I grew up Catholic at a time when Catholic most emphatically did not mean Christian. Christian meant Martin Luther. Catholic meant the pope. The gap between the two was the size of the Grand Canyon and just as hard to hurdle.
So growing up I never knew anything about the YMCA or the YWCA except that they had Christian in their name and so we didn’t go there. We went to CYO. Our C stood for Catholic and that made all the difference.
It wasn’t till I got to Anchorage that I started becoming familiar with the YWCA. I was invited to be one of the women who would present from her work at the annual Alaska women’s writers event.
Being a writer means living in isolation a lot. Writing is a very solitary occupation. Even if you are working on stories that involve human contact for interviews and information, the final act of putting words on paper is as personal and intimate as it gets. Going to this event meant I actually got to meet other women who did what I did on some level. Whether they wrote fiction, non-fiction, poetry or technical manuals, we all had the moment in common where we are staring at a blank word document and wondering how to start.
So I joined the YWCA only to find out that the little event I was in was just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the work they do for women and young girls here in town. They offer everything from physical fitness classes to finance classes. They have a fly fishing retreat for breast cancer survivors and a self-defense class that teaches physical and verbal forms of self-defense.
But what impressed me the most was the classes offered for women that you just don’t find anywhere else, operated by Women$Finances, which is apparently Alaska’s only SBA designated Women’s Business Center. As I read the titles of the programs offered, I wondered how I’d ever had the nerve to start my own little company without taking them first. I guess ignorance can be bliss as times but it sure doesn’t make for a successful business.
Even the most well dressed among us knows how to jump a car when needed, and we always carry jumper cables for those just in case moments. Alaska women know how to warm a kid up who has been playing in below zero weather long enough to freeze their entire brain without causing undo loss of life or limb. Alaska women know the very best recipe for black bear stew and can ferment whale meat till it is an exquisite delicacy.
But how many of us know our exact financial worth and whether it’s enough to get us through till we die without having to share a bathroom with an entire floor of people in an old age home. Personally, I’d like to have enough to at least get a semi-private. Suddenly these finance courses make a whole lot of sense, don’t they?
Even more impressive is the work the YWCA does with young girls. From programs to encourage young women to get interested in science and technology to programs that empower young ladies, especially at risk young ladies, the YWCA reaches out to every segment of women in our society and tries to give them the tools they need to succeed.
This coming Saturday, the YWCA is presenting Alaska women writers reading from their work at UAA. There will also be two seminars, one on self-publishing and one on poetry. The cost is minimal. The seminars will run from 4:30 to 6:45 PM at the UAA Library Room 302. The reading will be at the UAA Arts Building Auditorium from 7 to 9 PM. If you like what you hear at the reading, the authors will be selling their books during the reception that immediately follows. And best of all, the money you pay to attend goes to support the work that the YWCA does all year round in our community.
As someone who works with at risk youth and sees the needs of so many young women in our society to develop the skills to not just survive, but to thrive, the YWCA is one of the best bangs for my buck that I’m apt to get. So head on over to UAA this Saturday. Enjoy some of the best of Alaska women writers, meet some fascinating people, and support a program that has your daughter’s, wife’s, sister’s, best interests at the heart of all they do.