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Preventing Gun Violence 

YWCA Lancaster is committed to ensuring that communities are safe places for women and families to thrive.
As headlines and research make clear, gun violence is a major threat to our health and safety. From the hallways of Stoneman Douglas High School and Sandy Hook Elementary, to the social venues of the Las Vegas country music festival and the Pulse nightclub, to homes and communities across the country, women and female identifying individuals experience unacceptably high levels of gun violence that leave them at heightened risk of harm and death.

Women’s experiences of gun violence are inextricably linked to domestic violence. Some 4.5 million women in the U.S. have been threatened with a gun by an intimate partner, and nearly 1 million women alive today have been shot, or shot at, by an intimate partner. In an average month, 50 women in the U.S. are shot to death by intimate partners, and many more are injured. The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation makes it five times more likely that a woman will be killed.

Gun violence is particularly dangerous for women of color, who are nearly three times as likely to be murdered with a gun than white women. Black women are shot and killed by a husband or intimate partner three times more often than by male strangers, and most often during the course of an argument.

Transgender women of color face an even higher increased risk of gun violence: transgender women are four times more likely to experience gun violence than cisgender women, and nearly 85 percent of transgender victims are women of color.

The connections between domestic violence and mass shootings are alarming. Most mass shootings in the U.S. — those in which four or more individuals are killed — are related to domestic violence: shooters killed intimate partners or other family members in at least 54 percent of mass shootings. While women make up only 15 percent of all gun violence, they make up 50 percent of victims in mass shootings, largely due to the correlation between domestic violence and mass shootings. Even when strangers are targeted instead of family members, there are connections between mass shootings and domestic violence: while most mass shootings occur in the home, the shooters in one third of the 46 mass shootings that took place entirely in public between 2009 and 2016 had a history of violence against women. Moreover, in 42 percent of mass shootings between 2009 and 2016, the shooter exhibited warning signs that they posed a danger to themselves or others, and one-third of mass shooters were prohibited from possessing a firearm.

The significant links between mass shootings and domestic violence, and the disparate impacts of gun violence on women of color, are too often overlooked in the public narrative about gun violence. So, too, are the impacts of school shootings on girls of color. Like all students, youth of color face the increasing risk of school shootings. Frequently, when young people are the shooters in school settings, they have obtained firearms at home, likely because an adult did not store it locked and unloaded. However, it is primarily students of color who face the negative impacts of heightened school surveillance and security measures that have been implemented in response to school shootings. Such measures have not been applied equally across all schools, and schools with a preponderance of students of color are more likely to adopt strict surveillance and security measures which can further criminalize girls of color who already experience disproportionate punishment in school.


YWCA believes that all women and girls deserve to live free from the threat of gun violence. To this end, we support systemic and structural policy changes that focus attention and resources on the places, spaces, and contexts in which women and girls–particularly women and girls of color– experience significant threats from gun violence: in their homes, as victims and survivors of intimate partner violence; in mass shootings, which are most often perpetrated by those with a history of domestic violence; and at school, where students of color both face the threat of school shootings and bear the brunt of harsh school surveillance and security measures.


To decrease gun violence for women and girls, particularly women and girls of color, YWCA USA endorses the following policy responses:

●        Keep guns out of the hands of perpetrators of domestic violence, stalking, and other interpersonal violence

  • Prohibit those convicted of domestic violence and stalking from obtaining firearms, as well as those subject to domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking restraining orders
  • Ensure that abusers and stalkers subject to a restraining order relinquish all firearms once they are prohibited
  • Establish mandatory licensing requirements, so that law enforcement and courts can more effectively identify when abusers and stalkers have firearms that should be confiscated
  • Oppose “concealed carry reciprocity” legislation, which would enable abusers to carry firearms across state lines into states that prohibit “concealed carry”

●        Eliminate access to automatic weapons and high capacity ammunition

  • Ban the sale and possession of assault weapons, high capacity gun magazines (those with a capacity of more than 10 bullets), and bump stocks
  • More tightly enforcing laws on straw purchases of weapons, and limits on how many guns can be purchased in a month

●        Protect students from the danger of school shootings

  • Mandate “safe storage” requirements such as trigger locks, and requiring that guns and ammunition be stored separately, especially when children are in the house
  • Ban the sale of firearms to people under the age of 21
  • Focus responses to school shootings on fostering positive school climate, instead of arming teachers, expanding police presence, or other attempts to fortify schools
    • Increase the number and availability of counselors and other specialized support personnel in schools
    • Expand the availability of restorative practices in schools to build healthy communities, decrease antisocial behavior, repair harm and restore relationships
  • Hold adults responsible for negligently storing firearms

