How do we summarize CEO Debby Weinstein’s nearly 40-year career of dedication, advocacy and passion? How can long days, tireless service and laser focus on the mission of eliminating racism and empowering women be expressed? Debby Weinstein began her career with YWCA Charleston as a volunteer in 1982 and became an employee in 1983 as an overnight advocate at Resolve Family Abuse Program. She answered crisis calls and worked closely with the women who were seeking refuge from violence and a way toward peace. Deb’s passionate advocacy and big heart are two of the many qualities that make her a relentless champion of social justice.
The woman who is a seemingly tireless embodiment of compassion, hard work, energy and activism, is retiring in December. Long days, endless meetings, tens of thousands of people served and many millions of dollars raised all culminate in support of the YWCA’s mission to which Deb is devoted.
From Resolve Family Abuse Program, Deb was promoted to program director at Sojourner’s Shelter for Homeless Women and Families. At the time, Sojourner’s was a dormitory within the YWCA building on Quarrier Street. She worked tirelessly to aid homeless women and their children. Deb was promoted to the role of program director. She helped grow the program from 8 beds in two different locations on Shrewsbury Street until it moved to its current location on Washington Street in 1981.
A contemporary of Alicia McCormick, the director of Resolve Family Abuse Program, Deb later advocated for and developed a transitional housing program in her friend’s memory. McCormick’s legacy still lives on in a program that provides up to two years of housing, case management and support to women who have experienced domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence or stalking.
Deb and her family moved to Missoula, MT in 1996 so she could become that community’s YWCA CEO. After a successful time out west, Deb and family returned to Charleston when she was named the YWCA Charleston’s Executive Director in 1997. Deb’s leadership and vision have blessed the community with programs that have meaningful and measurable outcomes for the people we serve.
Seeing a need and creating solutions is one of her many talents. Over the years, many women and families have passed through our program doors. As patterns and trends emerged, Deb tackled the underlying problems. For example, she realized that many single elderly women were languishing at Sojourner’s Shelter. There were places for the women to go, but because many elderly women were experiencing homelessness because they were victims of elder abuse at the hands of their families, they were not safe. So Deb spearheaded the development of the Shanklin Center for Senior Enrichment and Empowerment Homes for Women. This lovely community gives hope and permanent homes to elderly women who have experienced abuse, homelessness and who have disabilities.
Deb has led the organization through capital campaigns to ensure that the work continues through good and bad financial times. She has partnered with other non-profits and businesses so that all of the programs of YWCA Charleston meaningfully serve the needs of participants. Deb leaves no stone unturned when she seeks resolution to a challenge. Her example fosters collaboration and problem-solving across the organization.
Deb will be retiring as the YWCA Charleston CEO in December and we hope that she can enjoy the next chapter of her life knowing that she leaves a legacy steeped in dedication, compassion and advocacy. Deb’s career culminates in celebration for all that she has done in this community as a leader. Many organizations have recognized her leadership and her accomplishments. Our best is to simply say thank you and we are ready to carry on this legacy.