What part of theEquity Profile of Lancaster Countyspeaks to you? What do you want to see change in Lancaster County to make sure we have a just future for us, our children, and future generations?
There is no one right answer, but YWCA Lancaster is committed to supporting our community as we work together towards solutions.
Whether you’ve seen the report in our communications, from partner organizations, or on the front page and editorial section of LNP, there is no shortage of energy, curiosity, and enthusiasm about helping our community meet the inequities highlighted in the Profile.
The Profile is not the end of the work: it’s a foundation to help us build a just future together. And because of that, what we do now is up to all of us.
On February 16, 2023, we met with other community members who want to get started on taking action about the Profile. Together, we discussed the big takeaways from the report, amplify work already being done in these areas, and began to plan the next steps we can take as a community.
We plan to continue to hold space for anyone in the community who would like to join this meet-up happening every third Thursday at YWCA Lancaster from 6-7:30. We will be doing a mix of discussion, as well as meeting with local leaders who are working on different indicators highlighted in the profile to connect community members with people in the grassroots movement(s) to create change in Lancaster County.
All are welcome! We hope you will join and be in community with us.
“If the time is not ripe, we have to ripen the time.”
— Dorothy Height
On February 23, YWCA Lancaster had the honor of hosting “Ripening the Times”, a panel discussion featuring local Black leaders across generation, experience, and perspective to share some of talk about the past, present, and future of Black history in Lancaster County and beyond.
Here are 5 quotes that stuck out to us from the more than hour long conversation. We hope you watch the entire recording below!
Click the play button next to the quote to hear audio
1) “We need to let [kids] know now that their voices are important and deserve to be heard.”
“The biggest thing for me is the voice of children we need to allow them space in these conversations, we need to allow them spaces and voices in the conversations that we’re having within our family dynamics. Because that child will one day be one of the leaders of that family, be one of the leaders of that community, be one of the leaders of whatever they decide to be a leader of. And we need to provide them with the affirmation and the validation that their voice is important now, at five years old, at ten years old, at fifteen years old, we need to let them know now that their voices are important and deserve to be heard.”
2) “Disrupt the narrative that we are just trauma.”
“I don’t get the funding because we have African American in our nameBut look at what it’s doing for the community and bringing people together and disrupting the narrative that we are just trauma, like that Black excellence and that Black joy is liberating all of us. So where are the dollars that we’re putting into people in this community who are doing that renaissance? I see it, it’s beautiful, but I’m finding that you’re not getting the money.”
-Dr. Amber Sessoms
3) “Being active in the community was something that was passed down in my blood.”
“That showed methe impact that they were providing to a community that people were living in. And what triggered me the most is, they were providing outlets in the community that they lived in…and as I grow older, we see that drugs is a trait that can pass down through generations, diabetes is a trait that can go down [through generations]. As I grew older I was like, being active in my community was something that was passed down in my blood. It might not have been what I wanted to do, but as I grew I looked back at the people and my family that have been involved in the community, being Black leaders, being role models for other Black kids and Black and brown people, now I see why I’m so passionate about it: because it affects me now.”
-Vincent Derek Smith
4) “What is the narrative that you are telling yourself that makes it okay with me to accept [racism]?”
“And stop and thinkwhen you look at that data, stop and give yourself a pause and think: what is the narrative that you are telling yourself that makes it okay with me to accept that and to move on with my life? That should keep you up at night, but you are telling yourself something that allows you to be like ‘that’s their issue’, because it’s ‘they’ vs. ‘me’. We’re all in this together so how are you looking at it, what are you telling yourself; change that narrative in your head that stops making you think ‘that is not my issue that is a Black and brown issue, it’s their fault’, uh uh. These are babies that we are harming. That destructing of our life taking off because of racism. Literally years off my life, simply because of something made up.”
-Dr. Amber Sessoms
5) “Not against you. For us.”
“It’s a new day.And people aren’t standing back. They’re coming out with what they believe, what they feel, and what they find is true. And not against anybody. It’s just for us. Not against you, but for us.”
Thank you to Brian, Dr. Sessoms, Vincent, and Barbara for being in community with us, and for sharing your brilliance with us. We’re proud to be with you on Lancaster’s journey towards a just future.
View the full recording:
Remember to register for the 2023 Race Against Racism!
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.”
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.
On the visit we were joined by elected officials and other Lancaster community leaders, such as Senator Scott Martin, Rep. Mike Sturla, Danene Sorace, Mayor of Lancaster, and County Commissioner John Trescot. After brief introductions, the group joined us on a tour of the progress on YForward, our renovations which will add 16 new housing units to our Kepler Hall Residence Program, an ADA-accessible elevator, and a complete reimagining of our Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center.
photo: Tim Struhldreher, One United Lancaster
After the tour, the group sat down for a roundtable discussion about workforce in Lancaster, as well as celebrating the work of YWCA Lancaster’s New Choices Career Development Program, which benefits individuals in transition by giving them skills and resources in job seeking, interviewing, and résumé writing. The discussion focused on the city, local, and statewide efforts to both create opportunities for indivuduals to find skills and employment, as well as the institutional barriers that many seeking gainful employment face to thriving.