●        Strengthen methods for screening and removing firearms from individuals who pose a significant risk of danger to others

  • Establish and enforce gun violence restraining orders – “Red Flag Restraining Orders” / “Extreme Risk Protective Orders”
  • Improve background checks
    • Require universal background checks for all gun sales
    • Ensure all necessary records are updated in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS)
    • Hold states and federal agencies accountable for accurately reporting records to the NICS database
  • Increase training and technical assistance to state and local jurisdictions to improve firearm removal and storage
  • Carefully distinguish between individuals who are mentally unwell or experiencing a crisis and may pose a safety threat, and those who are mentally ill yet do not pose any increased risk of violence
  • Ensure that accessible, high quality, culturally competent mental health treatment is provided in communities

●        Remove legislative restrictions on gun data collection and sharing, including:

  • The Dickey Amendment, which currently prohibits research by the Centers for Disease Control
  • The Tiahrt Amendment, which requires the FBI to destroy all approved gun purchaser records within 24 hours and prohibits the National Tracing Center of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives from releasing information from its firearms trace database to anyone other than a law enforcement agency or prosecutor in connection with a criminal investigation, and thereby precludes gun trace data from being used in academic research of gun use or utilized in civil litigation against gun dealers or manufacturers.

YWCA USA opposes policy responses that further stigmatize individuals with mental health conditions, or that expand police presence in schools and the criminalization of youth of color, including proposals to arm teachers with firearms and to “fortify,” “harden” or “militarize” school facilities.

Announcing the 2023 Black Artist Waystation Winners!

YWCA Lancaster is proud to announce its 2023 Black Artist Waystation participants, joining a community-run collective of artists celebrating and uplifting the Black experience, and helping to define the movement toward freedom and recognize the many efforts that brought us to this moment. Exploring the link between Lancaster as a waystation on the Underground Railroad and the freedom seekers who rested here, these artists are living embodiment of the beauty, brilliance, and joy that makes our community extraordinary.

The awardees will receive $2,500 to support their work, as well as receive opportunities to showcase their craft at events throughout the year, while receiving mentorship (Conductors) from previous Black Artist Waystation participants, as well as other community members.

2023 Black Artist Waystation Awardees:

Keisha Finnie (she/her)
Keisha work explores the journey of evolution as not only an artist but as a woman of color. Interpreting my personal experiences and observations. Nurturing and visualizing her determination and resilience through touch and a strong vibrant color palette.

Keisha has been artistic since she could remember in her first art class at Ross Elementary School where her 2020 mural “Nurture Your Mind” resides. She’s had work displayed all over Lancaster City from galleries, murals, pianos, food trucks as well as neighboring cities.

Thunda Khatt (she/her)

Thunda Khatt is a Writer and Spoken Word Poet from Baltimore MD based out of Lancaster PA that tells the stories of the unheard. She lifts her voice to amplify those before her that could not speak and encourages those after her to never forget the power of their voice.

Dominic Jordan (he/him)

Sir Dominique Jordan the Prolific One is a poetic vanguard hailing from Lancaster, Pennsylvania; whether it spoken word or on a page, he uses his unique verbiage to inspire others to use their vulnerability as a ‘super power’. He identifies as an Artivist, and teaches across the country about how Hip Hop culture and general creative expression are tools that can be used in the classroom/neighborhood to enhance the overall educational experience. He loves to challenge people to make a difference in their community as they see fit. The Prolific One is also the lead vocalist of the sensational, funky Hip Hop and R&B band, The Prolific Steppas. Lastly, Sir Dominique Jordan is the founder and CEO of both The Artivist Corp. (a social enterprise dedicated to youth mentorship) and Nobody’s Pen (a poetic writers collective). Find him and his efforts on social media using the hashtag #WhatThatImpactDo

Kearasten Jordan (they/them)

Kearasten Jordan is a Black Queer Artist born and raised in Lancaster PA. They enjoy art, music, and being a problem.

There are two upcoming events to celebrate the Black Artist Waystation awardees, with more coming later in the year:

  • February 3: A meet and greet at EsoArts from 5-7pm
  • February 24: Artist showcase at PCAD from 7-9:30

YWCA Lancaster presents first county-wide racial equity profile in PA

Known as the refugee capital of the United States, Lancaster has long been a new home to resettled families from all over the world. But a new report on the state of equity in the county indicates that its residents of color face compounding barriers to reaching their full potential.

