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Walking away from a conversation with a wealth of knowledge that you didn’t have beforehand is one of those little pleasures in life that so often gets overlooked.  It’s even better when the knowledge gained is completely different from what you expected it was going to be. Such is the case of when we had the chance to sit down with the executive director of the YWCA, Vanessa Castano.

The original purpose behind our meeting for Hometown Highlight was to talk about the beautiful new building being constructed on Congress Street.  This building is not only a major upgrade for the YWCA itself, but also for our community in general. Clients and staff will benefit from the increased efficiency that comes with a modernized building, and the town will see a once abandoned and dilapidated lot be turned into a useful space. However, as stated earlier, as we talked more about the building, Vanessa’s passion for the YWCA made me even more curious about everything that is involved with this project.

Most residents of Bradford have heard of the YWCA and may even be vaguely familiar with the services it provides. But if you’re lucky enough to have not needed the organization’s help, chances are that your idea of what they do and provide is relatively limited.  While keeping domestic violence at the forefront of their operations, this nation-wide non-profit has branched into all sorts of social services. Because all areas of the country have their own unique needs, Bradford’s YWCA has an identity all its own that reflects the town itself in many ways.

Rural America was especially hit hard by the recent pandemic.  The wage gap disparity is especially large in our area making affordable housing a major problem. Disadvantaged people are especially vulnerable to this problem. That is why YWCA’s homeless shelter has become an even greater resource in recent times. The organization’s Mental Health Program is also a very important part of their operations. And while the Victims Resource Center has the highest numbers of participants, the mental health program has the strongest base of consistent program participants and sees the most people on a consistent basis. Also important to note is that, contrary to a lot of people’s thoughts, the organization has been and will continue to be a major resource for men who face mental, domestic, and societal obstacles as well.

Poverty is more common in rural areas of the United States than in urban areas (about 5% more common per capita). Yet the nonprofit sector, a key force in the fight against poverty, is three times smaller in the rural US on a per capita basis than it is in urban areas.  That is why the YWCA is especially important in towns such as Bradford.  If we wish to keep organizations healthy and strong, our community needs to continue to support capital campaigns such as the one for the new headquarters on Congress Street. To help ensure the YWCA continues to have a lasting impact we encourage everyone to visit and explore ways to contribute.

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