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REVEAL: Meet the 2023 Women of Achievement Honorees!

YWCA Lancaster is thrilled to present the 2023 Women of Achievement Honorees!

Each year since 2016, YWCA Lancaster has uplifted the inspiring work of female-identifying community members through the Women of Achievement Awards to celebrate leaders, mentors, and volunteers who embody our mission of eliminating racism and empowering women. All proceeds from the event support YWCA Lancaster’s Kepler Hall Residence Program, the County’s longest running affordable housing program.

This year’s nomination process was the biggest and most competitive yet, and we’re so excited to share with you the incredible work of the 2023 Women of Achievement Honorees.

The 2023 Women of Achievement Honorees:


Chelsea Christmas (she/her)

At Her Core Fitness

Chelsea Christmas hails from Lancaster, PA born and raised. She comes from a big family of strong men and women and she am 1 of 5 girls. Chelsea’s purpose and passion has always been to bring women together through health and wellness. She has seen first hand through seasons of pain and uncertainty the importance of turning to health and wellness as a way to cope. Chelsea learned that caring for herself was not selfish, it is her responsibility. She learned that healing is available in healthy communities, that her body can do hard things, and that her mind can tell a new story that leads to hope. When Chelsea connects with the women of AHC she sees herself in each of them and is reminded that purpose can curate the space for other women to start their work toward being healthy, happy, and whole.

Chelsea wants women to walk into spaces they know they will be accepted in; her expertise is in empowering and encouraging the sister next to her to be all that she can be. She believes that when THEY win, we all WIN!

Cindy Lam Guo (she/her)

Silantra Asian Street Kitchen

Cindy is the co-owner of Silantra Asian Street Kitchen. Since 2015, she has grown her business into three stores, as well as spearheaded relationships with local nonprofits, making impactful contributions to the community. Through these partnerships, she have donated $35,000 in funds, along with over 3000 pounds of food and more than 1000 articles of clothing and supplies.

In January 2023, Cindy co-led the very first public Lunar New Year celebration in Lancaster City, and is the chair of AAPI Lancaster. Above all, Cindy wants to foster unity within the Asian community and secure recognition for its strength, and over the last 8 years, she have been and will continue to be deeply committed to utilizing her business as a catalyst for positive change for what is right and just. She has two children, Xander and Charlotte, who are her motivation. It is crucial to Cindy that future generations feel a sense of belonging, free from racism, and be proud to celebrate and share their culture.

Stephanie Thomas (she/her)

Speak to My Soul / A Concrete Rose

Ms. Stephanie Thomas, serves as Volunteer Coordinator and has previously served as Advisor of Speak To My Soul which includes strategic planning, community outreach, marketing and creative ideas. An alumnus of JP McCaskey High School for her secondary education, she has served the past 20 years as an Office Assistant with the School District of Lancaster, and held positions and posts within numerous community organizations throughout her time with the District.

A servant at heart, Ms. Thomas is fondly known in the community for capturing the heart of the audience with her powerful original written spoken word/poetry leaving the audience impacted, empowered, their thoughts provoked and their lives transformed.  She writes for, orates and performs at various events throughout Lancaster, Chester, Berks County and across state lines. She serves as an advocate publicly and privately.  She serves as a invisible scribe, lyrical wordsmith and human pen to write on behalf of those who need assistance releasing communication in writing and/or orally.

Ms. Thomas is the mother of Evita Colon (CEO/Visionary/Founder of Speak To My Soul, Co-Founder of A Concrete Rose, Founder/Editor In Chief of BLK Voices Magazine and City of Lancaster’s 1st Poet Laureate), Tatiyana A. Colon, Silvan J. Hernandez Jr., and Mimi AKA Grandmother to Dominic “DJ” Jajua Jr.

Savannah Thorpe (she/her)

Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Caucus

Savannah “Sav” Thorpe is a biracial Black lady from Lancaster, PA and leader in progressive political communications. Sav has spent her political career harnessing the power of shared values and stories to build a grassroots movement in her home of south-central Pennsylvania. She is currently the press secretary for the PA Senate Democratic Caucus; previously, she worked on the campaigns of Izzy Smith-Wade-El for HD-49, Elizabeth Warren for President, Jess King for Congress, and a number of municipal races in PA. In addition to being a communications practitioner, Sav is also a communications educator regularly contracted to conduct workshops with LEAD-PA, Movement School, and University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy & Practice. Sav graduated Summa from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 2016 with a B.A. in Writing and a B.A. in Economics. She lives with her fiancé Jordan and their two cats Lucille and Wilco in downtown Lancaster, where she tends to her gardens.

Jayden Stokes (she/her)

George Washington University

Jayden Stokes is a rising Sophomore at The George Washington University, pursuing a dual major in Sociology and Marketing. With a passion for fostering campus spirit and maintaining the esteemed reputation of George Washington University, Jayden currently serves as a dedicated Student Coordinator for the university’s Events and Marketing Team.

Jayden’s journey began in Montreal Canada where she lived until she moved to Lancaster County at the age of 10. She attended school in Lancaster City until moving to Conestoga Valley for high school, where she graduated in 2022. During her time there, she made a lasting impact by founding and serving as the former President of two influential organizations, namely the PoWER (People Welcoming and Empowering Race) Club and the Women’s Liberation Alliance (WLA). Recognizing the need for inclusive spaces, Jayden took the initiative to create environments that empowered not only herself but also those around her.

In the face of unprecedented challenges posed by the pandemic, Jayden demonstrated her resourcefulness by implementing an African American Studies course at her high school—a groundbreaking achievement for Lancaster County, and served as a catalyst for cultural education and awareness during a time of significant change. Jayden’s unwavering commitment to cultivating safe and inclusive spaces has become the driving force behind her life’s work. Her dedication to fostering a sense of belonging and effecting positive transformations remains the cornerstone of her journey.

Join us on October 12 for the Women of Achievement Awards Ceremony!


ADA Awareness and Action

Guest blog from Elana Rosen-Kinn, YWCA Lancaster team member and disability rights activist

Let’s talk about disabilities and laws!

Understanding the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) laws and how to advocate was key to understanding more about where challenges here in Lancaster are and stem from. In our recent Listen Learn & Lead session, “ADA Laws and Advocacy: What Can We Do?”, we joined together to discuss the ADA laws in depth to understand what each Title means, how it shows up in our everyday lives, and how to advocate for more accessible spaces in our community.

The Titles

The ADA is divided into five titles (or sections) that relate to different areas of public life. Here’s a quick rundown of what each Title covers:

Title 1 refers to employers and the obligations employers and religious organizations with more than 15 employees have to accommodate individuals with disabilities.  It also discusses what employers can and cannot do.

Title 2 relates to all state and local governments.  It requires all programs, activities, and services to be completely accessible or an alternative solution must be found, and also refers to requirements for transportation that any public transportation including Amtrak must have accessibility.

Title 3 covers private business that provide public accommodations such as testing facilities, factories, doctor offices, zoos, funeral homes, warehouses, and other private companies.  They are required to ensure that everyone is included and there is no segregation.  Also, buildings must be accessible so long as it does not inhibit health and safety. Testing facilities must have accessibility or provide alternate location.

Title 4 relates to relay services and other communication aspects.  It requires telephone and television to have relay and closed captioning. It also mandates for TTY or TDD services.

Title 5 covers miscellaneous provisions.

Advocating for Accessibility

Like all groups, the disability community is not a monolith, and while advocacy is needed, the approach should be tailored to each individual’s needs. To get us started, we looked at a few different disabilities and discussed to dos and donts for working with them, as well as some general norms for how to approach disability advocacy, such as:

  • Never assume, always ask if they need or want help
  • Do not talk down to an individual
  • Be inclusive, include them in the conversation
  • Be patient
  • Always remain calm
  • Talk in a clear, concise manner using simple speech

We then took a deeper dive into specific disabilities, and looked at how to advocate for the deaf/ hard of hearing, seizures, and cognitive/ intellectual delay, and mental health.

We also had some general advocacy that is good for all individuals with disabilities. We concluded with how do we advocate in our cities and states.

It was an awesome time with people asking questions and sharing thoughts.  Overall conclusions were that Lancaster, and the state of Pennsylvania, can do a better job of providing inclusion and equality for people with disabilities, and our community can help lead that movement together.

Download the full slide deck:

3 Questions with: Tess Feiler

Welcome to 3 Big Questions, a new series where we uplift the voices and insight of our team!

This month’s 3BQ features Tess Feiler (they/she), our Equity Training Coordinator with our Center for Racial and Gender Equity. Tess is moving on from our team to their next adventure, will continue to partner with CRGE on antibias and antiracism trainings!

While YWCA Lancaster has been doing antiracism work for generations, you were part of the first generation of the Center for Racial and Gender Equity as it now exists, what do you think adding this center did for our mission?

