My connection to the YWCA in Minot, ND began six or seven years ago. I was serving on a child care committee at Minot State University, where I am a professor in the Social Work program. We were studying the issue of child care in the hope that (at last) we would be able to successfully have a child care program at the university. At the end of the year, the only conclusion that had been drawn is that there was not sufficient support to move ahead on our own. The situation continued to worsen, as the wait for child care grew longer still.
We then brought together a number of community partners, such as the agency responsible for child care licensing, the Child Care Information and Referral Center, a church or two that had child care in their facility, and the director of the YWCA. MSU and these partners worked for several years, moving toward a possible site, which then became unavailable, at about the same time that the largest child care facility in Minot closed. The need for child care became even more critical.
As we worked with these community partners, the one place that stayed focused on the problem, and continued to actively seek a solution, was the YWCA. The provision of quality child care not only does not make a profit, but is a financial drain on whoever hosts the program. The University backed away from hosting, citing lack of funding. The YWCA continued to move forward. At some point, an agreement was reached whereby MSU would offer the location, and provide outside lawn and snow care, if the YWCA would raise the money to build the building, and to pay ALL expenses related to the program, including utilities, and of course, the high cost of personnel. When I heard this was their proposal, I was very disappointed in the partnership. The YWCA would build a building that would belong to the University, and pay all the expenses of the program? Not a very equal partnership, in my mind.
But the YWCA did what women have always done. They moved forward to make it happen, even when the problem was not being attended to by city fathers or state legislators. They have begun a capital drive to raise money for the building, but they didn’t stop there. They opened a child care center at another location in the meantime, which they are managing without MSU as a partner. I have long admired how women find the resources to make happen what they have been told cannot happen, and the YWCA in Minot is a shining example of that.
But that was not enough. On top of all the programs the YWCA already has in place, they saw an immediate need for housing for homeless women and children. While everyone outside our state has heard how rich ND is, and how well we are doing, they are only looking at the dollars being brought into the state through energy development, and the high wages being paid to oil workers. The reality for single women and their children is that their wages for women have not gone up at all, but the rent they pay has sometimes doubled or tripled, as the oil company employees pay exorbitant prices for housing. There is now an even bigger problem with homelessness for single women and their children in Minot than there is across our country. The YWCA didn’t talk about the problem. They are opening up a shelter in response.
I cannot say enough about the positive impact the YWCA has on women and children in our community. But the value of what they do far exceeds the programs they run. The empowerment they give to women builds strength in every woman they serve.