February 2020

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Welcome to the 2nd edition of Empowerment Today for a Stronger Tomorrow! February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year. As you can see, there are some alarming statistics about teen dating violence. One way you can get involved and bring awareness to this issue is by wearing orange for love on Wednesday, February 12th. This shows our solidarity with the many teens that experience violence from their significant other. Share your pictures on social media with the hashtags #LoveIsRespect, #Orange4Love, and #TDVAM2020. To learn more about how you can get involved, view our toolkit or visit our website!

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A large goal of our Residential Empowerment program is to increase motivation and raise expectations so that residents have a safe, healthy, clean, and pleasant place to live while staying with us. Hakim Muhammad, Residential Empowerment Coordinator and Crisis Shelter Case Manager, initially came to the YWCA to help us do a better job of encouraging and empowering the residents of the Crisis Shelter to take care of their living areas. When a case management need came up as well, Hakim stepped in and was willing to work part-time as a Case Manager. His remaining time is spent leading the Holistic Empowerment Living Program (HELP), which engages clients in keeping the space clean and tidy, but also works to help build motivation for participating in all the benefits that are available in this program. Hakim also developed the Environment Empowerment Program, which helps clients understand the importance of being environmentally responsible. These efforts help prepare clients to lead a responsible, independent, and rewarding lifestyle. Residents can access help with finding housing, saving up for a car or other need, learning and practicing healthy food preparation, working on developing their self-esteem and confidence, and so many more opportunities. Hakim introduces a variety of services to those in our crisis shelter and helps them become excited to be involved. Learn more about Hakim and the work he is doing in our Residential Empowerment program here

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Andrea Mills
"I believe the woman’s mind is a fickle beast, easily convincing her that she is not worthy of anything better than the situation she is currently in or the best life has to give her. It is my mission to help combat these lies in every woman, and to help them see how beautiful, strong, and amazing they truly are."

-Andrea Mills 
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Andrea has been volunteering with the YWCA Northeast Indiana for about 18 months. She is fully committed to our mission because "we are all fearfully and wonderfully made by one Creator, no one person created better than the next." After spending many years hiding under a blanket of insecurity, it took some key individuals speaking into Andrea's life to help her step out in freedom with the knowledge that she is worthy. "The YWCA exists and is staffed to provide women with the resources and the people to help them find their own worth," Andrea said, which is something that she finds extremely honorable and valuable. One of the highlights of volunteering at the YWCA is how her sense of identity and ability has developed. "The staff that I serve with built me up and empowered me without even knowing it. I am grateful for the trust that they have placed in me to help do big things" she said. Andrea joined the YWCA Development Committee and was a member of the first Bridle, Bits, & Bourbon planning committee in 2018. This year, she will serve as the Chair for our second annual Bridle, Bits, & Boots fundraising event, which will be held on April 17th, 2020. To someone who is thinking about becoming involved with the YWCA, Andrea says "Do it. Women need to be supporting women. Most of us are only one small life deviation from being in the intense season of need that the women the YWCA serves find themselves in." She acknowledges the importance of being aware of other women and their struggles. "Will your heart hurt? Yes, it will." Andrea says. "Will your heart grow? Absolutely." The YWCA Northeast Indiana is so grateful for all that Andrea does to help further our mission in the Fort Wayne community.

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On Wednesday, February 12th we will kick off our 2020 Coffee & Conversations series! Guest experts Dr. Angela LaSalle M.D., Dr. Courtney Washington, and Heather Hunley will be leading a conversation about our sixth sense or 'gut feeling.' As women in today's society, we balance many tasks and roles at the same time. When people ask us how we are doing, many of us lie. We say "I'm fine" when in reality we are not. This February event only has a few spots left, so make sure to register early for our April 15th Coffee & Conversations, focusing on the Power of Passion and Persistence. We already have Amy Lehrman of Katz, Sapper & Miller and Ciera Balkenbusch of Fort Wayne Metals secured as guest experts for this event! Coffee provided by Conjure Coffee and food provided by IHOP.

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Meet Dawn Hillyer, a local stalking survivor and advocate. One out of every six women and one out of every nineteen men in the United States have been stalked in their lifetime. Many times, the stalker is someone the victim knows. Sixty-six percent of stalking victims are stalked by current or former intimate partners, which was the case with stalking survivor Dawn Hillyer. Hillyer’s horror began in October 2006 when she became the target of her ruthless stalker. In March 2012, her pursuer was finally convicted of two felony counts of stalking and sentenced to 10 years in prison. The years in between were filled with uncertainty and fear, forcing her to live in seclusion. “It is hard to put into words,” Hillyer said, “but being a target of a relentless stalker left me feeling desperate, alone, and scared. Sharing my experiences with friends and authorities wasn’t always well received. The reality of what was happening made ME sound crazy whenever I told someone, including the police. Reality is stranger than fiction.” Determined to pave the way for others to more easily get the help they need, Hillyer began raising awareness. In December 2013, her story was featured on Investigation Discovery network’s fourth season premiere of “Stalked: Someone’s Watching.” That same month she appeared on Katie Couric’s talk show. “My case went national,” Hillyer said. “I have had the honor of speaking at several domestic violence conferences. I have also been involved in advocacy including tightening up stalking laws and testifying regarding bills at the State level.” We admire Dawn Hillyer's bravery and persistence in being an advocate for this serious, prevalent, and dangerous crime. To read more about our exclusive interview with Hillyer and to hear advice she gives to those who may be a victim of stalking and/or domestic violence, read our blog post here.

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Bridle, Bits, & Boots and our 24th Annual Circle Luncheon are two events that you don't want to miss this year! We are currently accepting corporate sponsorships. For more information, click here