I think that adding the Center provided a walk for our talk. The Center allowed us to put our values and mission around anti-racism into some serious action. I also think it met community needs as antiracism education was certainly a need for the populations within Lancaster who wanted to get to a more equitable place with their companies and organizations, but lacked the understanding of how to get there.

I believe, more importantly, that the Center also provided accountability for us, internally. How can we be practicing what we preach? It created opportunities for us to take a hard look at ourselves, and I hope that accountability continues to occur and that those opportunities continue to be taken advantage of.

What was something that has really challenged you about your time here, and something that gave you hope?

I don’t know if there were specific things that challenged me here, but maybe a better framing for it is how I was inspired to be a better person, colleague, friend, and co-conspirator.

I was inspired to be accountable and own my mistakes not from a place of shame but from perspective of love and liberation. One should strive to be accountable, in general, but I think especially working in the Center, accountability is necessary to personal and collective liberation.

I also gained a lot of perspective as well as an appreciation for nuance. To honor our beloved “felt, found, feel” activity: I used to feel like doing anti-oppression work was very clear-cut and easily laid out if one would simply follow the instructions. Then, I found out that there is no framework for being in real relationship with people, and that no community is a monolith. Now, I feel that it is important to break out of rigidity (and that those frameworks really only exist to provide an easier experience for those in positions of privilege and NOT how to actually love someone who has experienced harm). I learned how to honor space for nuance, love, and raw human feelings that transcend oppressive systems.

When I ponder on “something that gave [me] hope”, I think of how during dark seasons where I was experiencing a lot of loss and confusion and grief, I saw the power in our need as human beings for community. I felt hope in knowing there was support and that during times where I felt alone- personally and professionally- all I had to do was look around and realize I had people who wanted to support me. So, community. And love. That gave me hope.

What has your time here taught you about what is possible for the future of our community?

I think this is the most frustrating thing to me. How we have SO much capacity in the community of Lancaster- even across non-profits alone if we looked at it that way. We all have so much that we could do if we could own any and all harm we’ve caused, share and listen to what one another needs, identify the barriers and find creative solutions, and combine our resources and platforms to solve the problems…not for our own benefit, but for our collective benefit. Meeting so many leaders and community members across the county through my time here, I see how much potential our county has to do the things we want to see happen. We just have to get out of our own way, listen (REALLY listen) to the needs of the most vulnerable, and do the brave thing.


Learn more about our Center for Racial and Gender Equity

Celebrating the Parent Empowerment Program

Since 2019, YWCA Lancaster has had the honor of partnering with Lancaster County’s Children and Youth Services to provide court-mandated support to parents looking to reunite with their children. Through budget shortfalls, a global pandemic and the structural inequities it exacerbated and more, the dedicated professionals of the Parent Empowerment Program continued to go the extra mile for their clients: following the person-centered care that is vital to ensuring all families can thrive. Throughout its time here, the Parent Empowerment Program has supported more than 500 families in their journey towards remaining intact or being reunited. In the previous year alone, 73 families successfully completed the court-mandated program.

Late last month, YWCA Lancaster learned that the contract for this program has been awarded to another agency moving forward. We are deeply saddened to lose these committed team members, and the decision is no reflection on the quality of work and care that they have provided through their time at YWCA Lancaster. We are working closely with the new agency to ensure that above all, the experience for clients remains uninterrupted and they experience as little uncertainty and confusion as possible.

Mission forward

Since its founding in 1889, YWCA Lancaster has served women, children, and families across Lancaster County. Through generations of social change and progress, we have remained steadfast in responding to emergent community needs, from providing affordable, safe housing, to quality childcare, to the work of helping families stay intact. Our work will continue, as our mission of eliminating racism and empowering women is more important than ever. We are grateful for the community’s trust in this work, for the Parent Empowerment Program team, and for your continued dedication to building a just future in Lancaster County and beyond.

One Year Since Dobbs (YWCA CEO Letter)

Dear YWCA Leader,

Tomorrow, June 24, marks one year since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade, immediately triggering dozens of state abortion bans and restrictions, leading to further and continued bans throughout the country.

With the door opened wide for states to roll back access to abortion care, we have heard—and in many cases witnessed—the direct, dire impact of this decision on women’s lives. Countless stories detail the emotional, physical, and economic impact of taking away women’s—especially young women’s—ability to choose if and when to become a parent.

