For over 100 years, the YWCA Charleston has been providing programs and services that foster self-sufficiency. Here is the story of how we came to be, how we met the changing needs of the community throughout the years, and where we plan to go from here.
In 1912, five women from the Baptist Temple founded the YWCA of Charleston. Established initially as secure lodging for young women as they pursued careers, the YWCA of Charleston opened the YWCA Cafeteria, lobbied in support of legislation for the care of mothers and infants, and offered programs in physical fitness education, sewing, cooking, dressmaking, millinery and religious education.
In the 1920s, the YWCA completed its headquarters at 1114 Quarrier Street and soon thereafter launched the Charleston Recreational League (team sports for girls and young women) and the first “Stay-at-Home Camp” (prelude to our current childcare programs). Throughout World War II, the YWCA lent its support to the war effort and those whose lives were affected by it, and in 1944, the Board of Directors approved a policy statement condemning segregation and brought its first African American member into a leadership position.
1920 - 1959
1960 - 1989
Due to renewed interest in physical fitness, a fully equipped exercise room was established in 1960, and the YWCA undertook its first official childcare program in 1975. The YWCA closed its dormitory the following year and assisted in the relocation of 27 residents. By 1981, the YWCA established the YWCA Resolve Family Abuse Program for victims of domestic violence. As a response to a study by the Community Council of the Kanawha Valley which identified the need for emergency housing for women and children, the YWCA established the YWCA Sojourner’s Shelter in 1982. In 1984, the YWCA Day Care Center assumed operation of the former Kanawha County Family and Children Center at 201 Donnally Street and was licensed for 135 children.
The YWCA Resolve Family Abuse Program shelter Hope House, was moved to a new location in Charleston and the program opened outreach offices in Clay and Boone counties in 1991. The following year, YWCA Sojourner’s relocated to its current 75-bed facility on Washington Street, E. Throughout the 1990s, the YWCA of Charleston established several new programs in response to needs within the community, including the YWCA ENCOREplus Breast Cancer Education and Awareness Program, the Sojourner’s Education and Job Readiness Center for homeless adults in Kanawha County, the Alicia McCormick Homes (transitional housing for women and their families).
1990 - 1999
2000 - 2010
In 2000, the YWCA opened two retail stores (Past & Present Gently Used Clothing Store and Perkin’ Up Gourmet Coffee Shop) to generate revenue for the YWCA Alicia McCormick Homes, and opened 2nd Seating Gently Used Furniture Store in 2003 to generate revenue for the Elder Abuse Initiative, which was in the development stage. In 2005 the YWCA opened the Shanklin Center for Senior Enrichment, a permanent supportive housing program for disabled senior women who had been victims of elder abuse and were experiencing homelessness because of this abuse.
In 2012, the YWCA Charleston reached a significant milestone: over 100 years of providing critical services and programs to some of our most vulnerable citizens in our community. We're now looking ahead to our next century of service and how to strategically meet the needs we see emerging: increased elder abuse; homeless women veterans; and youth in leadership. Together, with dedicated staff, a committed board of directors; countless volunteers and generous donors, we will continue to fulfill our mission of eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.