 - 11:49am
posted by Howard B. Owens in YWCA, batavia, news.

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Dealing with conflict in the era of hyper-disagreement was the subject of a symposium Thursday night at the YWCA.

Professor Barry Gan, director of the Center for Nonviolence at St. Bonaventure University, opened the discussion talking about some of his own experiences in working out conflicts in his life and then handed out a brochure listing steps to dealing with conflict.

The steps start with "Calm Down," which includes distracting yourself (count backward from 10, for example), relaxing, talking to yourself, and if all else fails, leave.

If you don't leave, try to reach an agreement to work it out. As the other person, "If I listen to you, will you listen to me?"

Gan promotes active listening, which includes paraphrasing the other person's concerns and asking if you are stating their position correctly.

If the disagreement is over something that needs a solution, agree to terms for a concrete solution.

Also participating in the panel were Rev. Roula Alkhouri, left in the photo, above, City Council President Eugene Jankowski and representing a gun-rights position in a later discussion, and Gary Pudup (not pictured), Upstate coordinator of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence.

Event coordinators were Alkhouri, Rev. James Morasco, Morganville United Church of Christ, and Joanne Beck, Batavia YWCA.

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December 29, 2017 - 1:17pm
posted by Billie Owens in news, YWCA, batavia, Announcements.

Press release:

There’s so much talk these days about how polarized we have become as a nation. People digging in and unable to hear what others are saying. Trying to turn differences of opinions into win – lose arguments.

We also may feel so resentful of people who disagree with us that we want to dominate or eliminate them. People are hurt, and we walk away shaking our heads, wondering why. But what if there was another way?

We would like to invite you to an event to talk about some of our struggles. We will be holding a community event called “Can We Talk?" on Thursday, Jan. 18th, 7 p.m. at the YWCA, 301 North St. in Batavia.

We will be joined by Professor Barry Gan, director of the Center for Nonviolence at St. Bonaventure University, along with Gary Pudup, Upstate coordinator of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, and Eugene Jankowski, Batavia City Council president and gun rights advocate.

Professor Gan will help us experience how we can talk about issues of disagreement and work to foster understanding and common solutions in our daily interaction with others.

We encourage everyone to bring friends and family, and participate in this opportunity to make your world a more peaceful place.

Event Planning Committee:

Reverend Roula Alkhouri, Ph.D., YWCA Board Member

Reverend James Morasco, Morganville United Church of Christ

Joanne Beck, Batavia YWCA

October 23, 2017 - 3:34pm

Press release:

State Senator Michael H. Ranzenhofer today announced $25,000 in state funding to support domestic violence crisis and prevention services at the YWCA of Genesee County.

“Victims of domestic violence don’t have to live in fear. Support, counseling and other helpful resources are available at the YWCA of Genesee County, and I am proud to provide the financial support for these important services. Together, we are working to end domestic abuse,” Ranzenhofer said.

YWCA’s staff worked with more than 700 domestic violence victims last year and is on track to serve about the same number this year.

“These victims’ lives are often uprooted due to domestic abuse, and they need to abandon all that is familiar to them, including their home, neighborhood and job,” said Assistant Executive Director Joanne Beck.

“Thanks to this grant from Senator Ranzenhofer, we will be able to ramp up our efforts to meet and work with other service agencies to provide the most well-rounded care and minimize further trauma to these victims.”

YWCA’s Coordinated Community Response efforts include establishing strong working relationships with other providers, such as law enforcement, the court system, fire departments and urgent care, in order to respond quickly and appropriately in times of any domestic violence crisis.

Grant funds will also be used for YWCA’s Prevention Education curriculum, which is presented to every school district in Genesee County. The course focuses on healthy versus unhealthy relationships and involves the characteristics of each, related activities and an overview of the programs and services available at YWCA.

Prevention education materials are distributed to students to share YWCA’s Care+Crisis Helpline number, which can be accessed via phone and text at (585) 344-4400, Live Chat at www.ywcagenesee.org or call toll-free at (844) 345-4400.

