For four years, the Quad-Cities nonprofit Lead(h)er has spread warmth through its “Strike a Match” mentoring program. Now, it’s formally caught fire with its 103-year-old big sister, YWCA Quad Cities.
The two nonprofits – which both work to empower area women – now share office space, at the aptly named Iowa Empowerment Center at One River Place, 1225 E.River Drive, Davenport. Leaders of Lead(h)er and the YWCA made a formal announcement of their new match on December 1. After months of discussion, the nonprofits decided to work together to reach more Q-C women.
Deanna Woodall, the YWCA’s first vice president of development and growth, works out of the Davenport riverfront location, which opened in October 2019.
“I just felt that it was pretty obvious, being two women-led organizations that really emphasized on empowering women – although our missions are different, we still are doing the same thing for women and that’s empowering them through whatever means we can.”
Woodall and Lead(h)er chief Megan Hasselroth didn’t know what form the collaboration would take, but the two groups knew it was something they needed to do.
“Because our goal is the same – we want to reach more people in this community. And doing it together just makes sense. We’ve got the groundwork laid; I think this is going to be an evolving partnership, with time. I will support Lead(h)er however I can, and I know that Megan will support the YWCA however she can.”
The YWCA – which is based at 229 16 th St., Rock Island, and plans to build a much larger facility two blocks away – not only works on women’s empowerment, but has a mission to eliminate racism, stand up for social justice, help families, and strengthen the community.In addition to childcare and other services in Rock Island, it has been providing Empowerment Services in the Q-C since 2018. With Empowerment Centers in Rock Island and Davenport, the YWCA offers free job search and resume services, food and hygiene pantries, and referrals for other services to the entire area.
Lead(h)er is a local mentorship program promoting career and community engagement for women in the workforce. Founded in 2016, over 300 women have been matched with an individually recruited mentor. Hasselroth says mentorship is the sixth-highest barrier for women in Iowa and is as essential as ever during the Covid-19 pandemic. She adds the YWCA addresses the top obstacles to women’s self-sufficiency - employment, childcare, housing, education and training, and transportation.
The only paid staffer for Lead(h)er, Hasselroth became new executive director last January, when it was based at coworkqc in downtown Davenport, and for most of this year she’s worked from home due to Covid.On Sept. 29, Lead(h)er hosted its virtual 4th birthday from the Iowa Empowerment Center, which includes a board room, workstations and lots of meeting space. Hasselroth appreciates the time at coworkqc downtown, but says the new collaboration makes perfect sense.
“There are a lot of reasons this is important. The first one being, as change agents in our community, the best practice is to collaborate. We want to serve women; they want to serve women. We both want to address barriers to women in the community. But the YWCA, one of their programs is not mentorship, and we understand that all these other barriers that hold women back. But we don’t offer childcare; we need our women to have access to a 360-degree menu of options, to achieve their goals, in whatever that looks like.”
Hasselroth thinks One River Place will be a place where both groups can complement each other.
“Lead(h)er has been this great thing, but we want people to feel like they have a home. Like they’re connected to our organization with a physical place. So we’ll be having our events there, our board meetings there, networking there when we can go back in person. And having a physical space allows there to be a physical space for our women to grow in. We behind the scenes can make the space mentally for women to grow, but that physical part is important too, so having a place where they can go and be themselves – and also have access, just by being there, to all these other resources.”
A good number of their women (matched with mentors) are low-income, who can benefit from YWCA programs.
“We want to be the connector; we can’t solve all the problems for women. But we can connect them with someone who can. Sometimes that’s a mentor, and sometimes that’s another organization.”
The possibilities for future growth with YWCA are endless, Hasselroth says.
“This is a first step – this is something that seems really natural and appropriate. But as we move forward in a changing world, where they anticipate 30 percent of nonprofits won’t make it; we have found we’re going to match more women this year than we have historically. Mentorship is essential and so are these other things."
"So moving forward, we’re going to continue to have conversations about how we can best serve women in our community and we’re gonna do our best to match those needs.”