For Myra Henry, the YWCA’s mission is clear.
“We will not stop until everyone sees women, girls and people of color the way we do: Equal. Powerful. Unstoppable,” says the CEO of YWCA Rochester & Monroe County.
Henry was among 70 elected officials and community leaders from New York who were invited to the White House this month, as part of the Biden-Harris administration’s “Communities in Action” event series.
The series showcases voices in states across the nation. For a half-day, state leaders share the ways the administration supports efforts to build a better America. Eventually, the series is expected to feature all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the territories, and tribal communities. The Rochester contingent included Monroe County Executive Adam Bello and Mayor Malik Evans. The forum featuring New York was the 24th in the series.
“YWCA of Rochester and Monroe County’s work in housing, addiction recovery and community engagement is directly impacted by the policies and funding from the federal, state and local levels,” Henry notes. “It is important to be in the room to celebrate investments by the Biden-Harris administration that have truly lifted the lives of the women and families we serve as well as highlight areas that still need federal dollars to enhance the lives of some of our most vulnerable neighbors.”
Henry was joined by Stephanie Stevens, president of the YWCAs of New York State and executive director of YWCA of Westfield, and Dianne Stancato, CEO of YWCA Mohawk Valley. In Rochester and Monroe County, the YWCA’s goal is to empower women to regain control of their lives and get on the path to a healthy, successful future. To that end, the organization provides affordable housing and shelter for women in crisis, including homelessness and teen pregnancy.
Each YWCA leader had the opportunity to bring attention to their own community’s needs in Washington. The series offered access to new resources and connections.
“YWCA’s across the country and around the world provide critical human and social services for women, children and families,” Henry says. “YWCAs of NYS make up 10 percent of our network and as a strong state sisterhood we advocate for access to services, affordable child care and affordable housing among other important issues that impact the lives of women and families in New York State.”
The Rochester Beacon posed a few questions to Henry. Her responses are below.
ROCHESTER BEACON: Why was it important for the YWCA to participate in the Communities in Action series?
MYRA HENRY: YWCA as a movement has worked tirelessly for more than 100 years to amplify the voices of women and our work continues. Participating in the Communities in Action series allowed me the opportunity to hear from White House officials about the critical investments made by the Biden-Harris administration into our communities as well as share along with fellow community leaders on how these investments have impacted the lives of the people we serve. We will not stop until everyone sees women, girls and people of color the way we do: Equal. Powerful. Unstoppable.
ROCHESTER BEACON: The Communities in Action series was established for states to discuss their needs and priorities. What are some of Rochester’s priorities and needs?
HENRY: The Greater Rochester community has benefitted from investments from the Biden-Harris administration through our local officials. However, there is still much work to be done. There is still a tremendous need for safe affordable housing, access to affordable child care and resources to address food insecurity. At YWCA of Rochester and Monroe County, we work with community partners to address many of these issues in an effort to improve the lives of the women and families we serve.
ROCHESTER BEACON: As you met other delegates from New York, what were some of the conversations that struck you?
HENRY: It really was amazing to see community leaders from various sectors such as human services, housing, veterans affairs, local government and many others in the same room advocating on behalf of their communities and at the same time showing support for other worthy causes.
ROCHESTER BEACON: How would you like the conversations (as part of the initiative) to inform our region’s next steps?
HENRY: A lot of connections were made during this meeting. Although there was time to network, there should be a concerted effort made to continue to highlight the investments made into communities with report-outs and opportunities to connect across state lines to hear from others with regard to how they have used the investments to impact lives.
Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected].