YWCA Madison was honored with the 2021 YWCA Local Association Excellence Award for Racial Justice Thursday night at the Women of Distinction Awards Gala presented by the YWCA USA.
“There are over 200 YWCA organizations across the nation and they selected us as one of two organizations to be honored. So that’s very exciting for us that they specifically highlighted the racial justice work we’ve been doing in our community,” Vanessa McDowell, CEO of YWCA Madison, tells Madison365.
“I am very proud to be leading this great group of folks that have become family,” she adds. “It’s awesome to see our work being recognized nationally.”
YWCA Madison was one of two recipients selected from over 200 YWCA organizations nationwide who, according to YWCA USA, “through idealism, perseverance, and extraordinary faith in a better world, rise to the top of our community as leaders.”
“These associations have provided an authentic, demonstrable impact on women and girls in the communities they serve. This year’s two YWCA local association honorees showed exemplary and innovative racial justice work during our nation’s moment of racial reckoning and beyond,” YWCA USA said in a statement describing the honorees.
“I’m really proud of the internal work we’ve been doing at our organization to really make sure that we are walking the talk and to really take the time to make sure that our internal culture matches what we are sharing in the community about what we want to see in our community,” McDowell says. “So I am really proud of our team and what I call ‘YW Family.'”
Thursday night’s virtual event celebrated, recognized, and honored women, girls, and organizations for their work and impact in racial justice, advocacy and civic engagement, and women’s empowerment
The Women of Distinction Awards Gala was part of YWCA USA’s racial justice summit titled “In Solidarity We Build.” This year’s gala was co-hosted by Elisha Rhodes, interim CEO and COO of YWCA USA; activist, educator, and writer Brittany Packnett Cunningham; and Kimberly Wilson, founder and CEO of HUED.
The YWCA Greater Cleveland was the other organization honored with the 2021 YWCA Local Association Excellence Award for Racial Justice.
“I think we’re in a really good place right now. I think that we uplift our values. We created values together as an organization a couple years ago not knowing that we’d be going into a pandemic and needing those values more than ever of humanity, community, growth and restoration,” McDowell says.
McDowell says that YWCA Madison is currently doing some work with YWCA USA to train other sister associations across the country with their racial justice series.
“That’s something that we’re getting ready to embark on,” she says. “We also have a partnership with YWCA USA and Google to implement our YWeb Career Academy across the nation to 15 other YWCAs.
“The things that we are doing, I think we are really taking the spotlight in terms of what we’re doing in Madison and people are really seeing the impact of our programs as well as our overall impact YWCA is making.”