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2019 Persimmon Luncheon: Photo Gallery and Farewell Speech by Beth Maczka

Categories: Blog

The staff and board of directors of the YWCA wish to extend our heartfelt thanks for making this year’s 5th Annual Persimmon Luncheon: Gathering to Give at the Renaissance Hotel on May 1st the most successful one yet! Together, we raised over $280,000, and we couldn’t be more excited about the ways that we will put this community investment to work.

Our guests enjoyed songs by our Early Learning Program students, delicious food, and the heartfelt stories of some of our program participants. Most of all, we enjoyed celebrating the work of our outgoing CEO, Beth Maczka, and the vision of our incoming CEO, Libby Kyles!

Those who attend Persimmon Luncheon represent our most dedicated supporters – those who give generously of their time, talent, and treasure, and we could not carry on YWCA’s 112-year old legacy of social change without your support. If you are interested in learning more, please contact Development Coordinator Elizabeth Alvandi at elizabeth.alvandi@ywcaofasheville.org to sign up to attend an Empower Hour!

Please enjoy this photo gallery by board member Jesica Hooper from our 2019 Persimmon Luncheon, followed by the transcript from outgoing CEO Beth Maczka’s farewell speech.

Beth Maczka’s Farewell Speech

I hope you enjoyed the children singing as much as I did. They are such a bright light! Good afternoon! I am Beth Maczka, CEO of the YWCA of Asheville.  As I prepare to pass the baton to our new CEO, Libby Kyles, I do so with a great sense of pride and honor for the time I’ve held this position.

For almost 7 years, we have weathered state funding cuts and deficits, we have restructured and rebuilt programs, and we have improved the facility to be welcoming to all and to celebrate our rich history. If you’ve been to the YW, you may have seen our legacy hallway which highlights the amazing work and leadership of our first 100 years. Recently, I wondered, which of our efforts will be considered worthy to be on a legacy wall in the future?

I am very proud of our childcare expansion, of the success of our MotherLove and Getting Ahead program graduates and of the effort to address the disparity in drowning deaths by providing swim lessons to preschool children. I am most proud, however, of our advocacy work that we accomplish with our many community partners.

And why might you ask, is advocacy important to each of us?

Advocating for increased funding, for a policy change or for system change is at the core of the YWCA’s mission and legacy. Women of the YW, both locally and nationally, advocated for the 8 hour work day and for child labor laws. Women of the YW stood beside local minsters to picket Winn Dixie supermarkets until they hired African Americans. And women of the YW held forums about school desegregation as early as 1954.

Today, as long as women can’t work and children can’t learn because of the childcare crisis,
as long as Asheville makes headlines for having the one of the worst records for racial profiling in the state, and as long as we risk losing our community’s long-term investment in healthcare, we are all impacted. And those of us who have least to lose, who have the privilege of race or gender, must join together with those most impacted to have a unified strong voice for justice.

This is the difference between charity and social change. And the YW has always been on the side of social change.

The YW’s impact is expanded by working with other organizations and I want to shine a light on the success of three advocacy coalitions:

The first is the WNC Childcare Coalition – funded by the CFWNC and led by Children First, the WNC Childcare Coalition focuses on increasing the reimbursement rate for childcare vouchers. We also supported the Buncombe County Commissioners in investing $3.6 million a year in an Early Education and Development Fund. Through our work with the coalition, the Buncombe County Pre-K Partnership, and support from the Commissioners, the YWCA expanded our childcare to serve 54 more children – a 55% increase over last year!
The children who shared their songs today benefit from that program expansion. However, despite our expansion and the important efforts of Buncombe County and the CFWNC, the YW has a waiting list of over 168 infant and toddlers.  We must continue to advocate for investments in early childhood education that support our childcare infrastructure, pay our teachers fairly and serve the work force and children of our community.

Our second advocacy coalition focuses on Racial Justice. Over four years ago, shortly after the tragic police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, the Rev. James Lee and I invited over a dozen nonprofit organizations and clergy leaders to work on the issue of racial profiling. The Racial Justice Coalition continues to meet once a month and chips away at the injustice of racial profiling and the disparate treatment of people of color by law enforcement. Through our advocacy, we worked with the Asheville Police Department in a facilitated community process to revise use of force laws and to institute de-escalation training.

So what does that mean in real terms?