An Equity Profile of Lancaster County — released today by a coalition of the county’s civic organizations in partnership with the National Equity Atlas — is the first county-wide racial equity profile in Pennsylvania. It illustrates how ongoing inequities in Lancaster have fueled racial disparities in economic opportunity, housing, educational attainment, health outcomes, and civic power.

“There is a tremendous opportunity for all of us if we center the lived experience of marginalized members of our community,” said Deborah Wilson Gadsden, the board president of YWCA Lancaster. “We hope this profile helps illuminate the stories we already know, brings new questions to the table, and enables everyone to see themselves as part of a new opportunity to create systemic change in a county that is trying to live up to its branding: a wonderful place to live, work, and raise a family for all.”

The report’s findings underscore how a combination of inequities in Lancaster has carried mounting costs for the entire community: The county misses out on an estimated $1.9 billion in economic activity per year because of racial economic exclusion.

Other key findings about Lancaster County, based on the most current data available, include the following:

  • The majority of the county’s residents are white, but the area is growing more diverse as people of color increasingly move into the area for school and work. People of color, particularly Latinx residents (both immigrants and US-born) and Black immigrants, accounted for 88 percent of the net population growth in Lancaster between 2010 and 2019.
  • Lancaster’s youth are much more diverse than its older generations. In 2019, more than 25 percent of young people (those under 18 years of age) were people of color, compared to seven percent of the county’s seniors (those 65 years and older).
  • Forty percent of workers in Lancaster are employed in three industries: health care, manufacturing, and retail. These industries are experiencing high growth in jobs. Despite this growth, wages have largely stagnated or declined for workers with the lowest incomes.
  • Nearly 50 percent of renters in the county spend more than a third of their income on rent. As a result, these families also face the constant threat of being priced out or otherwise displaced from their communities, while new housing developments in the county are largely geared toward higher-income earners.

“Making an honest assessment of where a community stands in terms of racial equity is a critical first step in planning for equitable growth,” said Abbie Langston, the director of equitable economy at PolicyLink. “This research reinforces that advancing racial equity in Lancaster is essential to fostering long-term economic vitality and shared prosperity.”

Local organizations are doing necessary work on the ground, but many continue to face barriers to accessing the funds and other resources they need to maximize their impact. Over the past year, YWCA Lancaster and the National Equity Atlas have partnered with a broad range of community residents, advocates, elected officials, and civic leaders to delve into the county’s challenges, document its assets, identify opportunities for meaningful change, and outline strategies to build a stronger Lancaster for generations to come.

“This is a vital coalition working to bring baseline data to light and inspire action,” said Samuel Bressi, CEO of the Lancaster County Community Foundation. “Our community can only be extraordinary if everyone has full access and the ability to pursue their dreams.”

Explore the full profile, including the data and tailored strategies, at equityprofilelancaster.com.

YWonderful Kids’ Ms. LaTea Honored with Statewide Award

At YWCA Lancaster, we know that the best way to eliminate racism and empower women is to support the next generation of leaders, thinkers, do-ers, and helpers.

That’s why it’s no surprise that one of our extraordinary teachers, Ms. LaTea has been honored with the Pennsylvania Statewide Afterschool Youth Development Network’s Afterschool Champions Award!

LaTea has worked for YWCA Lancaster for four years and is in charge of our before-and-afterschool program that serves about 30 students from the School District of Lancaster (SDoL). SDoL is a large, urban school district that receives Title I funding. The district is richly diverse and has more than 1,800 English language learners who speak 38 different languages. The district also has a large population of students with disabilities and participate in the Individualized Education Program (IEPs).

Most of the students in our program come from families whose income falls below the poverty line; several have IEPs; some have a primary home language other than English. LaTea treats them all with enthusiasm and care. She meets students where they are. Knowing the challenges they face, she seeks to empower them and plans her lessons and activities through a trauma-informed lens.

At YWCA Lancaster, we love Ms. LaTea, and we are inspired by her passion and care for her students. We’re so proud to honor her, lucky to have her, and thankful to her and all the educators that make YWonderful Kids the award-winning program that it is!

Pre-K programs are open for enrollment! Learn more

New SAFE-T Program to Enhance Victim Survivor Support

No one should feel alone after they have experienced a potentially traumatic event. That’s why our Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center is standing by with our 24-hour, locally operated sexual assault hotline, as well as staffing medical advocates who work tirelessly to support victim survivors across Lancaster County if they choose to go to a hospital to receive care for an assault.

