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Nov 2014 Snapshot

As the season turns damp and cold, the walls of YWCA become filled with the joy and warmth of the Holiday Season. We’re gearing up for YWCA’s Holiday Shop – a time when community members can bring the joy of giving to those participating in YWCA’s advocacy services. Gifts of items, cash and time provide a variety of ways to make the holidays brighter for a youth or family in need.

The Clark County CASA Program is seeking volunteer advocates for the new year. If you have ever wanted to make a meaningful impact on a child, read “The Voice of CASA.” 25 year CASA veteran Judy Fortlage shares her insight in this inspiring article.

In this issue, we also reflect on the awareness and advocacy associated with domestic violence and sexual assault. October’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month activities focused on a positive message, “You Can Help.” The community became engaged in new and empowering ways. The Sexual Assault and SafeChoice Domestic Violence Programs had a slew of activities to help victims, survivors, advocates and community members discover the complex issues associated with violence prevention, litigation and education. Generous gifts of service from volunteers, the KMR Foundation, and a number of other donors helped to make October a success for all.

There’s been a lot happening at YWCA Clark County. In addition to what’s highlighted in the newsletter, we’re also pleased to announce the hiring of numerous talented staff.  Welcome Sheryl Thierry, Christine Waldo, Hoda Tabatabaei, Laila Hornli, Amira Trevino and Kate Sacamano to YWCA Clark County!

Nov 2014 Program Highlights

Clark County CASA Program

The Clark County CASA Program is full of activity! CASA is proud to announce that Heidi Hiatt has been given a new title of Volunteer Manager. This promotion gives Heidi the full spectrum of volunteer and intern management around recruitment, hiring, training, retention, tracking and termination. Thank you Heidi for your ongoing hard work and commitment! We’re also pleased to welcome our two newest staff members, Christine Waldo and Sheryl Thierry. Both women were CASA volunteers prior to being hired and now supervise their own team of volunteers. CASA staff are looking forward to attending the Annual State CASA Conference this November in Tacoma, WA where we’ll gain new insight from CASAs around the globe. We are very excited about the launch of our CASA volunteer webpage! Thank you to Heidi Hiatt, Sharon Svec and Sheri Lum for getting this valuable resource up and running. Finally, we saw 24 new Volunteer Advocates swear in this month! Volunteers are crucial to our program and we are eagerly looking for new volunteers for our upcoming training cycle. Please contact email hidden; visit site for full address for information about becoming a child advocate.

WORTH Program

WORTH Program volunteers continue to provide amazing services to incarcerated women serving sentences at the Clark County Jail. We are grateful to Umpqua Bank for highlighting the program at their most recent Bella Voce luncheon – a series of events hosted by the bank that celebrates women readers, hosts the authors they are inspired by, and supports community efforts like WORTH. Umpqua Bank’s Bella Voce group also donated $2,000 to the program which will be used specifically to purchase needed program supplies offered to women participating in the WORTH program. Thank you Bella Voce!

SafeChoice Domestic Violence Program

Thank you to the dedicated volunteers who helped raise awareness about domestic violence this October! Your support helped make the Domestic Violence Awareness Month kickoff event and the Clothesline Project such an amazing success. We couldn’t have done it without you—thank you!

Sexual Assault Program

The Sexual Assault Program is making an impact in Clark County and Statewide. YWCA’s Traci Cole was a co-trainer of the “Where We Live” child sexual assault prevention curriculum in Wenatchee. She shared valuable information with leaders of other community sexual assault programs operating throughout the region.  In addition, we recently participated on a  statewide coordinating committee on sex trafficking, resulting in recommendations for addressing sex trafficking in Washington State. We’ve established several new support groups for sexual assault survivors and their families, including a  group specifically for parents of children who have been sexually assaulted which will begin again November 18th. Please contact Traci for details  at 360-906-9151

YWCA Clark County regularly provides a variety of trainings for first responders and others working to prevent sexual abuse. We provided training  to CRESA 911, Clark Count’s first responders, one on CSEC (Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children) for service providers and community members. In partnership with the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s office, we offered a full day training on sex offenders in the faith community where over twenty faith communities were represented. Community outreach and education remains an important part of the ongoing work we do to support and advocate for sexual assault survivors and their families. Unfortunatelywe are also responding to a record number of hospital calls from victims of sexual assault. We’re grateful for the compassionate work of truly incredible volunteers and staff.