About Domestic Violence Crisis & Prevention Services at YWCA of Genesee County YWCA of Genesee County is the sole provider of domestic violence services, including safe shelter, for victims in Genesee County. YWCA USA is the largest provider of these services across the country. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and by appointment at our main site, 301 North St., Batavia, or through a 24-hour domestic violence hotline at (585) 343-7513. Walk-ins are welcome during the above designated hours.

Services include:
• Assistance with getting orders of protection, going to court and filing custody and support petitions;
• One-on-one counseling about aspects of an unhealthy relationship and making a safety plan for leaving an unhealthy relationship;
• Information and referral for community services;
• Support and self-esteem groups; and
• Transitional support for those in need of safe housing.

October 6, 2017 - 11:07am
posted by Howard B. Owens in YWCA, batavia, news.

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The YWCA hosted its annual Stiletto & Sneaker 5K yesterday at its facility on North Street in Batavia. The event was followed by its annual Harvest Supper.

Kevin Sheehan (photo) won the men's division of the race with a time of 18:27. Heather Burger won the women's division with a time of 24:39, but was no longer present for a photo when the trophies were handed out.

After the awards presentation, there was a color toss (bottom photo). The original schedule included a sky lantern lighting, but Director Jeanne Walton said it was canceled when the wind kicked up.

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Color toss: Note, you can just catch the Wilson school bus starting to get stuck on the sidewalk in the background (see yesterday's story).

October 5, 2017 - 7:09pm
posted by Billie Owens in news, batavia, YWCA.

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A school bus out of Rochester City School District is stuck at North Street and Columbia Avenue in the City of Batavia.

No injuries are reported. Batavia PD is not yet on scene. The bus was transporting 26 members of the Wilson High School junior varsity football team from a game when it encountered a roadblock set up at that intersection for this evening's 5K run and walk sponsored by the YWCA.

The driver attempted to turn the bus around when the tires got wedged in a gully at a grassy area. The Wilson athletes tried vainly to push the bus; it remains there for now.

UPDATE 7:21 p.m.: Batavia police are on scene. Parises Towing is en route to assist. The athletes are being treated to a hot and hearty Harvest Supper, which is also being served at the YWCA tonight, courtesy of the YWCA. The players were eager to tell every adult who approached them -- reporters, police, staff from the Y -- "we beat Batavia." First words out of their mouths, no matter the question.

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September 28, 2017 - 1:14pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in YWCA, batavia, news.

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Press release:

The countdown is on for several exciting happenings that will help to launch Domestic Violence Awareness Month at YWCA of Genesee County.

A motorcycle ride, 5K, Harvest Supper and disco party are events that begin this weekend and move through October.

“We’re thrilled to be able to highlight the heavy topic of domestic violence with some upbeat, family-friendly events that help to pull the community together for a great cause,” YWCA Executive Director Jeanne Walton said.

“We never want to lose sight of those affected by domestic violence, and these events complement the programs and services that we offer year-round.”

There are only four days until bikers of all kinds take to the road for a 90-mile Kickstands Up for Domestic Violence Awareness trip through Genesee, Wyoming and Livingston counties.

Riders pay $20 for the map and a chicken barbecue, and passengers pay just $5 more, meal included. There will be a silent auction with everything from a basket of edible treats and salon gift certificates to motorcycle-related goods.

Kickstands are up at 1 p.m. Saturday at YWCA, 301 North St., Batavia, for the start of this event.

In seven days, runners and walkers will take to the streets for the second annual Stiletto & Sneaker 5K. The USA Track and Field certified race will be followed with awards by age category, a purple celebration with a powder toss, lantern release, cotton candy and snow cones, a balloon artist and a brief message in support of victims and survivors of domestic violence.

The 5K takes off at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 5, at YWCA. Registration is $30 for individuals and $40 for teams of up to 10 middle and high school students.

