YWCA Hamilton to use $1 million grant from billionaire to battle racism

A rendering of what the new Hamilton YWCA complex of offices and apartments will look like. PROVIDED
A rendering of what the new Hamilton YWCA complex of offices and apartments will look like. PROVIDED

YWCA Hamilton has decided how to use the $1 million grant it won in December from billionaire MacKenzie Scott: It will hire someone to lead a formal racial-justice program.

“Our No. 1 priority this year is declaring racism a public-health crisis,” said Wendy Waters-Connell, CEO of YWCA Hamilton. “We’d like to have it declared by government, and to have businesses embrace it, agencies embrace it, and for all of us to work arm-in-arm to develop resources and policies to reduce disparities.”

The large grant came from Scott, ex-wife of Jeff Bezos, the world’s wealthiest man who built most of his fortune through Amazon. She has been distributing billions of dollars to hundreds of charities, particularly those that help women and minorities.

In other news, the YWCA next week breaks ground on its $11 million-plus, 50,000-square-foot complex of offices and 45 apartments at 1570 Grand Blvd. that will replace its smaller downtown location.

Officials hope the complex will open next year.

ExploreYWCA Hamilton receives $1M grant from billionaire MacKenzie Scott

Concerning efforts to have racism declared a public-health crisis, Waters-Connell said about local governments: “I’ve had some conversations informally — nothing formal yet.”

That won’t happen until after a new staffer is hired, “because we want to make sure it gets deployed in an organized fashion,” she said. A job description is being created for that position and will be posted in about two weeks.

The YWCA will tap into some of the grant’s $1 million principal in the early years and, later, money the organization has invested with the Hamilton Community Foundation will be used to fund that as an ongoing position.

“I think that was a great decision by the board,” Waters-Connell said.

YWCA Hamilton was founded in 1900, and “eliminating racism has been part of the YWCA’s work since its inception, here locally as well as nationally,” she said. “We’re the oldest organization at the intersection of gender and race, around civil rights work.”

The employee “can interact and intersect with all the other good work that’s happening in our community to really leverage every bit of effort that’s happening to try to reduce racial disparities in our community,” Waters-Connell said.

In a related matter, the Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, the YMCA and Booker T. Washington Community Center this week hosted a gathering of about 30 residents and several Hamilton banks at the community center for entrepreneurs and would-be business owners about opportunities to take out loans, create free-of-charge business plans and other assistance that minorities often find difficult to obtain. The program was especially designed for residents of Hamilton’s impoverished Second- and Fourth Ward neighborhoods, also known as Riverview and Jefferson, respectively.

ExploreHamilton banks, community groups partner to help businesses

New YWCA campus

The YWCA also closed on a low-income housing tax credit grant a couple of weeks ago, and a virtual ground-breaking video will be released. Work on the site will start then.

The apartments “will all be one-bedroom, fully-equipped-kitchen apartments, and that’s what’s needed in the future for those who are chronically homeless and have disabilities, Waters-Connell said previously.

The need for such services has grown in Butler County in recent years.

A rendering of what the new YWCA Hamilton campus of offices and apartments will look like. PROVIDED
A rendering of what the new YWCA Hamilton campus of offices and apartments will look like. PROVIDED

ExploreYWCA wins key financing for new Hamilton campus, apartments

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