Independent Living Skills Program

In October, ILS collaborated with the SafeChoice Program to host a DVAM event specifically for youth. This super-hero-themed event created a space for the youth to talk about how to recognize unhealthy relationships and what each of us can do and say to be allies to our friends. The ILS team is also spending time supporting the youth and young adults in preparation for secondary education. This is one of the many times throughout the year that we focus on SAT’s, financial aid applications, and identifying the steps each participant can take to prepare for their future in education.

Y’s Care Children’s Program

Y’s Care children and families had a blast at a Halloween carnival held at YWCA. Several moms helped out by making signs and hosting various attractions. We had a fortune teller, fishing, ghost bowling, pin the nose on the jack-o-lantern, mummy wrapping and a spooky maze. At the end we had an ad hoc fashion show so the kids could show off their costumes. We also recently celebrated acceptance into Early Achievers, Washington’s Quality Rating and Improvement System. Participation will provide tools, resources and coaching to improve development and education offered to children and families.

The Joy of Giving

By Rachel Pinsky, Volunteer

We find comfort and cheer among family and friends. We give gifts to show love and friendship. We wish our loved ones a happy new year. Why not reach out to someone in our community—a neighbor, and share some of that cheer and good will with them? Through YWCA Clark County, you can.

YWCA services help people from all walks of life. Many are familiar with our domestic violence program, but did you also know that we provide services for youth in foster care?

Our Independent Living Skills Program (ILS) helps keep foster youth off the streets by helping them define and achieve the future they would like to see for themselves. With the help of ILS, Tavia and her 2-year-old daughter successfully transitioned from foster care to independence. With YWCA’s help, Tavia rents her own home, is now in school and working full time. Her goal is to help other at risk children, “I also want to be there for my daughter, and show her that if you set your mind into something, you can achieve anything.”


Tavia’s strong will along with support from the ILS Program of YWCA helped her achieve work, school, and housing goals.

ILS also helped Amanda, a young mother who switched schools many times due to being moved around in the foster care system. Amanda was an excellent student, however she was unable to transfer all of the credits from her various high schools. To graduate on time, Amanda needed to complete two years worth of work in one year. She was determined and focused to achieve this goal.

Amanda worked extremely hard, while caring for her young child, and completed the school credits needed to graduate on time. Knowing that Amanda did not have the necessary funds, the ILS Program happily purchased her cap and gown. Amanda proudly walked her graduation, received her high school diploma, and continued to make a good life for herself and young daughter.

These stories demonstrate the many barriers that young adults face as they transition from the foster care system.  Large and small barriers prevent them from establishing a stable living situation.  In many cases, a small thing like a cap and gown, or knowing they have somewhere to go when they need help, can make the difference in a young person’s future.

More than one in five youth experience homelessness within a year of leaving foster care.  One third of foster care alumni live at or below the poverty line – three times the national rate.  Many also need mental health services to recover from the trauma of their early years.  Over half the foster care alumni (54.4%) have current mental health problems, compared to 22.1% of the general population.  These young adults need the support and resources that only ILS can provide.

YWCA Clark County Provides Help and Support for Many

YWCA Clark County programs served 11,800 individuals in 2013 including over 160 foster youth. In that same year, our Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program advocated for the health and safety of 883 children. Our SafeChoice Domestic Violence Program answered 15,091 hotline calls, and provided life-saving services and shelter to 793 citizens of Clark County. Hundreds of thousands of Clark County residents benefit from our direct services, community outreach and prevention education programs.

There are many ways that you can reach out to someone in our community and help bring joy to our Clark County neighbors who have struggled, and sought help for a new beginning.

Holiday Shop

Many seeking the services of YWCA are, for one reason or another, unable to experience the joy of giving with loved ones. But, on one special day in December, YWCA is transformed into a fun holiday shop—complete with elves and cookies. Through our Holiday Shop, YWCA participants can shop for free; providing a means to give new gifts and holiday joy to their families.

This joyous day couldn’t happen without community members, organizations, and businesses who donate gifts to the holiday shop year after year. When you are out doing your holiday shopping, think of those served by YWCA. Purchase some new gifts for a family escaping violence, or a youth caught up in the foster care system. To help spread joy through gift giving this holiday, please deliver your in-kind donations to YWCA by Monday, December 15th.

Drop by 3609 Main Street to learn more, or contact Erin Smiley at 360-906-9157 or esmiley@ywcaclarkcounty.org.


Community members are also supported by the services and resources provided by YWCA staff and volunteers. You can help fund these services by donating cash before December 31st. Your donation makes it possible for us to provide the specialized services that assisted Tavia and her daughter as they established a stable and rewarding foundation.

Make a secure online donation today or deliver it to 3609 Main Street, Vancouver, WA.


Every program and department of YWCA utilizes the support of volunteers.  Opportunities range from advocacy to office work and provide flexible time commitments.  Volunteers receive training and support throughout their time with YWCA, so that they may have a rewarding and beneficial experience.

To volunteer at YWCA please contact Nichole Peppers at 360-906-9112 or email hidden; visit site for full address

Addressing Sexual Assault in our Community

by Kai Hill, Program Specialist

For the first time in Clark County, 65 individuals representing more than 20 faith communities came together to participate in an all-day training on Sex Offenders in the Faith Community, led by Cory Jewell Jensen, MS.  The training was provided by YWCA Clark County Sexual Assault Program in conjunction with the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s office and the Center for Behavioral Intervention. Tony Golik, Clark County Prosecuting Attorney, offered opening remarks thanking the attendees and reaffirming the necessity of protecting children in our community. Deputy Prosecutor Luka Vitasovic provided a brief presentation on mandatory reporting.

Co-director of the Center for Behavioral Intervention in Beaverton, Oregon, Cory Jewell Jensen, MS. has over thirty years of experience as a treatment provider working with sex offenders and their families. The daughter of a minister, Cory understands the unique factors that make faith communities and their children particularly vulnerable to predators. She stressed that we are not doing enough to educate our kids. Parents may be comfortable talking about stranger danger, but that is insufficient and even misleading given that more than 90% of kids who report abuse know the offender. That said, we also cannot expect children to protect themselves from the adults who would prey on them.

Cory Jewell-Jensen

Cory Jewell-Jensen

During the month of October, the Sexual Assault Program of YWCA also offered “Where We Live” a 4-week series that engages parents and community members, offering tools for comfortable discussions with kids about healthy sexuality, identifying tactics sex offenders use, and practicing bystander intervention skills. YWCA was recently invited to present the workshop at Bethel Lutheran Community Church in Brush Prairie.

In spite of the tough topic, participants were engaged in the conversation.  New partnerships were envisioned and participants were grateful for the chance to learn in a safe, quiet venue with the support of YWCA staff and volunteers. For more information on the next series of “Where We Live,” or to host a workshop, contact Traci Cole at 360-906-9151 or email hidden; visit site for full address.

Traci Cole is a Sexual Assault Advocate at YWCA and facilitator of the Where We Live workshop.

Traci Cole is a Sexual Assault Advocate at YWCA and facilitator of the Where We Live workshop.

Court Communication

By Stephanie Barr, Interim Director of SafeChoice Program

At our October meeting, the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Task Force had the honor of hosting a panel discussion on domestic violence and the court system with panelists Judge Sonya Langsdorf, DVPC Unit Coordinator Jennifer Nugent, and Vancouver Public Defenders Attorney Christie Emrich.  We began the discussion by asking each member to give a brief introduction of her role in addressing domestic violence in Clark County. Judge Langsdorf emphasized the importance of a judge’s impartiality, while Jennifer Nugent and Christie Emrich expressed the unique perspectives and priorities of prosecuting and defense attorneys. The conversation explored ways to improve collaboration and communication among victim/survivor services, batterer’s intervention programs, and the criminal justice system, while acknowledging the differences in each position’s objectives.

Having joined the Task Force this Spring, I found this opportunity to hear directly from the panelists incredibly valuable. Although every case is different, Judge Langsdorf explained her approach to sentencing and what factors she considers relevant to ordering treatment or incarceration. The attorneys described how they approach negotiations, including what influences their recommendations to the judge. We explored gaps in communication and looked for ways to enhance our collaboration without comprising the boundaries of each person’s role. Though we come at it from different perspectives, each of us has a part to play in fostering a safe, healthy community. I am grateful that we could take time to come together and examine how our shared commitment to a domestic violence free community can be strengthened.

Nourishing Community

By Sharon Svec, Communication

You know those popular gummy vitamins, Li’l Critters? They were the brainchild of a long-time Vancouver couple. Kate and Marty Rifkin became successful entrepreneurs from a simple desire to make healthy living fun for kids. Their product became very well known, and the Rifkin’s product can now be found all over the nation.

Smart investments and goodwill inspired the Kate and Marty to start a foundation that would help support local causes related to children, education and families. The KMR foundation was born. As their website states, “The KMR Group Foundation aspires to give disadvantaged children an equal opportunity to grow up educated, purpose-driven and confident. Through the creation and sponsorship of innovative programs and academic scholarships, KMR seeks to promote sound nutrition, good health, and a love of learning in students of all ages. Beneficiaries of KMR’s support are offered ways to remain connected with the foundation, extending help in turn to subsequent recipients.” YWCA Clark County is fortunate to be a recent recipient of a $10,000 donation from KMR; funds that will support the growth of children and families living at the SafeChoice Domestic Violence Shelter.

“We are grateful to the KMR Foundation for their generous donation, and for their faith in the success of our services.” says Interim SafeChoice Director Stephanie Barr.

The Voice of CASA

By Heidi Hiatt, CASA Volunteer Manager

The Clark County CASA Program of YWCA invites residents to delight in the season by celebrating the joys of giving back. Extend the warm feelings of the holiday season by embracing a long-term volunteer commitment with the Clark County CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) Program.

The CASA Program is proud of the 161 community volunteers that are currently committed to representing the voices of 357 children in our county child welfare system. There are an additional 260 children who are currently waiting for a volunteer to be assigned to their case. Until a volunteer is assigned, CASA staff work hard to represent their best interests in court. The primary goal is to have all 617 children assigned a CASA volunteer who can help ensure that each child finds the safe, permanent home they deserve.

Why should you choose to volunteer with CASA? Just ask our program’s longest-serving CASA volunteer, Judy Fortlage. Judy was sworn in as a CASA at the Clark County Juvenile Court on March 1, 1990. During her almost 25 years of volunteer service she has represented 100 children in the Clark County Dependency Court system. She has mentored dozens of new CASAs, been on the Board of the Washington State CASA Association, and helped establish the legislative advocacy efforts of our program. In 2010, Judy was awarded the G.F. Bettineski Child Advocate of the Year by the National CASA Association. Judy is diligent, persistence and has shown exemplary commitment to children who have experienced abuse and neglect.

Judy Fortlage, CASA Volunteer for 25 years

Judy Fortlage, CASA Volunteer for 25 years

We recently asked Judy to share why she has chosen to volunteer with CASA for almost 25 years. Here is her response:

Why CASA? There are children in our community who have no voice. They are in unfortunate, often dangerous circumstances. They are all our children. The CASA volunteer advocates for the best interests of the child. I once heard a judge say that the CASA is “the voice of common sense.” We ask for not what is expedient, but what is necessary. Our paramount focus is the child. We are not bound by the constraints of organizational policy, but by what is going to be safe and nurturing for that child.

We meet some children who are wary of us at first. They have not learned to trust adults and the dependency process has brought into their lives many adult strangers. Our task is to gain their trust and speak for them in court. Is this easy? It is not. Is it important? Yes, it is important. There is nothing more gratifying than seeing a family whole again, when that is possible, or seeing a resolution that will allow the child to thrive. We talk to the parents, other relatives, social workers, teachers, counselors, physicians and therapists, friends of the family and others. The most significant person we talk to, however, is the child.

Clark County CASA, which trains volunteers to serve as advocates for abused and neglected children as they navigate the child welfare system, is asking you to give back during the holidays. Like other nonprofits that rely on volunteers to deliver on our mission, we appreciate community members’ year-round dedication to our cause. CASA volunteers change lives. What could be more fulfilling than that?

We are privileged to have Judy and 160 other community members volunteer their time with our program. Please join us to ensure that the 260 children who do not have a CASA volunteer assigned to their case today, can have a volunteer appointed to them in 2015.

CASA’s winter training will begin on January 8, 2015. To learn how you can become a CASA volunteer, contact Nichole Peppers at npeppers@ywcaclarkcounty.org.

Snapshot for September 2014

As the summer winds down, we reflect on successes of our past and dreams for our future.

Back in July, the DVSA task force had a powerful conversation about how domestic violence effects youth. Also in July, YWCA was welcomed to participate in United Way’s Community Strengthening Partnership.

In August, our Y’s Care Program participated in the Beaches Cruisin’ and received a $10,000 check to support the social and educational needs of pre-school children in low- and no-income situations. We also attended the Cruisin’ and awarded Sharma Schlecht for her accomplishments and her support of other young women in the community.

September 3rd quickly approaches, and marks the last day to register for our annual luncheon which features Sonia Manzano from Sesame Street. Find out what Sesame Street and Y’s Care have in common in this month’s issue.

November is voting season, and Public Policy Vice President Susan LaLone shares perspective on State Initiatives 594 and 591.

Finally, check out our Program Highlights and Volunteer News for more details about each of our programs and happenings.

program highlights September 2014

Independent Living Skills Program

As we are halfway through the summer, it is that time again when students are preparing for college, or perhaps returning to high school. Nonetheless, it has been a rather busy summer with some great activities shared along the way. The ILS program has had three barbecues celebrating the end of the school year, as well as those who have graduated from high school. What an accomplishment! We are so proud of those who received their diplomas or have chosen to graduate from an alternative school. We have also been rather busy in our garden, making sure the weeds didn’t consume all of our thriving vegetables. The youth were able to pick squash and lettuce from the garden and prepare a lovely meal that included parmesan crusted squash, a nutritious salad, along with hotdogs in a blanket. Yes, it was a hit!

Clark County CASA Program

CASA has proudly sworn in 12 new volunteers from our summer training. Heidi Hiatt, our Volunteer Manager is busy interviewing potential volunteer advocates for our fall training session; please contact Heidi Hiatt at 906-9142 or email hidden; visit site for full address for more information about opportunities to advocate for abused and neglected children in our community. Wendy Lenz is the new Interim Program Director for the CASA program. She can be reached at 906-9141 or email hidden; visit site for full address

Sexual Assault Program

The Sexual Assault Program has some exciting things going on! In September, staff member Traci Cole will be one of the trainers for a statewide training of the Where We Live curriculum held in Wenatchee. We then offer our next Where We Live series beginning October 1st from 6-8pm for 4 weeks at the Bethel Lutheran Church in Brush Prairie. They are hosting this training to engage and support a safer community. Register by emailing email hidden; visit site for full address. We also have our next Women, Trauma and Healing workshop in early October for any women who have experienced trauma. Last but not least, De Stewart reached over 500 hours of volunteer service!

SafeChoice Domestic Violence Program

The SafeChoice Program welcomes two new members to the SafeChoice team! Jennifer Lulé has started at the DSHS office as well as helping out at shelter, and Tamara Ryan will be one of the new bilingual advocates at the DVPC. SafeChoice is also excited to be in the beginning stages of planning for Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October! The annual candlelight vigil will be held at Latte Da this year on October 1st at 6pm. We will also be creating our own version of the Clothesline Project, a way for survivors and their allies/supporters to create a visual for how domestic violence impacts us and how we are empowered to help ourselves and others. If you are interested in getting involved with DVAM in any way we would love to have volunteers and donations. Please contact email hidden; visit site for full address with questions and follow us on Facebook for more details.

