Tonawanda News

December 26, 2013

Funding shortage

By Michael Regan
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — The YWCA of the Tonawandas has shifted much of its attention over the last several decades to issues related to domestic violence and now holds an expansive array of programs for more than 1,000 individuals and families who often have nowhere else to turn. 

But with the New Year approaching, a hefty funding shortage is forcing members to double down on efforts to make up the gap. 

Leaders of the organization want to emphasize that the shortage will not immediately influence its many programs. In fact, they are seeking to expand them. To do so will required raising an additional $80,000. So far they’ve narrowed down that figure by $15,000 through private and corporate donations, though it won’t be enough to sustain the programs throughout the year. 

“We’re going to look at every single option that we have and see if we can consolidate,” said Jill Townsend, who recently announced she will retire as the organization’s director after 14 years but plans to stay involved. “Cutting programs this time of year, that’s not something we’re willing to do.”

Instead, as it has in the past, the YWCA will turn to the community and will begin looking more at grant options, said the organization’s Board President Barbara Strzyz, who added that some of the group’s funding sources “have not been able to give as much as they have in the past.” 

But with the masses relying on a vast range of services each year — from domestic violence counseling and court-mandated supervision to a food pantry and clothing depot — the group will kick off its push Jan. 15 to come up with the funding with additional details to be announced in the coming weeks.   

“Some of the members of our community have already stepped up,” Strzyz said.

Joyce Santiago, a YWCA member and director of the Chamber of Commerce of the Tonawandas, also cited the organization’s history, with the local chapter celebrating its 100 anniversary this year. 

And while the local YWCA has evolved over that time to reflect what Western New York residents need most, its roots have always been centered on bettering the lives of women and children through education and support, she said, noting that what began as a community center and cafeteria for the poor, moved on to a boarding house for women and now encompasses a slew of programs is deeply embedded in the culture of the Tonawandas.  

“We want to meet the needs of the community, which are always changing,” she said. “And we want to be around for the next round of challenges the community faces.” 

That point was also made clear by Debby Schnitzer, domestic violence coordinator, who said when the holidays roll around the YWCA sees an uptick in women and children seeking helping. 

“There’s an increase in anxiety, an increase in depression,” she said. “They are at a place where they’re being beaten and they’re at a loss. I just can’t even comprehend what would happen to the families in the community if there was no YWCA. We service so many people and we’re not really great at publicizing that because we’re so busy doing it.”