Program Participant Spotlight: Amber From THP

Program Participant Spotlight: Amber From THP

For the first time in a long time, Amber is feeling optimistic about life and what her future holds.  “I’ve never felt so empowered before in my whole life as I do now. When you’re a mom you’re on top of the world, but they (your kids) grow up. I needed to find me. The YWCA empowered me to do that again.”

Amber came to the YWCA’s Transitional Housing Program (THP) in June 2019 after her time in a rehabilitation center recovering from a stroke. Her goals upon entering the program were to continue her physical and emotional healing, maintain her recovery, get a job, find permanent housing, and reunite with her son who stayed with family while she healed and got her life back on track.

Amber YWCA THP Participant“I just feel this sense of growth,” says Amber. “Growing as an individual, focusing on myself, and having a safe place to do that has been a big deal.” Amber credits the staff with helping her to maintain stability and overcome barriers that prevented her from previously being independent and self-sufficient.

According to THP Manager, Shimeca Wilson, women in the program are given hope and the opportunity to build their personal capacity through individualized case management and life skills training.

Using a self-sufficiency matrix assessment and measurement tool, Amber worked in partnership with staff to develop a plan to help her achieve her goals. Amber’s plan spanned several domains, from well-being to financial management,  employment, and housing. Achieving success in each of these domains ultimately will help Amber move from in-crisis to stability to thriving.

Today, Amber is working and has been approved for independent housing. She continues to focus on herself attending recovery support groups and meeting regularly with staff who believe that her resilience, determination, and personal power helped Amber to change her circumstances and lead the life she was meant to live.

February 2021 Member of the Month: Geno Toloczko

YWCA member of the month Geno Toloczko

Meet Geno! ⁠

According to long-time fitness member, Geno Toloczko, “the water is the best thing for you.” Geno was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1990 and in 2005 after retiring from UPS he found a program at the YWCA that was being offered in partnership with the MS Society. He joined the program and never looked back. ⁠

Geno is back in the pool three days a week after the facility was closed due to renovations and COVID-19. ⁠

“The low impact of the water and just being able to come and swim makes a huge difference both mentally and physically,” said Geno. He’s glad that he’s back to doing something good for body. According to Geno, he has “everything he needs at the YWCA” from the water in the pool being the right temperature to friendly and conscientious staff who are doing everything they can to keep members safe and healthy. ⁠

YWCA Remote Learning Site

YWCA Remote Learning teacher and student

The YWCA began operation of its Remote Learning Program in mid-November to help alleviate the strain felt by families juggling work, COVID-19 concerns, and helping their kids get a good education.

The program serves 26 students ranging in age from 6 to 12 years from 11 different schools in the city of Worcester.

 

“We’re able to provide a safe place for children to learn while parents work,” says Cindy Landry school age program director.

 

Children arrive at 8 a.m. and receive a healthy breakfast before logging into school via their Chromebook and classes are in session until approximately 3 pm. The YWCA partners with Friendly House to provide children with healthy meals, milk, and juice daily, so children receive breakfast, lunch, and snacks at no charge for families.

 

YWCA staff support children throughout their remote learning time, from logging onto a Zoom session to helping a child solve a math word problem.  When the school day is over, they facilitate fun activities including arts and crafts, STEM activities, cooking, reading, and outdoor play.

 

Our Site Coordinator, Miss Debbie, has been a great support to the younger children.  She helps children on assignments, provides encouragement throughout the day, and is a great role model.  Debbie has also developed positive relationships with parents, reviewing schedule changes or special assignments that need to be completed that day with parents when they drop off their children. She ensures school work is completed each day on time.  When problems or questions arise during the day, we are able to communicate with both the teachers and parents.

Parents are very appreciative that there is a program for their children to come to for remote learning.  One parent was in tears on the first day when she dropped her children off.  She was so grateful that there was a safe place for her children to be while she worked.

 

Before the program was available, she had been forced to leave her two children at home while she went to work.  She called them every hour from work to check in.  Now she can go to work assured that her children are safe and doing their school work with the support of trusted staff.

 

One of our new parents had been out of work since the pandemic began.  She lost her job because she wasn’t able to find anyone to stay home with her child when the school closed and remote learning began. Within one week of her child starting at the program, she found a job, and is so happy to be back in the workforce.  Now she is able to make ends meet and reduce the financial burden she has been under while unemployed.

 

The program operates with strict cleaning, hygiene, and physical distancing protocols in place to prevent COVID-19 exposure.  Children are seated six feet apart and practice social distancing during activities.  Everyone is prescreened upon entry to the program each day to ensure they are healthy.  Materials are sanitized throughout the day and the staff and children wear facemasks to reduce the risk of possible exposure.

 

Overall, the program has been very successful.  Currently, we are fully enrolled and have a waitlist of people who want to enroll their children.  Enrolled families are grateful to have a safe place to send their children while they are working.

YW Staff Profile: Deryck Roberts

Deryck Roberts

YW Staff Profile: Deryck Roberts

 

Job Title:

Fitness Coordinator

 

Where did you attend school / what did you study?

I graduated from Becker College with a degree in Business and a concentration in Sports Management.

 

How long worked at the YW:

One month

 

What are your favorite workouts or fitness routine?

Leg workouts and running on the treadmill before I workout.

 

What song empowers you?

Any Jay-z song

 

What is your favorite part about the Fitness Center?

I love that the fitness facility is newly renovated and ready for workouts.

 

Who inspires you?

My mother, brother, and sisters.

 

What’s your favorite quote?