“By empowering individuals with job search and interview skills, opportunities to build their confidence and support to achieve professional goals, New Choices programs are helping Pennsylvanians negotiating the labor market to find lasting employment that pays a family-sustaining wage and improves their overall quality of life,” Secretary Berrier said.
YWCA Lancaster is proud to be in community with leaders of all levels, perspectives, and approaches to meet emerging community needs, as we have since our founding in 1889. Our mission of eliminating racism and empowering women is more important than ever, and we are honored to work with so many across Lancaster City, County, and the state of Pennsylvania to make that work possible.
While the mission of YWCA Lancaster is rooted in the Lancaster County community, there is immense power to the national model that helps support more than 1,000 YWCA’s across the United States, as well as 120 countries around the world. We’re proud to be able to leverage that power to share resources, learnings, and ideas that can help bring new strategies and uplift more voices than ever before to help us better partner with you to eliminate racism and empower women.
Though we are part of a national network, all dedicated to eliminating racism and empowering women, each specific YWCA’s scope, approach, and services is tailored to the communities we serve. For example, YWCA Lancaster is proud to be our community’s rape crisis center through our Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center, and other associations offer vital physical fitness and wellness services to keep our community healthy and strong.
As part of our gathering, we discussed the differences between our communities, as well as the opportunities to learn from each other, to better uplift historically marginalized voices and to challenge our communities to build more just systems where everyone can thrive. As part of this discussion, we’re working to create a more consistent way of sharing insights across associations to further strengthen all of our programming.
Reaffirming our mission
In the coming months, every YWCA association across the country will be reconfirming their agreements with YWCA USA. This is a way of ensuring that every YWCA, regardless of where you are in the United States and regardless of the specific program offerings, upholds the same dedication to eliminating racism and empowering women, and is also remaining emergent to the changing needs of our communities. We, along with our fellow YWCA associations, are proud to be part of a network unlike anything else in the country: a collective of dedicated organizations working to build a just future that can learn, adapt, and uplift the brilliance of our respective communities. Since 1858, YWCA has been leading the way for the issues that will create that future, and we are honored to continue that legacy with you, our County, and our regional YWCA family!
“True community is based upon equality, mutuality, and reciprocity. It affirms the richness of individual diversity as well as the common human ties that bind us together.”
In order to create true change, you need to take lessons out of the workshop and into the community. Last month, in partnership with Franklin & Marshall College, we reimagined our traditional Racial Equity Institute to create a new, multi-disciplinary look at racial justice, equity, and how those principles can be–and are–applied to Lancaster County and beyond.
This new, multi-day approach was part workshop, part community immersion. The morning featured content from our Racial Equity Institute curricula, where participants worked on developing a common language and understanding needed to dismantle racism and to communicate with others about its manifestations, while also developing working tools to identify and address racism within themselves and their everyday lives.
In the afternoon, participants partnered with local grassroots organizations that were embedded in this work to do service projects and to learn from leaders who were translating ideas into action on the ground in Lancaster. Thank you to Lititz Chooses Love, F&M Blackbirds, and Nelson Polite Jr. for their partnership!
As our community continues to grapple with challenges from the pandemic, restriction of women’s rights, and the ongoing pursuit of racial justice, we need each other more than ever. Building understanding, shared language, and deeper knowledge around the importance of eliminating racism and empowering women in Lancaster County and beyond will help our entire community to thrive. Through partnership with community organizations and leaders, we can better learn from each other, and build solidarity around our shared future.
YWCA Lancaster, along with other community partners, is preparing to launch our County’s first Racial Equity Profile in fall of 2022, an interactive resource that can help us to better understand not just the obstacles we face as a community, but the rich opportunity available to us when we invest in ways to support all of our residents.
We’re proud to continue to partner with you, community organizations, and local leaders to learn together, and to build a just future.
The following is a column from Stacie Blake first printed in LNP/Lancaster Online on August 14, 2022. Read it on LNP
When I first walked through the doors at YWCA Lancaster on North Lime Street in 2019, I knew immediately that I was part of something bigger than just a building, beautiful as it is.
Something stronger than just a team of dedicated professionals, extraordinary as they are.
Something more than our letters, YWCA, proud as I am to find a strong positive association with our national family of agencies no matter where I go.
It was clear that this organization was both deeply embedded in our community’s history, but also part of its future. And it was not alone.
I have come to work to find a woman in labor right on our couch in the lobby. And I have come to work to find that a resident has passed away in the night, having taken their last breaths in a room here. I see young, single parents juggling three or four children through our doors each morning and safely into child care rooms staffed with caring professionals.
YWCA Lancaster — like so many organizations in Lancaster County — is part of an immense legacy of community care, civic leadership and advocacy for the needs of residents. A legacy that I am honored to continue. The role of this organization and so many others in the social sector is both interwoven with, and supported by, the business and government sectors, and it is intentionally separate. This separation helps us center and support our community’s most important resource: its people.
The social sector includes so much of what keeps our community strong: fraternal organizations, social and recreational organizations, community and private foundations, churches and religious organizations. Our scope as a sector is vast, but we all have a similar foundation, to undertake private action for public good.
Our mission at YWCA Lancaster is simple, but far from easy: We strive to eliminate racism and empower women and promote peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. It’s a mission that is apolitical, as well as universal. It’s a mission that centers our community’s most pressing needs. It’s also a mission that has supporters on all sides of the political spectrum and champions in elected offices at all levels throughout Lancaster County.
Our history is proud. YWCA Lancaster has been here since 1889 with women leading every step of the way. That means that this is, in fact, our second global pandemic. We have been in advocating for women’s empowerment since before women could vote — our organization was the first in Lancaster to offer voter registration and education in 1920, work that continues to this day. We have been steadfast in our work to counter racism since before the rights of Black Americans were codified. We pressed local hotels in Lancaster to allow Black delegates to our regional conference to use their facilities in the mid-1950s. We have been a voice for reproductive justice since before Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973 and will continue to be that voice in its absence.
Our present is active. Last year we reached more than 8,000 Lancaster County residents with services including child care for working parents; counseling and support for victim/survivors of sexual abuse or assault; new career pathways for individuals in transition; training to learn more about equity and bias; support for parents struggling with court involvement with their families and dozens of individuals who reside in our Lime Street building. Every program we offer has a wait list and our list of partner agencies and donors is long.
Our future is just, because it is being built in partnership with you to respond to community needs. For us, that means a future in which victim survivors of abuse can heal from past trauma, and sexual assault is prevented entirely. We are expanding our Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center and adding a private, accessible entrance to better meet the needs we see. It means a future in which residents of our community have access to affordable housing, so we are working to add 16 units of low-income housing right here in our building by repurposing existing space and adding a full-size elevator. You can find examples of these important community responses all across Lancaster County, powered by our social sector.
As we await one of the largest investments in our community in recent history through the American Rescue Plan, our community has a profound opportunity to create lasting and just change if we focus on the needs of the most marginalized and leverage the unique power of the social sector to address these needs.
This is a future we all should want, because it’s a future bigger than ourselves. We center eliminating racism and empowering women — just as it says on the side of our building — because if we do this everyone will prosper, and our community’s future will be just.
I am proud to be part of YWCA Lancaster’s mission: a call that has endured for decades, and one that will continue until the mission is met. And, as I learned when I first started, we are not alone. I am proud to be in community with so many other local organizations working for emergent causes, and leaders of all levels who are working to make positive change. We value our community — our people — and will not stop advocating for their needs, or for their voice to be heard, to build a just future together.
At YWCA Lancaster, our mission of eliminating racism and empowering women is more vital than ever. We’re thankful to have an incredible community behind us–from organizations to corporations, individuals to elected officials from all parties– who want to join together to meet our mission!
We are proud to update our community on some important recent investments in our programming: these grants, donations, and contract renewals help us to continue to meet the needs Lancaster County, in all parts of the county, and in so many areas of residents’ lives. Whether it’s childcare, counseling, career development, parent empowerment, or community building, YWCA Lancaster is proud to join with you in promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all.
Black Artist Waystation was conceived to increase the visibility and support of Black Artists in the Lancaster community. Through the program, our aim is to be a catalyst for artists who create works that define the movement toward freedom and recognize the many efforts that brought us to this moment. Details about the 2022-3 program will be available soon!
We’re also partnering with the Touchstone Foundation to implement the Healthy Relationship Project: a researched-based, trauma-informed, and age-appropriate child sexual abuse prevention curriculum created by Prevent Child Abuse Vermont!
The mission of YWCA Lancaster has not changed since the 70’s and remains, to eliminate racism, empower women and promote peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all. We’re proud to partner with community members, elected officials, leaders, organizations, and businesses to help make that mission a reality.
Since 1889, since before women had the right to vote, since before the equal rights for Black Americans were codified, and through two global pandemics we have remained steadfast in our service to community. We have been in this community for more than 130 years, and continually adapt to meet community needs until our mission is met.