The deluge of attacks on the fundamental right to seek abortion care continues unabated. Just in the past several weeks, we have seen a fetal heartbeat ban proposed in South Carolina. We have seen the North Carolina legislature override the governor’s veto—which means most abortions are now banned in North Carolina after 12 weeks of pregnancy, instead of being legal up to 20 weeks of pregnancy. We’ve seen continued litigation to eliminate the availability of mifepristone—one of the medications that is used in medication abortions. A decision out of Texas will most certainly make its way to the Supreme Court, with repercussions across the country.

We need to say it out loud: Policies that block access to abortion are deadly, and even more so for women of color and low-income women.

As an organization committed to advancing gender and racial justice, we cannot hide from the very real impacts of these harmful policies—no matter where we live. Nor can we hide from the ripple effect that these attacks have had, and will continue to have, on the rights, safety, education, and opportunities of people of color, transgender people, women, and other marginalized communities. Legislative bans are being placed on gender-affirming care for transgender youth, and in some states, for transgender adults. We continue to see book bans that undermine the ability to teach an inclusive history and to create inclusive schools where every child can learn. Even attacks on no-fault divorce—a critical legal procedure that should be available to any woman, particularly those who need safety from their abusers.

There is deep and powerful connectivity between legislation advanced to restrict voting access, abortion rights, gender-affirming care, immigration, economic support, and other threats to the health, safety, and economic security of women, people of color, and marginalized groups.

At this moment of deep uncertainty in our communities, I invite each of you who are part of the YWCA movement to lend your voice, your leadership, and your community presence to the collective effort to ensure that every woman and person who can become pregnant has full autonomy to make decisions about their reproductive health and lives.

On Saturday, YWCA USA Board Chair Pia Wilson-Body, Board Vice-Chair Dr. Ann Branan Horak, and I will be in community with the CEOs, Executive Directors, board members, staff, and community partners from our North Carolina YWCAs as Vice President Kamala Harris addresses the nation about the Dobbs decision, access to abortion, and the future of reproductive justice. At the same time, organizations all across the country will be holding marches and rallies in solidarity and community with one another.

This is a moment to remember what has been taken from us, and to strengthen our resolve to defend these rights, protect our communities, and create a world in which all women, girls, and marginalized people can thrive. Whether you join virtually on social media (these sample posts can help) or in person at a community event in your area, I invite each of you to join with us in this moment of solidarity, community, and renewed commitment.

With gratitude,

Margaret Mitchell,


Take ACTION! Support victim survivors in PA

YWCA Lancaster, in collaboration with its statewide partner agencies Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR), CHILD USAdvocacy, and SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) is urging our community to take action on June 15 to send a message of support for a statute of limitations 2-year window to your elected representatives and Governor Shapiro!

Two important bills recently passed by the House–HB1 and HB2–pass a revival window for civil child sexual abuse claims. The PA State House has passed HB2, which is a 2-year legislative window, and HB1, which is a 2-year window via constitutional amendment.

The Senate passed SB1, which bundled the window with two other unrelated constitutional amendments. Our coalition believes that supporting victim survivors should be free of unrelated policies, and is advocating for a stand-alone window — preferably the legislative version (HB2), but we will also support the constitutional amendment if that is the vehicle (HB1).

We believe that victim survivors should always believed, regardless of how long ago trauma may have occurred. However, we must also take every opportunity to provide additional support for those impacted by sexual assault.

So pick up your phone on June 15 from 9am – 4pm, invite your friends, coworkers, neighbors and more to add your support a 2 year statute of limitations for victim survivors!

Here’s how to take action:

Find your representative

Use this tool to find which legislators you should contact

Check out the script

Use this script to speak with the offices of your legislators and Governor!

So, what now?

POV: you’ve just completed the biggest and longest consecutively run Race Against Racism in the nation on April 29; you’re feeling energized by the cause, excited to be part of such an incredible community, and eager to be part of the work moving forward.

So, what now?

Every day, YWCA Lancaster is proud to partner with you to strengthen the movement to eliminate racism and empower women. There is no one, right way to take action after the Race Against Racism, but here are four ways to continue your journey:

1) Register to vote and get ready to make your voice heard on May 16!

May 1 is the final day to register to vote in the upcoming primary! YWCA Lancaster’s voter education initiative Lancaster Votes is proud to provide ongoing support for anyone who wants to register, find their polling place, and help get the word out about upcoming elections and ballot initiatives.

2) Read the Equity Profile of Lancaster County and get involved in the action group

Earlier this year, YWCA Lancaster in partnership with local organizations launched the Equity Profile of Lancaster County. This first of its kind county-wide deep dive into social inequities has helped fuel the creation of an action team dedicated to raising awareness about the findings of the profile, as well as tackling the opportunities before us to create a more just Lancaster County.

