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Coping with COVID-19: YWCA serves community through pandemic

Written by on May 9, 2020

While small businesses are getting hit hard during the stay-at-home order, non-profit organizations are feeling the burden as well. YWCA McLean County – #OnAMission

The YWCA is a nonprofit women organization that serves over 2 million women, girls, and their families across the country. They aim to strengthen communities starting with 6-week old babies to individuals over 65 years old. 

“With programs including a rape crisis hotline, childcare, and transitioning support for previously incarcerated women, nonprofits like the YWCA don’t have the ability to close,” said Director of Marketing and Public Relations Christy Germanis. 

“Nonprofits are having more of an issue than anyone else because we’re trying to navigate all the ways we can stay open to serve the community,” said Germanis. “When it comes to helping those with the human factor, that’s where we’re needed the most.” 

While she is based in the McLean County YWCA, Germanis says they have volunteers all over the country. The YWCA is in the business of helping those in need, which is drastically increasing. Despite the rise of those in need, they are not seeing the support to match it. 

“Nonprofits should be first in line when it comes to the funding that is being offered in the CARES Act and other things,” said Germanis. “I know a lot of nonprofits weren’t able to get those grants or loans, and they’re facing really tough times.”  

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump on March 27th. It provides economic assistance for American workers, families and small businesses. 

During the stay-at-home order, the YWCA is still serving the community to the best of their ability. The Labyrinth Outreach services, which is for formerly incarcerated women, and the Stepping Stones Program, which includes a rape crisis hotline, are both being run over the phone. 

“There’s no way with the services we provide that we could close our doors,” said Germanis. 

Volunteers for Labyrinth Outreach and Stepping Stones are working from home with their phones or on their computers.  She says this a stressful time for anyone, but even more so for victims of sexual assault and women coming out of the system. 

“We were already an integrated part of their support system before the pandemic hit,” said Germanis. “So us just switching it to telephone services has really continued to help them a lot.” 

While a lot of their services have changed to computer and phone communication, there is one part that has not changed at all according to Germanis.

Both of the Bloomington-Normal hospitals have an agreement with the YWCA that they call them when a victim of sexual assault is admitted to the hospital. 

“They will still go to the emergency room in their personal protective equipment and talk with the client if they want it,” said Germanis. “If the client doesn’t, they will leave their information and the client will be able to get back to us.” 

Germanis says the YWCA has a great relationship with the Bloomington-Normal Police Department and Fire Department, so they know who to contact when they come across a sexual assault crime. 

Their Young Wonders program is a designated emergency childcare center that provides childcare for essential workers. This will continue to be open through the summer. They are only one of eight designated emergency childcare centers in Bloomington-Normal. 

“We are very proud that we’re able to do that and stay open to provide that service,” said Germanis. “We do plan on having a summer camp as well.” 

The YWCA plans to continue operations as they are during the extended stay-at-home order.