“I walk into every room as myself. I don’t walk in any room as anyone else. I’m not cowering, I’m not speaking soft, my voice doesn’t change – it sounds exactly the same way. I’m walking as myself and proud and I speak for us and that gives me a joy.” Jay-z

 

What advice do you want to share with your peers about being a member of the YWCA family?

The YWCA brings a family feel. We really concentrate on the connection between everyone- whether you’re an employee or a member.

 

What does the YWCA mean to you?

The YWCA, to me, means opportunity. A place where you can really explore who you are, who you want to be.

 

YW Staff Profile: Alfee Westgroves

YW Staff Profile: Alfee Westgroves

 

Job Title:

Women’s Health Specialist

 

Where did you attend school / what did you study?

I have a Bachelor’s in Psychology from Worcester State University.

 

How long worked at the YW:

 2 years

 

What are your favorite workouts or fitness routine?

I have earned a green belt in Tang Soo Do karate. I also love to dance and think Zumba is a great workout.

 

What song empowers you?

The first half of the Hamilton Soundtrack or some 80s jam.

 

What is your favorite part about the Fitness Center?

 There’s something for my whole family.

 

Who inspires you?

Beyoncé has amazing movement and stamina.

 

What’s your favorite quote?

“Get in the way and get in good trouble, necessary trouble…seek justice for all.”- John Lewis

 

What advice do you want to share with your peers about being a member of the YWCA family?

It means a lot to me to feel so supported as an employee and an individual. It feels awesome to be able to follow my passion at work every day.

 

What does the YWCA mean to you?

A place where I can do work I truly believe in, where I know my work empowers others and helps better the community.

 

YW Staff Profile: John Dwinell

John Dwinell

YW Staff Profile: John Dwinell

Job Title:

Aquatics Coordinator

Where did you attend school / what did you study?

Worcester State College and UMass Amherst

How long have worked at the YW?:

4 years

What are your favorite workouts or fitness routine?

  • Swimming
  • 200 yards of kicking with fins warm up
  • 200 yards Breast Stroke
  • 200 yards Side Stroke
  • 200 yards of Flutter Kick w/board
  •  Underwater swim

What song empowers you?

  • Cum On Feel The Noize-Quiet Riot
  • American Storm-Bob Segar
  • Under Pressure-Queen
  • Toes-Zac Brown Band

What is your favorite part about the Fitness Center?

The new facility is a breath of fresh air for the Strength and Cardio area of the YWCA. The new equipment is easy to use and understand and there is something here for all fitness levels. Having a new floor and lighting as well as having the ability to control the temperature of the Fitness Studios is a huge plus.

Who inspires you?

My mother and father. They were both great influences on my life. Both were people who enjoyed the outdoors and brought us exploring. They could make the most out of simple things. Both of them gave their children a love for nature as well as instilling a passion to help others through civic duty.

What is your favorite quote?

“The impossible missions are the only ones which succeed” Captain Jacques Yves Cousteau

What advice do you want to share with your peers about being a member of the YWCA family?

Enjoy every minute of it. Without knowing, you are making a difference in the lives of others.

What does the YWCA mean to you?

Community- working with others for a greater good. A chance to pass knowledge on to others be it working with my peers or in the pool teaching swimming and lifeguarding. Through the working with others, I find myself becoming a better person.

YW Staff Profile: Jermoh Kamara

Jermoh Kamara

YW Staff Profile: Jermoh Kamara

Job Title:

Director, Wellness and Health Equity

How long worked at the YW?:

Started September 8th, 2020

Where did you attend school / what did you study?

Providence College- BS in Health Policy and Management; BA in Community Health

New York Medical College – Master’s in Public Health; Certified Health Education Specialist

What are your favorite workouts or fitness routine?

I enjoy strength and intense workouts so my favorite workouts are Snatches and deadlift.

What song empowers you?

Any African or Caribbean music that comes on Pandora.

What is your favorite part about the Fitness Center?

Our staff does an exceptional job at cleaning as it pertains to the COVID regulation for gyms. The fitness facility close for two hours during the day to deep clean so that it is safe for our members. We want members to know that we are on top of cleaning so that they can feel comfortable to come in to use our facility.

Who inspires you?

Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, and the Dalai Lama.

What’s your favorite quote?

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” ― Marianne Williamson

What advice do you want to share with your peers about being a member of the YWCA family?

There is nowhere else that I can think of to start up with your fitness goals other than the YWCA. A membership at the YWCA grants access to our new fitness facility, group classes, and our pool. What we offer is exceptional and our affordable prices cannot be compared especially with our location being in the heart of downtown Worcester. It is the place to include in your everyday plans for nurturing a healthy lifestyle.

 What does the YWCA mean to you?

I am excited about the role I am in because I look forward to making the YWCA a home away from home. From the programs and services we offer, to the people I work with, and the members that come to the YWCA to use the wellness facility, I want everyone to feel at home when they come to the YWCA.

Young Parents Program Holiday Party

Young Parents Program Holiday Party

Smiles filled the room as YWCA Central Massachusetts’ Young Parents Program members gathered on December 12 for their annual holiday.  Each mother was gifted a variety of gifts to bring home for their children. Gifts were donated by several members of the Worcester community including our friends from the Department of Early Education and Care.

The Young Parents Program supports pregnant and parenting teens between the ages of 14 and 24 as they navigate motherhood and continue their educational journey. The program offers childcare, case management, life and parenting skills training, job search assistance, career exploration while they prepare for the HiSET.

The Young Parents Program is always in need of volunteers, supplies and technology donations. To give, please contact the YPP Director at 508-767-2505, ext. 3073 or email her at jdiaz@ywcacm.org.