Thanks to a new partnership with Penn State Health, our Sexual Assault Prevention Center has a new and impactful tool in our toolbox to provide quality care and healing to victim survivors.


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YWCA Lancaster is excited to partner with Penn State Health on their new SAFE-T program, which will give victim survivors the ability to receive telehealth guidance from trained staff during their SAFE (Sexual Assault Forensic Exam). This new program will provide enhanced care to the victim survivors we serve, and increase our ability to provide care, comfort, and security to community members in need.

Through the use of state of the art camera imaging, healthcare professionals and our medical advocates will be able to interact with a telehealth professional during the exams to document important datapoints with high resolution photos, and receive guidance that will enhance the level of care provided.

As the rape crisis center for Lancaster County, YWCA Lancaster’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center is committed to providing victim survivors of sexual assault with quality care, supportive services, and pathways to healing. This new service from Penn State Health can help provide important additional support to people who have experienced sexual assault, and tap into a regional network of experienced practitioners to make the journey towards healing, accountability, and justice more accessible than ever before.

Learn more about our Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center

Cheryl Gahring Honored with Governor’s Award

YWCA Lancaster is proud to announce that Cheryl Gahring has been honored with a Governor’s Victim Service Pathfinder Award. Cheryl was a longtime advocate and Chief Impact Officer for YWCA Lancaster until her tragic passing in 2021.

The Governor’s Victim Service Pathfinder Award is the most prestigious award that Pennsylvania gives to a victim service professional or program. In recognition of her more than 14 years of service to YWCA Lancaster’s mission of eliminating racism and empowering women, Cheryl has been awarded the Individual Organizational Capacity Building Award posthumously.

Cheryl Gahring held many positions during her time at YWCA Lancaster, culminating in Chief Impact Officer. In this role she supported all departments within the organization and operated as an indirect team member of YWCA Lancaster’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center (SAPCC). Cheryl was influential in securing a YWCA National Hallmark Program called TechGYRLS to the YWCA Lancaster to support young women and girls. The program was facilitated by Counselors and Educators within the Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center and empowered female-identifying children between the ages of 9 and 14 to pursue STEAM related careers. The award was accepted in her memory by her son, Derek Gahring.

“Cheryl was empathetic, generous, adaptable, dependable, humorous, and willing. There was no one who embodied the mission and spirit of this organization more than her,” said Stacie Blake, CEO of YWCA Lancaster, “While her absence will always be felt, we are proud to celebrate her legacy with this award, and honor her work as we continue to support victim survivors in Lancaster County.”

Cheryl and the other Pathfinder Award Recipients were honored by the Office of Victims Services on November 17th, 2022 at 2:00pm during a virtual awards ceremony. A full list of the award recipients can be found here: https://www.media.pa.gov/pages/PCCD-details.aspx?newsid=46

YWCA Lancaster’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center has been Lancaster County’s rape crisis center for more than 32 years, and offers counseling services to victim survivors of sexual assault and their networks without charge. The Counseling Center utilizes special programs designed for children, adolescents, and adults to meet their diverse needs, including counseling, support groups, as well as medical advocacy.

Learn more about our Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center

Postcards to a Just Future

What does a Just Future look like to you?

At YWCA Lancaster, we are committed to eliminating racism, empowering women, and making a difference for real people facing real challenges in our community.

For this year’s ExtraGive, we invite you to join us in the fight for justice and envision a future that has realized that change to help guide our work into the a future that promotes peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all.

How it works

  • Fill out a digital postcard below, or request a physical postcard using the form
  • Use the postcard to tell what a just future looks like to you
  • We will share your vision on November 18 for the ExtraGive and use your ideas to inform our work moving forward
  • Bookmark our ExtraGive page to support us on November 18 to make your vision possible!

Fill out your Postcard to a Just Future:

Request a physical postcard:

We’ll also be at Penn Square, Zoetropolis, and the Warehouse Beer Garden on November 18 if you would like to create a postcard there!

Postcards to a Just Future


WATCH: Women of Achievement videos released!


Program Coordinator at the Center for Creative Exploration at Pennsylvania College of Art & Design

Salina Almanzar (she/her) is a Puerto Rican and Dominican artist, educator, writer, social justice advocate. Her art and scholarship examine the intersections of Latinidad, feminism, decolonial practice, and Taino spirituality. She is specifically interested in what it means to be ni de aqui y ni de alla, meaning being part of a diaspora that is between spaces and between cultures. 