WORTH Program

The WORTH Program is working hard to provide resources and training for individuals in the Clark County Jail. WORTH is currently accepting donations of quilt batting, sewing machines, gently used or new bras, socks, and underwear.

Social Change Program

There will be no Conversations in the Community for the month of September, but they will resume in October. Michelle Hurdle-Bradford is currently out of the office. Questions about the Social Change Program can be directed to Natalie Wood, Director of Programs at nwood@ywcaclarkcounty.org.

Y’s Care Children’s Program

Special thanks to Mark Matthias, Ali Novinger and the Beaches Cruisin’ for a donation of $10,000. These funds will help Y’s Care continue to provide high-quality education for children, regardless of income level. Read more here! Our baby for the 2014-15 school year is none other than Ellis Peter Hayes. He’s Val Anderson’s grandson and he was born August 7th.  His mom, Erin is a fifth grade teacher. We are grateful for Ellis and Erin’s participation and look forward to watching little Ellis grow! The school year starts September 3rd. We’re excited to learn and grow with 12 ECEAP kids and 8 community kids.

Teaching Empathy with Consistency

By: Emily Ostrowski

What do Sesame Street and Y’s Care have in common? If you attend YWCA’s annual Inspire Luncheon on Wednesday, September 10th you’ll be sure to find out!  Sonia Manzano, best known as Maria from Sesame Street, will be joining us to share her ongoing message of empowering and educating children.

This message resonates with YWCA’s own children’s program Y’s Care, which seeks to provide homeless, transitioning, and low-income children with the necessary skills to enter kindergarten. Leah Reitz has been the director of Y’s Care for the past three years, and was a lead teacher in the program for several years prior. She has nothing but praise for the ways in which Sesame Street helps children grapple with various aspects of life.

“Sesame Street has always been a program that demonstrates inclusiveness and respect for everyone,” Reitz says. “I think it has been an incredible tool for families, presented with humor and compassion. Their ‘whole child’ approach certainly lines up with the Y’s Care mission. I have always appreciated that the show often deals with difficult subjects like death and having a parent serving in the military. These are tough subjects, but when my children were young, I often found myself using an episode as a jumping off point for conversations.”

Indeed, the ability to empathize and recognize emotions is at the core of both Sesame Street’s and Y’s Care’s missions. Reitz acknowledges that many preschool programs want to jump right in to skills like learning the alphabet and being able to write their name, but she emphasizes that without the proper emotional tools, success is unlikely. “If a child has trouble identifying and understanding his own emotions and the emotions of others, those other skills won’t matter, because if you can’t successfully navigate your social world you don’t see yourself as competent.”

One of Reitz’s favorite activities at Y’s Care is a year-long program called Seeds of Empathy, which “helps kids identify and label emotions through books and literacy activities.”  Additionally they have regular visits from the same parent and baby every three weeks to discuss, among other things what the baby might be feeling, and what it’s like being a parent, particularly the more frustrating aspects. All of this is done with the goal of teaching children how to see things from another’s perspective.

The heart of Y’s Care is rooted in children’s emotional well-being. Academics are important, but without a solid, emotional foundation, no child can fully thrive. As Reitz notes, “Many kids come to our program having experienced trauma of one kind or another, so our initial challenges are often behavioral. When a child feels secure at school and trusts his or her teachers, learning follows.”

To hear Sonia Manzano speak, as well as support Y’s Care, YWCA’s other programs, and general mission, please click here and register for our luncheon Wednesday, September 10th at the Hilton in Vancouver.

I have been a long time supporter of the ywca because of their leadership in providing services to women and children and because of their absolute integrity in the stewardship of the funds entrusted to them. — Val Ogden, retired Washington State Representative