It means that officers will be held accountable for shooting someone in the back or for shooting into a moving car. It means officers are trained to take more time, to assess situations and to de-escalate the tension of an encounter with police. We all know that we have a long way to go to reduce racial profiling and to increase trust with law enforcement. However, we can be assured that this important work will continue. I’m also proud to note that the YW of Asheville’s leadership continues to bring racial justice coalition strategies to 5 other local YWCA associations in NC as we work to end racial profiling across the entire state.

Finally, I’ll share about our newest advocacy coalition. Earlier this year, the for-profit, Hospital Corporation of America, (HCA) purchased Mission Hospital. Proceeds from that sale created the Dogwood Health Trust, which will be one of the largest foundations, per capita, in the world. Mission Hospital was founded by some of the same women who founded the YW over 112 years ago. Women ran Mission hospital for its first 65 years. We and other community partners were understandably concerned about the lack of gender and racial diversity on the Dogwood Health Trust’s founding board.

Many members of the Racial Justice Coalition shared this concern and we created a new coalition called the Health Equity Coalition which now consists of over 20 members including many from rural counties who were also concerned about the HCA purchase of Mission Hospital. Together we advocated in the press and with the Attorney General and ultimately a much stronger deal was reached for WNC. The new agreement increased racial, gender and geographic diversity on the Trust’s board, it increases HCA’s obligation to keep 5 rural hospitals open for ten years instead of 5, and it requires an outside monitor to make sure HCA upholds their promises.

Even more importantly, the Health Equity Coalition is now working with the Dogwood Health Trust through regular dialogues to transform the health of our region.
So my hope is that the YWCA never stops advocating with our community partners to address two root causes of poverty and injustice – racism and sexism.
I want to invite anyone who participates in one of these three important coalitions – the WNC Childcare Coalition, The Racial Justice Coalition and the Health Equity Coalition to please stand and be recognized!

Our world is changing and oftentimes being a leader means making space for new ideas and ways of doing things. What’s next for me? I truly have no idea. I will work again. This not retirement, but a period for reflection. Seeds were planted on my sabbatical last year and I want to see them grow. I will write, reflect and research images of the Divine Feminine – Soul grounding work that speaks to my heart.

I believe at the core of all of our challenges we face a spiritual crisis. We can change policies and require trainings and advocate for funding, but at the core, our community, our country and our culture must face this crisis – a crisis of the heart. I ground myself in knowing that within the diversity of our skin colors, our belief systems, our gender identities, and our sexual orientations, we are, each of us, a beloved child of the divine – and our policies, our programs and our decisions must reflect this truth.

Each of us stands on the shoulders of our foremothers and forefathers. It is now my honor to briefly acknowledge those who have walked before me and with me and who will continue this work in the future. I want to recognize Holly Jones, former CEO of the YWCA for 16 years. Holly led the YW through a transformative capital campaign and renovation that widen our impact and significantly expanded our capacity to serve the community.
I want to thank each of the Board members and particularly the board presidents that I had the privilege to work with – Leslie Fay, Lyndia Chiles, Sue Lomenzo, Melissa Williams, and Nancy Ackerman Cole. (Will all past and current board members please stand)

I want to thank the YWCA staff – we truly have an amazing team. I particularly want to recognize Mary Beth Herman, COO, who served the YW for 18 years and Wayne Hawkins, CFO who served for 12. I also want to acknowledge Elizabeth Alvandi and Jodi Rhoden for their leadership in making this event possible. Finally, I must thank my dear husband, Don Russell, for supporting me during my leadership at the YW and encouraging me to follow my heart as I leave.

In closing, I’d like to invite our new CEO, Libby Kyles, to join me on stage.

One of the things that gives me great comfort as I leave a position and an organization that I deeply love is to know that Libby will bring both strong leadership and a lifelong history of growing up in Asheville and at the YW to her role as CEO. And I have no doubt that she will continue our legacy of advocacy as she was just speaking at the Teacher’s Rally just an hour ago!

And now, as I pass the baton to our next CEO of the YWCA, Libby Kyles, I will leave you with my favorite quote from Eleanor Roosevelt:

Surely in the light of history,
It is more intelligent to hope rather than fear,
to try rather then not to try,
for one thing we know beyond all doubt,
nothing has ever been achieved by the person who says it can’t be done.