Dr. Sharee Livingston (she/her) is Chair of the ObGyn Department at UPMC. She is the epitome of professionalism and excellence in medicine. She is known and respected by her peers and patients for her surgical expertise. Dr Livingston is a founding board member of Patients R Waiting and has taken her community work to a new level, mentoring students, founding the Doula initiative, and fighting COVID in our community. 





Executive Director, Lancaster City Housing Authority

Barbara Jean Ellis Wilson (she/her) has dedicated her professional life to public service and strengthening community well-being. Currently leading the Lancaster City Housing Authority, Barbara ensures over 3,100 Lancaster City residents have safe, decent, and affordable housing. Barbara leads the organization of 35+ full-time employees in fulfilling the Authority’s mission to provide housing stability to our city’s most vulnerable populations.  She is the first woman, and only African American, to lead the Lancaster City Housing Authority in its 70 years of existence.  




Founder and Executive Guide at Unique Lancaster Experiences

Kendra Wolfe (she/her) is the founder of Unique Lancaster Experiences, a Black and female-owned business that creates meaningful Lancaster-based experiences for tourists and locals that builds community, as well as highlight local, minority, and women-owned businesses in Lancaster. Kendra works to provide opportunities and dignity for impoverished members of the community. She is a role model for others in turning their passion into profitable entrepreneurs who are excited about their careers while connecting with the community in an impactful way.  




We’re also proud to continue the presentation of the Cheryl Gahring award, created in memory of our colleague Cheryl Gahring who passed in 2021. This award is given to an extraordinary young person who represents the future of our community’s spirit of eliminating racism and empowering women.


Manheim Township ’22, Duke University

Sophie Yost (she/her) is a rising Freshman at Duke University. In her high school career, she became the National Field Director for MyVote Project, a national, nonpartisan voter education website with over 250 volunteers (myvoteproject.com). She is the founder of Manheim Township’s Coalition for Social Justice (@mt.coalition) and is a proud member and creator of Manheim Township’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Board to advance and support educational equity.



Resident story: Elana-Beth Rosen

We were also honored to share the story of a community activist we were lucky enough to have as a resident a YWCA Lancaster.

See Elana-Beth’s story:

We need your help to keep our mission going!

New Department of Justice collaboration between YWCA Lancaster and Community Action Partnership

Lancaster, Pa. (10/4/22) – YWCA Lancaster and the Community Action Partnership (CAP) of Lancaster County, PA are proud to announce a grant award from the US Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). The Legal Assistance for Victims Program is intended to increase the availability of civil and criminal legal assistance needed to effectively aid adult and youth victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking by providing funds for comprehensive direct legal services to victims in legal matters relating to or arising out of that abuse or violence.

This three year, half million-dollar federal grant will expand and strengthen the capacity of YWCA Lancaster’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center (SAPCC) and Community Action Partnership (CAP)’s Domestic Violence Services (DVS) of Lancaster County’s Domestic Violence (DV) Legal Center, offering civil legal services to victim survivors free of charge. To provide these services, the agencies will hire a full-time attorney to handle civil legal matters, as well as a full-time legal advocate.

Senator Bob Casey and Representative Lloyd Smucker provided key support for the proposed new services to highlight the need for more resources for survivors across Lancaster County.
“YWCA Lancaster provides support, sanctuary and resources for people who need it. I was proud to advocate for this funding, which will substantially expand their capacity to provide free legal services to survivors. Every person deserves to feel safe within their community, and every survivor of abuse deserves their chance to seek justice and accountability,” said Senator Bob Casey.

“I want to congratulate the YWCA of Lancaster for receiving the Legal Assistance for Victims grant from the Department of Justice. I was pleased to provide a letter of support for their application. I am certain that YWCA Lancaster will use these funds to provide meaningful support to survivors of domestic violence. I thank the YWCA for all they do to support our community,” said Rep. Lloyd Smucker.

Services will begin this year once final federal approvals are secured, and new hires are oriented with both agencies.

“Collaboration is essential to meeting the needs of our community,” said Stacie Blake, CEO of YWCA Lancaster, “we are Lancaster County’s rape crisis center, but we know that survivors need support whether its due to sexual or domestic violence and often it’s both. Our whole community must be involved, and we’re thankful for the opportunity to partner with CAP on this vital program.”

“We are excited to partner with the YWCA to expand the resources available to survivors in our community,” said Vanessa Phibert, Chief Executive Officer of Community Action Partnership of Lancaster, the parent organization of Domestic Violence Services. “this new initiative will be a great support to families on their journey of healing and thriving.”