A century of social change: YWCA hits the triple digits

Being ahead of the times is nothing new for Asheville’s YWCA—the organization has done it that way for almost a century.

Something to smile about: Jasmine Moore, pictured here with her baby Jailyn, is a participant in the YWCA MotherLove program, which offers support for teen moms. Asheville’s YWCA was the first in the South to become racially integrated. photos courtesy YWCA

For example, when Eleanor Roosevelt came to speak here in 1956, she insisted on speaking to a nonsegregated audience. As one of the few local civic organizations willing to open its doors to everyone, the YWCA hosted the former first lady.

And by the time the National Convention of the YWCA passed a resolution “to thrust our collective power toward the elimination of racism wherever it exists and by any means necessary” in 1970, Asheville’s once-segregated chapters had already integrated. In fact, they were the first YWCA chapters in the South to take that step.

As Asheville’s YWCA prepares to celebrate its centennial this week, the nonprofit will have many accomplishments to look back on. “We have advocated for social justice for one hundred years,” says Ami Worthen, the organization’s marketing director. “And everything we do [today] is about addressing institutional racism and sexism.”

Serving single-parent and low-income families, supporting healthy lifestyles through fitness programs, providing affordable childcare and offering after-school tutoring for disadvantaged youth are all part of the daily routine at the YWCA. “Our theme for this event is ‘a century of empowerment,’” Worthen says.

The event, of course, is a birthday bash, complete with a giant cake. The family-friendly affair will be held from noon to 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 19, at the YWCA (185 S. French Broad Ave.). Activities will include face painting, games, arts and crafts, free health screenings and swimming, plus performances by Westsound, renowned puppeteer Hobey Ford and the Reynolds-Miller Chorale.

The celebration is free and open to the public. For more information, call 254-7206.

 

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