Meanwhile, for those looking for a hearty meal of local produce, the Harvest Supper will serve up an array of succulent dishes from 4 to 7 p.m. that same evening. Culled from local farms and agricultural producers, the menu includes bean and kale soup, beef stew, zucchini bread, roasted potatoes, sausage with peppers and onions, roast chicken, pumpkin bars, apple crisp with fresh whipped cream and hot mulled cider.

September 20, 2017 - 2:38pm
posted by Maria Pericozzi in YWCA, domestic violence.

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Victims of domestic violence, community-based domestic violence experts, representatives from nonprofit organizations, and members of the community gathered Tuesday night at the YWCA to raise questions and address concerns.

The regional event was hosted by Assemblyman Steve Hawley and included members of the New York State Assembly Minority Steering Committee.

“There is one overwhelming thing we all agree on, whether we’re from Downstate, Long Island, the city, North Country or Western New York,” Assemblyman Hawley said. “We all agree that there is a huge issue that used to be hidden, but is no longer hidden. It’s domestic violence.”

Assemblyman Al Graf showed the attendees a stack of “really stupid bills” that they had for domestic abuse, one of which included having victims wear an ankle bracelet monitor to track the victims.

Graf said they are hoping to continue to use technology to their advantage to come up with a better solution than an ankle bracelet monitor for victims.

“An alert button that would notify the police that a domestic violence alert button was sounded and here is the location,” Graf said. “That’s one of the things we’re looking at.”

Most panic buttons are inside homes, which won’t help, if the victim is not in their home, Graf said.

Assemblyman Joseph Giglio asked an attendee and survivor of domestic violence, “How would we protect you when your abuser gets out of jail?”

“The panic button alert system is something I would be comfortable with,” she said. “A name change, anything, so that I don’t exist anymore.”

Some communities use Justice Centers, which has everything that would be needed under one roof, providing services to get families back on their feet after the trauma. Graf said it would provide a one-stop shop.

Jeanne Walton, the executive director of the YWCA of Genesee County in Batavia, said they serve 30-40 individuals with domestic violence issues annually and what they could do with more resources for people would be unbelievable.

“If you gave us $75,000 tomorrow, we could set up a justice center right now in this room,” Walton said.

Walton said there needs to be a unified front for domestic abuse issues. Having counseling, education, and other services all under one roof is a start.

Diane Watts, of Shelby, spoke about her personal experiences and beliefs that there should be education in schools to stop it before it starts.

Watts shot and killed her abuser in 2002, after being a victim of domestic abuse for years. She was later found not guilty by reason of justification. She said the family of her abuser is into the sixth generation of abusers.

“You’ve got to find some way to stop that cycle,” Watts said. “We need to get it into the schools, we need to get it into the churches, and we need to get it anywhere we can to stop that cycle.”

Walton said the YWCA has been in the schools for the last two years, speaking to students during Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

“We went to every school in the county except one last year, and just about all of them the year before,” Walton said. “It was groundbreaking, the effect it had on people. Dedicating funding for that would be tremendous.”

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Assemblyman Steve Hawley, left, and Assemblyman Al Graf with some "really stupid bills" from his filing cabinet.

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September 15, 2017 - 2:19pm
posted by Billie Owens in health, wellness, suicide prevention, YWCA, batavia, news, Announcements.

Press release:

The Suicide Prevention Coalition of Genesee County presents:

Passion for a purpose! "How to Fill Your Personal Bucket" with guest speaker Sherry Crumity, YWCA Domestic Violence Support Services coordinator.

Tuesday, Sept. 26 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the YWCA of Genesee County, located at 301 North St., Batavia.

Join us as we learn tips on how to identify what drains your bucket, and the tools necessary to fill it up again.

Sherry Crumity is a Masters Level Clinical Mental Health counselor with 10 years experience working in therapeutic settings and 12 years experience working in not-for-profit and public school settings.

Light refreshments will be served at 5:30, program begins at 6.

There is limited seating, please register by Sept. 22 by calling the Care and Crisis Helpline at (585) 344-4400 or email [email protected]

Ladies Night is provided free of charge through the support of the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Genesee County, the YWCA of Genesee County and Zonta Club of Batavia-Genesee County.

