Life is tough, but these women are tougher.
The YWCA of Olympia celebrated its recent group of graduates from the Women’s Economic Empowerment Program, also known as EEP. The program prepares low-income women for the workforce by teaching crucial job skills such as management and customer service.
Lacey resident Nancy Hadley, 22, didn’t know what to expect when she entered the program four months ago. At the time, she was “couch surfing” with her daughter, Anora, who is now 16 months old.
Today, she has a job as a bookkeeper and has enrolled in school.
“I set up a lot of goals,” Hadley said. “I feel hopeful about my future.”
For many participants, the experience is a major confidence builder.
Stevie Hines, 25, completed the program’s second tier alongside Hadley and got on-the-job training as a bookkeeper.
“I’m much more confident in the work environment,” said Hines, a Lacey resident who enjoys her new career. “This is great for me.”
Hadley and Hines were among seven women who were honored by the YWCA during a small gathering Thursday. Other graduates are Amanda Jones, Sierra Lininger, Ashley Stanton, Samantha Sprehn and Tessa Starling, who each finished the program’s first tier.
Independent bookkeeper Dottie Breaux has been mentoring women in the program. Aside from building their résumés and learning software such as QuickBooks, the women get an inside perspective of the business world.
“If you understand bookkeeping, you understand the basics of how a small business runs,” said Breaux, noting that participants are eager and ready to learn. “They have an opportunity that a lot of young women don’t have.”
A key element of the program is The Other Bank, a charitable operation at the YWCA that provides essential hygiene supplies to 125 families every week. Program participants run The Other Bank while learning the ins and outs of retail, inventory, distribution and donation processing.
Hillary Soens, CEO of the YWCA, said the goal is support women holistically while honing their professional skills and developing their potential. She said the transformation can even be seen in the way the women start carrying themselves halfway through the program.
“It’s a huge psychological boost,” Soens said. “By the end, they have aspirations for college and broader career awareness.”
The EEP is a partnership with the Pacific Mountain Workforce Development Council and is funded by several organizations including the YWCA USA, Community Foundation of South Puget Sound, the Women’s Leadership Council of Thurston County, the Comcast Foundation, the Nisqually Indian Tribe and the OneFamily and Norcliffe foundations.