What the YWCA Means to Me
Take a few moments to read real-life testimonials from our program participants below.
The Bell Family, Childcare
"To our family, the YWCA means a safe, nurturing place where my children can learn, grow, create and make new friends. The YWCA has prepared my children for school. They have been encouraged to try new things and apply the skills they have been taught. They have made new friends, learned to swim as well as many other countless skills they will take with them for the rest of their lives. The teachers at the YWCA express their passion for early childhood education through my children every day. The YWCA has been and will continue to be an important part of our family."
Jean O., Fluid Recovery
"Thank you to the YWCA, Pretty in Pink Foundation and Lori Manship for the wonderful Fluid Recovery Program. This has been a terrific, rewarding experience for me. The benefits have been exceptional mentally and physically. Some days I was tired and thought about not attending, but felt so much better and energized after participating in the class. The water aerobics were fun and so beneficial. The exercises are easier in the water. The water resistance strengthens the muscles effectively. I hated to see the hour end. Lori is awesome, encouraging and supportive; she always mixed things up and didn’t use the same exercises over and over. I had never tried pilates before and was pleasantly surprised how enjoyable Lori made the session. The stretching exercises are very beneficial, I even do them at home! The aerobics and pilates programs are a wonderful idea, it brings together remarkable women at a very vulnerable time in their lives. The sharing and support the women receive from each other and Lori has been a rewarding experience. I wish it didn’t have to end. I hope the program will continue so others can have a tremendous experience.Thank you to everyone who made this journey possible. Lori you are amazing. Your warmth, knowledge and support are a true gift!"Sue R., Fluid Recovery
"Thank you so much for the Fluid Recovery Program at the YWCA for breast cancer survivors. When I saw the article in the paper, I was immediately interested, not because I have lost range of motion or have been debilitated physically by my diagnosis, but because I have been looking for a way to become more physically active and this seemed to motivate me. I have enjoyed these classes and especially this group of women—we have really formed a common bond. Lori’s style of encouragement without pushing us to exhaustion is perfect for this group. I personally have seen my flexibility improve over the course of these classes, I’ve even lost weight! Several of us in this original class have asked to continue on in the new sessions if there is room as we have found this class so physically and mentally beneficial. This is definitely a worthwhile program and I hope it will continue to be funded for the community to give other women the same opportunity and experience I have been so lucky to have."Jeannie L., Water Aerobics
"The YWCA Water Aerobics Program is wonderful. It has challenged me, yet allowed me to work around health or physical injuries I may have had. The instructors have always been caring and compassionate. When I first began working out, I never thought I could have become as dedicated to exercise as I have become. It’s been over 2 years now and I can’t ever imagine not doing it."Linda E., New Choices
"I am a past participant of the New Choices for Displaced Homemakers program at the YWCA’s Resource Center. This program offers career counseling and tuition assistance for residents in New Hanover, Brunswick and Pender Counties.
I was a recently divorced 43-year old mother of four making minimum wage, receiving erratic child support and struggling to get by, when I came to the YWCA in 1993. I was on the verge of losing it all and living on the streets; but like so many single parents, I did have a dream. I wanted to go back to school and get a decent job, something better than minimum wage so I could support my children and get them an education too.
I had taken some basic courses here and there at Cape Fear Community College towards a nursing degree, but now there was no way I could afford to continue that dream. Classes are very expensive, books are over $100 apiece, and even the required Nursing Student uniforms were out of my price range. I wanted to get myself and my children out of the cycle of poverty, but hadn’t a clue how to do it on my own.
When I talked to my divorce lawyer about this, he discouraged me further, saying it was not practical, and advised me to go on welfare because I could barely afford to pay for food, let alone an education. (Of course, he also charged me for this great advice.) I had hit bottom—I had a broken furnace, a broken car, and worst of all, a broken spirit. Maybe I should just get an additional minimum wage job to try to make ends meet.