September 12, 2017 - 11:37am
posted by Billie Owens in news, Announcements, domestic violence, stephen hawley, YWCA.

Press release:

The consequences of domestic violence can last a lifetime. It is an epidemic that affects individuals in every community, regardless of age, economic status, sexual orientation, gender, race or religion. It takes place in many forms – physical, sexual and/or emotional abuse – and the results are devastating. For that reason, the Assembly Minority Conference Steering Committee has been tasked to address the complex issues involved in the prevention of, and response to, domestic violence in New York communities.

The committee will hold regional forums focused on identifying gaps in services and programs for domestic violence victims, enhancing and creating pathways which ensure greater safety for victims and ensuring law enforcement measures are in place to hold abusers accountable. The third event will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 19 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the YWCA of Genesee County, 301 North St., Batavia.

“Domestic violence is a scourge that affects the lives of its victims forever. We must employ every tool to combat its devastating impact and protect those who have suffered under its oppressive grasp,” said Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia). ”By hosting this event, those impacted by domestic violence and those who work to prevent it can open up a dialogue and search together for new, innovative ways to mitigate domestic violence for its countless victims.”

Representatives from nonprofit service providers, community-based domestic violence experts, law enforcement and the criminal justice system have been invited to attend and provide testimony. Additionally, the committee will welcome written and/or oral testimony from families and those with firsthand experience of the tragic devastation domestic violence can inflict. 

“Domestic violence continues to tragically impact families across the state. As a former police officer, I have seen firsthand the toll these incidents can cause,” said Assemblyman Al Graf (R,C,I,Ref-Holbrook). “We must remain committed to a comprehensive approach which provides victims with the necessary tools and support to escape dangerous situations and holds abusers accountable for their gross actions.”

“Every day, victims of domestic abuse are forced to live in fear, suffer debilitating anxiety and face uncertainty about the well-being of themselves and their loved ones. This is simply unacceptable,” said Assemblyman Joseph M. Giglio (R,C,I-Gowanda) Steering Committee Chairman.

“These forums will provide an opportunity to gather information about what is and isn’t working from all stakeholders involved, including those in law enforcement, the criminal justice system and community support programs. We want to help make our communities safer by providing greater protections for victims of domestic abuse and enacting policies that further prevent these situations from occurring.”

August 19, 2017 - 3:50pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in YWCA, batavia, news.

Press release:

In the last few days since the events of August 11 and 12 in Charlottesville, Virginia, we have found ourselves horrified by the hate and fear that was on full display by the white supremacists of those events. It was surreal to see people motivated by hate of others and a sense of superiority be armed and organized in public in the 21st century in a country that strives to provide liberty and justice for all and not just for certain groups.

We found ourselves as Christian pastors wondering how to respond to such hate and violence in the way of Jesus. It is easy to succumb to feelings of hate and to our desire to eliminate those who threaten to harm others. But the way of Jesus calls us to nonviolent resistance that holds the possibility for transformation for all.

So we invite you to join us in condemning any ideology or religious claims that promote racism and hate. Any person who says that there is one race that is better than another is in direct defiance of God’s will for diversity and harmony. We also invite you to join us in recommitting ourselves to working for justice and peace in our community in ways that do not turn us into the evils we are trying to resist.

We have to be intentional in our efforts to never fall into the trap of using violence and hate as means to resist them. We will be holding a prayer vigil for peace and justice on Thursday, August 24 6:30 p.m. at the YWCA at 301 North Street in Batavia.

We are grateful that the YWCA will be hosting this event as part of their commitment to eliminate racism. We hope that you will join us to unite our hearts to dedicate our lives once more to the ways of love.

July 13, 2017 - 12:46pm
posted by Billie Owens in YWCA, news, Announcements.

Press release from the YWCA of Genesee County:

A man sets fire to his house while his girlfriend and her pets are inside. A husband kills his wife and then a state Trooper. These are just two recent incidents that should have everyone wondering why domestic violence – especially of this lethal caliber -- has to happen. What kind of fear must be instilled in these victims to keep them from reaching out for help?

As long as there is domestic violence – which can be verbal, emotional and/or physical and always involves control -- agencies such as ours will be here to help victims and survivors to move on with their lives. This may be an odd way to begin a thank-you letter, but these incidents need to be emphasized as the reality – or potential reality -- that many victims face. And YWCA of Genesee County is grateful to be able to serve them, thanks to the support of many local individuals, organizations and businesses. 

Coming off the heels of Women of Distinction Awards Gala, our signature event to honor people and the good works they do in the community, we are proud to have acknowledged so many fine contributors to society. It was a rewarding evening that highlighted people who work for racial justice, peace, advocacy, corporate social responsibility, economic empowerment or veterans.

We were also delighted to have received such amazing community support in the form of sponsorships and donations of time, money, goods and services. Being a major fundraiser for us, this event supplements agency funding to continue our work with domestic violence victims and to offer a 24-hour confidential crisis helpline and quality child care.

So this is a big Thank You to those people who opened up their hearts and their wallets to help make our event successful and, ultimately, contributed to the success of this community. This is also a reminder that Domestic Violence Awareness Month will be here before you know it (October) and we hope to see many participants at our second annual Stiletto & Sneaker 5K. It is a fun event with a certified course and a serious message of HOPE for anyone enduring domestic abuse. It takes off at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 5 in front of YWCA, 301 North St., Batavia.

Lastly, if you or someone you know is in the midst of some kind of domestic trouble, whether it’s constant fighting, being isolated from family and friends, threats, physical injuries, living in fear or it’s just a feeling that something’s not right, please, please, please make a call. Our Care+Crisis Helpline is there for you 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s free and confidential, and that call just may save a life. (585) 344-4400 or (844) 345-4400.

Sincerely,

Jeanne Walton, executive director

June 16, 2017 - 6:17pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in YWCA, kathy hochul, batavia, news.

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To open the YWCA's Third Annual Women of Distinction Awards ceremony at Genesee Community College yesterday afternoon, Lt. Gov. Kathleen Hochul shared how the issue of domestic violence and public service through the Y helped shape her life.

Hochul's grandmother was a victim of domestic violence, and Hochul's mother was an advocate for changing laws and changing attitudes around domestic violence, even testifying for the Legislature in Albany. She helped change the way police officers respond to domestic violence cases.

"She testified in hearings trying to get law enforcement to treat is as the crime it is," Hochul said. "At the time when someone would call for help, someone would call and the police would show up at the door and the husband responded and said, 'Oh, don't worry, we're OK here.' They had no obligation. They could leave. That went on for far too long." 

When her mother turned 70, she said she wanted to do something in her mother's name, so they established the Kathleen Mary House, a safe place for women who have been victimized.

Before Hochul ever ran for public office, she thought she might like to get involved in politics, perhaps as a campaign manager, so she took classes are her local YWCA to learn how to be a campaign manager. That, it turned out, inspired her to run for a seat on the Town of Hamburg Board.

Hochul noted that women are taking a bigger and bigger role in public life, but that there is more progress to be made.

"To the young women in the audience, have confidence in yourselves, know that you, too, have a role to play in changing the world," Hochul said. "There is no time like the present. You don't have to wait until middle age to be engaged. Step up. We need you. Your society needs you. Your country needs you. And your community here in Genesee County needs you."

The award recipients were:

  • Rev. Roula Alkhouri, the Racial Justice Award
  • WNY Tech Academy, the Economic Empowerment Award
  • Dee Quinn Miller, the Military/Veteran Award
  • Zonta Club of Batavia-Genesee County, the Peace Award
  • Krysten Schmidt, owner of Ladies First, the Advocacy/Civic Engagement Award
  • Lewis Tree Service, the Corporate Social Responsibility Award
  • Georgann Corrubba, TenCar Inc., the Exceptional Entrepreneur Award

For more on the winners, click here.

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Georgann Corrubba

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Rev. Roula Alkhouri

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Dee Quinn Miller

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Gail Fenton and Ruth Riner, of Zonta Club.

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Michlen Robinson, representing Lewis Tree Service.

June 15, 2017 - 3:00pm
posted by Billie Owens in news, kathy hochul, YWCA, batavia, Women of Distinction.

Press release:

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul will make a stop at YWCA’s Women of Distinction Awards Gala tonight to address the audience and say a few words about the event and YWCA’s mission. The awards ceremony is at 5:30 p.m. in Stuart Steiner Theatre, 1 College Road.

“We are very honored to host Lt. Hochul for a visit at this year’s Women of Distinction Awards Gala,” YWCA Executive Director Jeanne Walton said.

“She will add yet another layer to our prestigious lineup of representatives from the offices of Assemblyman Stephen Hawley, Senator Michael Ranzenhofer, Congressman Chris Collins and Genesee County Legislature.”

The event includes award presentations to Krysten Schmidt of Ladies First, Dee Quinn Miller, Western New York Tech Academy, Zonta Club, the Rev. Roula Alkhouri, Lewis Tree Service and Georgann Carrubba of TenCar Inc. An appetizer reception and basket and live auction will follow at 6:30 p.m. in The Forum.

Tickets are $40 each or $350 for a table of 10. For tickets or more information, call (585) 343-5808.

June 13, 2017 - 2:03pm
posted by Billie Owens in news, YWCA, women of distinction awards, batavia.

Press release:

Deanne “Dee” Quinn Miller clearly remembers a time when she helped to fill a special need in her role as program coordinator for the state Veterans Defense Program.

A veteran had just gotten custody of his children for the first time and he needed beds.

“I thought I’m sure I know somebody somewhere who can provide something,” she said. “We got them beds.”

Though assisting a veteran is not so unusual for Miller, those types of specific requests stay with her as examples of the humanity involved. While many issues deal with the legal system in some form, they all involve someone returning to civilian life after having served in the military.

“Their ability to reintegrate is so difficult, and I don’t think that people get that,” she said. “We’re going to serve them no matter where they are and we’re going to make appropriate referrals.”

It was that type of dedication and determination that put Miller in the spotlight for this year’s Women of Distinction Military/Veteran Award. She is one of seven recipients to be honored during YWCA’s signature awards gala this week.

It is set for 5:30 p.m. Thursday, June 15 at Genesee Community College, 1 College Road. Tickets are $40 each or $350 for a table of 10. For more information, call (585) 343-5808.

Although Miller is not a veteran herself, family members have provided plenty of red, white and blue spirit. Her grandmother Eunice “was always so incredibly patriotic” while Grandpa Ferris was a World War II vet. Her grandfathers, brothers and uncles all served, including a cousin overseas in Afghanistan and another one having been there. Miller has soaked up all of that selfless service to country and wants to give back through her job.

“If there was a population that I could serve, it would be that population,” she said. “They are underserved.”

Other award recipients include Roula Alkhouri for Racial Justice, Georgann Carrubba for Exceptional Entrepreneur, Western New York Tech Academy for Economic Empowerment, Krysten Schmidt for Advocacy/Civic Engagement, Lewis Tree Service for Corporate Social Responsibility and Zonta Club of Batavia-Genesee County for Peace.

For Roula Alkhouri, the pastor at Batavia’s First Presbyterian Church, being a native of Syria has most definitely flavored how she sees the world and how other people see her. Having grown up in a different culture and transplanting to the United States has not been without its challenges, she said. Some have assumed that she’s a Muslim because of her middle Eastern accent and homeland. Others have discredited what she says based on preconceived notions of who she is.

Alkhouri believes there is one simple thing that people can do to bridge the divide.

“When you get to know people, it changes your perspective,” she said. “You can find people of all different colors and races who can contribute. The world according to me is not how friends see the world and are being treated. All are created in the image of God, and we need to celebrate that.”

Perhaps the truest form of racial justice ever, award committee members agreed.

