YWCA Helps Families Shattered by Violence Start New Lives

Editor’s note: This is the fifth in a series of stories profiling participating United Way member agencies and the work they do in the community. Because United Way services are provided on a confidential basis, names of the subjects of these case studies have been withheld.


For one Wheeling woman, leaving her abusive husband was not as easy as it seemed. She sought shelter at the Wheeling YWCA several times, but intimidation and charm kept leading her back to her old life.

Last year, after 17 years of indecision, she and her children and came to the YWCA for the last time. Thanks to the center’s programs and support, she and her family will soon move into a new house built by Habitat for Humanity.

“The smallest things you do can help somebody,” said Diana Bell, racial justice director at the YWCA. “It happens every day here.”

The YWCA offers a range of programs to assist and empower women, children and even men.

Roxanne Reed, Women’s Boutique director, said the boutique offers free clothing and interview training for women who receive a referral from the United Way Help Line, a social service agency, an employer, a school or a church. The boutique is open to the public 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday and 3-7 p.m. Thursday. Women can sort through gently used professional clothes or, for only a few dollars, purchase new gowns donated by Kaufmann’s of Wheeling.

Bell said her department focuses on tobacco cessation and support for victims of domestic violence, but she targets the African-American, low-income population. The Racial Justice Program also handles the Martin Luther King Jr. Project on Racism Contest, a statewide student essay contest. Bell also provides diversity and anti-racism training for anyone who is interested.

The YWCA’s Residence and Emergency Homeless Shelter has been serving the Wheeling area for 102 years. The Madden House, which is in an undisclosed location to protect its residents, has 18 beds and serves self-sufficient women. Director Lori Jones said she works with local homeless shelters and United Way agencies like the Salvation Army, Catholic Charities and Information Helpline to make sure women’s needs are met.

“We’ve had people stay here a day or 26 years,” Jones said.

The YWCA also provides transitional housing for victims of abuse. The Family Violence Prevention Program includes a confidential hotline, support groups, life skills classes, supervised visitation and exchanges, free 911 cell phones, advocacy and batterer’s intervention. Some of the services, like support groups, classes and advocacy, are also offered to men.

“It’s not just for women and children of domestic violence,” Wood said. “It’s for all victims of domestic violence.”

Sometimes children of abuse are the ones who don’t receive enough attention, but to represent the needs of children is the Court-Appointed Special Advocate program. When a child is removed from a home due to allegations of abuse or neglect, the judge appoints a CASA volunteer to review the child’s case and express what action he or she feels would be in the child’s best interest.

Thousands of people use the YWCA’s services in a year, but CASA Director Susan Harrison said the center is indebted to other United Way agencies for referrals and working together to serve the needs of the Upper Ohio Valley.

“I think one thing important to the United Way is collaboration,” she said.

“There are going to be people coming this year who never had to before,” Jones added.

Volunteers are always welcome at the YWCA, and donations of money, furniture, household items, personal care items, appliances, pots and pans and gently used professional clothes are always needed. For more information about any of the YWCA’s services, call 304-232-0511. The Family Violence Defense Program can be reached at any time at 800-698-1247.