Then I heard about the YWCA and the New Choices program for displaced homemakers, and it was a huge answer to my prayers. I met with Lois Steele and her program staff, a group of people I called my “Crazy Angels,” and together we worked out a plan for me to work fulltime as a Certified Nursing Assistant on weekend nights while also going to school full-time during the weekdays. I learned how to pull myself out of the black hole of self pity and into self-sufficiency through education and just plain old hard work.
The New Choices staff was with me all the way, provided money for education, books, and uniforms, but more importantly they encouraged, prodded and pushed me towards my goal and sympathetically dried my tears along the way. They taught me to stop blaming my past for my circumstances and concentrate on what it would take for me to move into a better future. In return for their help, I was to keep my grades up, stay in school, and meet with them every 2 weeks to discuss my problems and progress.
They made me keep going no matter what. It’s not like it was easy – we ate countless meals of eggs, peanut butter and macaroni-cheese; we didn’t have the luxury of cable TV, health insurance, or fresh vegetables. The Crazy Angels told me to hang in there, things would get better. My older daughter couldn’t dress in the cool fashions. I remember getting angry with one of my girls because she had colored her NEW tennis shoes with black magic marker—she said the other middle school kids had made fun of her shoes because they weren’t “brand name,” and she wanted her shoes to look more like theirs. The Crazy Angels told me that my kids and I would be stronger for this. My son couldn’t go out for football because I couldn’t afford to buy football pads and shoes, let alone transport him back and forth to practices while I was in school. The program told me about the Boys Club, where he could go after school, do supervised homework, and participate in sports like wrestling and basketball.
I remember sitting in class on Monday mornings, listening to my 20-something classmates talk of how tired they were from their weekend of partying, while I was tired from just having worked my three 12-hour night shifts at the hospital. The New Choices staff told me that feeling sorry for myself was self-destructive and a waste of my energy. No matter what I would come up with, they had advice and encouragement to stick with it.
One day about halfway through nursing school, I walked into Lois Steele’s office and said I was just going to have to quit – my 16 year old daughter was three months pregnant. Lois listened, gave me about a half a box of Kleenex, and reminded me that my quitting wasn’t going to solve anything; that my education AND my daughter’s was now more important than ever. They encouraged me day in and day out, until I graduated as a Registered Nurse, with honors. And who was in the audience on graduation day? My entire family, including my new granddaughter, and of course, the Crazy Angels.
My first job was on the medical-surgical wing at Brunswick Community Hospital for a year, then I worked in the Emergency Room at that hospital for another four years. I then transferred to the naval hospital at Camp LeJeune, where I’ve been an ER nurse for the past six years. I still love what I do. Maybe the ups and downs of my life have been the perfect preparation for working in an Emergency Room.
My four children have all had college educations – my oldest, who couldn’t wear cool clothes, now dresses in business suits because she travels all over the country with her own corporate event-planning business. My second daughter, who was teased for coloring her shoes in middle school, received her Masters Degree and is now a middle school vice-principal. The daughter with the baby is manager of a retail store -- the “baby” is a 12-year-old straight A student and cheerleader at Murray Middle. My son was a state champion high school wrestler, and is now chef and manager at Henry’s Restaurant here in town. Life is so good!
I don’t know how my life would have turned out without the YWCA’s New Choices program, but I doubt I would now have a good job, and I doubt I would have been able to help my kids go through college, when a few short years ago I was wondering how to feed them dinner.
We were talking about growing up the other night, and my son said to me, “Mom, why don’t you ever make that tuna-noodle casserole you used to make – you know, the one with the tuna, canned peas, and macaroni-cheese? When we were kids we used to have it two or three times week, and I really liked it. Now you never make it!”
I just looked at him and said, “Johnny, I made it so often because I could make a whole meal for about a dollar – it was all I could afford. I HATE tuna casserole!”
This is why the program is called New Choices – they give people a choice for a better life, a different life than the one they have now. I got to choose to get an education, to break that downward spiral, to help my kids through college. I even got to choose to never eat tuna-noodle casserole ever again.
I owe the YWCA program everything for getting me here. Thank you YWCA, thank you New Choices Program and thank YOU, each of you who are here today to helps these Crazy Angels!"