Georgann Carrubba’s current mission as CEO of TenCar, Inc. began some time ago when, as a visiting nurse, she saw how many ostomy patients were affected by their illness. With a close family member suffering with Crohn’s disease, she didn’t really have to look far to see those effects. When he was in the hospital he said to her that he’d sooner die before getting fitted with an ostomy device, a pouch kept outside of the body to hold one’s bodily waste.

Up to now, that only option meant potential for odors, leakage, gas build-up and related embarrassment and discomfort. And there are some one million patients with the need for one.

“I think they’re crushed by it,” Carrubba said, noting that her device with a removable cap will make a difference. Dubbed the Choice Cap, it is a lightweight, airtight, molded waterproof cap to be worn with or without the traditional soft inner pouch. This added protective barrier offers greater resilience to motion and activity, giving the wearer protection against leakage and escaped odors that are common in everyday activities. The result is increased confidence, self-esteem, body image and quality of life.

“I think it gives them value, it gives them purpose,” Carrubba said. “We’re to start production this fall.”

When Gail Fenton joined Zonta Club five years ago, it was at the urging of then-member and mentor Patti Riner, who died in August 2016. Riner had promised to help Fenton navigate new club membership and also convinced her to sign up for vice president.

“Not knowing that after two years you become president,” Fenton said. “Since joining the club has almost doubled in size. I’ve tried to get younger members to join while respecting the older members’ experience. I just really enjoy doing it; it’s like our own little sisterhood.”

That sisterhood has been busy over the years, from selling daffodils and distributing health and education booklets to selling hotdogs for the Big Buddy program, hosting health clinics, ringing bells for Salvation Army and many other efforts that resulted in thousands of volunteer hours.

Club members also worked at YWCA’s My Sister’s Closet, a thrift shop for women, and donated $5,000 and many hours of mentoring to the agency’s Power-up Program in 2006. Members also contributed a great deal of peace to domestic violence victims through their assembled care package totes. Filled with toiletries and quilts donated from Museum Quilt Guild, the totes were given to victims as tokens of care, comfort and peace.

Tech Academy courses not only offer students a potential road map to getting a good job, but the lessons include breaking down the “academic silos” that prevent students from connecting how each subject relates to one another. A shipping clerk who has to negotiate contracts with the buyer can use those skills in other areas, such as running a restaurant or an entry-level accountant can end up moving into financial planning.

“I look at STEM very differently; it’s really an integrated process,” Academy Principal Thomas Schulte said. “We’re beginning to eliminate labels that society places on our kids, so they can see all kinds of options instead of just the options presented to them.”

Lewis Tree Service may be the second largest provider of vegetation management in the country, but the company, much like the Tech Academy, isn’t always well known by the public in Genesee County. Its Giving Tree Committee is steadfast in providing contributions of money, equipment and/or volunteers to many area agencies, including YWCA of Genesee County.

Committee member Sue Howard fondly recalled her role as a cuddler in the NICU and when she made dolls that were sent to children overseas. Other efforts have included donating boxes of food for Thanksgiving meals and more than 70 new coats for local shelters, helping build homes for Habitat for Humanity, collecting toys, money and food for various charities and many other initiatives.

Howard discovered that, soon after joining, she benefited as much as she gave.

“I was going through a pretty hard time in my own life,” she said. “It filled a void. I’ve had some wonderful experiences ... when you can go out there and see the little things you do that make a difference in someone’s life, that’s incredible.”

Krysten Schmidt is passionate about her profession and loves what she does. She cares for women of all ages- from young teens to seniors. Although she cannot provide obstetric care or perform surgeries, she is there for all of the other vital needs for women across their life span. From wellness exams and STD screenings to family planning and menopausal issues, Schmidt wants to be there for her patients through all of it.

“I just love helping women,” she said.

April 21, 2017 - 4:54pm
posted by Billie Owens in batavia, news, YWCA.

Press release:

BATAVIA -- It was a photo-worthy moment to see the surprised reactions of Zonta Club members during a special announcement Wednesday during the club’s monthly meeting.

Zonta Club of Batavia-Genesee County members learned that Zonta is the recipient of this year’s Women of Distinction Peace Award.