4) Be part of our upcoming Racial Justice Institute

Be part of this unique, interactive, and impactful experience that will provide in-depth grounding for your personal journey towards addressing internalized biases and prejudices, as well as challenging the systems that have socialized them into our every day lives!

4) Join a committee and help shape YWCA Lancaster’s work

Our mission can only succeed if it’s guided by the community. We need your help to shape, inform, and improve our work. We have committees on a range of topic and issue areas, from mission, to finance, to marketing and more!

Thank you again for being part of the work of eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all. We couldn’t do it without you, and while we have a long way to go to build a just future for Lancaster County, we know that with a community as extraordinary as this, a better world is possible.

A new partnership for racial healing in Lancaster

A new partnership for racial healing 

YWCA Lancaster’s Center for Racial and Gender Equity partnered this month with Franklin & Marshall College’s new Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation center to train college house advisers on how to facilitate racial healing circles.

It was an incredible experience to facilitate alongside the folks at the core of the Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Center: Dr. Gretchel Hathaway, F&M’s vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion and YWCA Lancaster board member; Courtnee Jordan-Cox, assistant dean of student affairs and Roschel College House dean; Jorge Mena-Ali, visiting assistant professor of biology, director of faculty diversity initiatives, and Roschel College House don; and Christian Perry, director of diversity, equity and inclusion.

What is a racial healing?

We have been using resources from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, which defines racial healing as “a process that restores individuals and communities to wholeness, repairs the damage caused by racism and transforms societal structures into ones that affirm the inherent value of all people.”

Why is it important?

Racial healing does a few important things. It helps affirm the inherent value of all people, cultivates a culture of belonging, deepens our understanding of one another’s differences; and supports relationship building, trust, authenticity, constructive dialogue, and repairs the damage caused by systemic racism. It builds community.

How can I host a racial healing circle?

If you have a group of folks ready to have a racial healing conversation and you would like to have trained individuals come to facilitate that conversation, you can contact tfeiler@ywcalancaster.org.

Other ways to get involved:


Stories from Taste of Success

On March 24, YWCA Lancaster was honored to join with our community to celebrate the New Choices Career Development Program at Taste of Success: a one of a kind event bringing together inspiring success stories from New Choices, as well as a culinary showdown from Lancaster County Career and Technology students! Thanks to your support, we raised more than $50,000 to support Lancaster County residents in transition!

See stories from the evening

Throughout the night, we shared stories from New Choices students and graduates, demonstrating the immense power we all have as a community to make a change in our career and life path and find success.

Check out the stories below:

Margaret Wolf

Luis Sanchez

Milagro House

Letters from New Choices

Thank you to everyone who attended Taste of Success, and for all those in the community who continue to support our mission of eliminating racism and empowering women. Miss the event but still want to support the work of New Choices?

And get ready for the 25th Race Against Racism on April 29!


REVEAL: Check out this year’s Taste of Success teams!

Taste of Success is a one of a kind culinary showdown celebrating the incredible impact of the New Choices Career Development Program while featuring a delectable food competition with the industry’s future tastemakers from Lancaster County Career and Technology Center!

While our eyes and ears will be taking in inspiring stories of success from New Choices students and graduates, attendees tastebuds will be experiencing sweet and savory creations from six teams of students.

Meet the 2023 Taste of Success competitors:

Savory Teams

Gouda life: Brennan Lyon – Lititz Christian School, Kylee Shirk – Ephrata High School, Justin Arias – Hempfield High School

Big Blue Tonka: Jadyn Sumrall – Hempfield High School, Clark Wagstaff – Penn Manor High School, Ricko Brown – Penn Manor High School

Food Warriors: Violet Seymour, Pequea High School, Evan Ingold, Manheim Central High School, Christian Hess, Solanco High School

Sweet Teams

The Sweet Tarts: Arianys Rodriguez, Hempfield High School, Bradynn Radtke, Hempfield High School, Ellie Smith, Elizabethtown High School

Beach Babes: Jessica Sick, Manheim Central High School, Abigail Ingram, Penn Manor High School, Kailey Dale, Garden Spot High School

Cookies & Cream: Sierra Rowe, McCaskey High School, Ahnaija Heard, McCaskey High School, Azariah Cornish, Manheim Township High School

You can see (and taste!) these teams’ creations on March 24 as we gather together to uplift the incredible impact of the New Choices Career Development Program. Tickets are going fast, so make a reservation today for Taste of Success!