“It’s a total shock,” Member Patti Pacino said. “We don’t ever go for awards, we give them. It’s such a lovely surprise. Working with YWCA is an incredibly wonderful meld because we can help you with things for domestic violence.”

Jeanne Walton, executive director of YWCA of Genesee County made the announcement as part of her ongoing community talks to promote the annual awards gala. Zonta was chosen for its dedication to community needs local and afar, especially in regard to saying no to domestic violence.

“Zonta Club went above and beyond to create many tote bags filled with toiletries and other items as a way to pamper and truly care for victims of abuse,” Walton said. “The club has certainly given many forms of peace to this community and is so deserving of this award.”

The gala is at 5:30 p.m. June 15 at Genesee Community College, 1 College Road. An awards ceremony will be in Stuart Steiner Theatre followed by a hearty appetizer and dessert buffet and an auction in The Forum.

The Women of Distinction Awards Gala is a way for YWCA to honor and recognize those individuals, groups and businesses that have contributed to the overall betterment of this region. Award recipients have also, through their personal and professional endeavors, strengthened YW’s vision to provide sustainable programs that foster healthy, balanced living for women and families.

Women of Distinction Committee members also chose the following recipients:

  • Roula Alkhouri, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Batavia, for the Racial Justice Award. A native of Syria, Alkhouri was chosen for her efforts to support diversity and better understanding of world affairs from a local perspective and her ministry passions of spirituality, interfaith connections and social justice.
  • Krysten Schmidt, of Ladies First for the Advocacy/Civic Engagement Award. Schmidt opened her Batavia business in October 2012 with a focus on providing women’s preventative health care. She was chosen for her sincere willingness to empower women and provide direct services to YWCA domestic violence clients.
  • Deanne (Dee) Quinn Miller, program coordinator of the state Defender’s Association, for the Military/Veteran Award. Although Miller does not have direct experience in the military, there is no doubt that her core philosophy has been that “veterans and military families deserved the best care and resources available,” according to her nomination letter.

“It is clear that with every role, Dee’s passion and commitment to veterans grows,” the letter stated. “It is clear that each and every veteran holds a special place in her heart.”

  • Western New York Tech Academy for the Economic Empowerment Award. This initiative offers local students a unique path toward educational and career success in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math by connecting them with mentors, area companies, job experience and a free two-year degree. The four-year plan prepares students for high-skill and financially stable career opportunities in a less traditional format for those students that may not have the resources and guidance necessary for the high school to college track.
  • Lewis Tree Service, the second-largest provider of vegetation management in the country, for the Corporate Social Responsibility Award. Based in Rochester, this philanthropic company – led by its Giving Tree Committee -- has contributed funds, staff time and  equipment to YWCA over the last few years to help support the nonprofit’s programs and services. In 2016, Lewis Tree Service received an ETHIE Award from Rochester Area Business Ethics Foundation for doing “the right thing” through strong ethical foundations, high standards of business conduct and multifaceted connections to ethics in others’ daily lives.
  • Georgann Carrubba, founder of Tencar Inc., for the Exceptional Entrepreneur Award. This new award recognizes a woman in the community who is making a difference through her business philosophies, investment practices and work ethics. A Batavia native and registered nurse, Carrubba is also an innovator. She developed an idea into a product to give comfort and security to patients with a Choice Cap ostomy prosthetic appliance, which has also meant an investment of $100,000 in this community for production.

This year’s event will include a fun basket, silent and live auction loosely titled “Eat, Drink & Be Merry” to capture the spirited theme. At least three dozen baskets will be up for bid, including a fully catered elegant dinner for eight, a lobster basket of gourmet treats, a tailgate party, a catered middle Eastern meal and, to include the animal lovers, a "Bone Appetit" package of assorted pet items.

Sponsorship opportunities are available, including a special one for each of the award categories Tickets for the Gala are $40 each or $350 for a table of 10, and may be purchased at YWCA, 301 North St., Batavia or by calling (585) 343-5808.

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