Photos and Story by Christian Chapman
The YWCA built their field of dreams and they came. Two thousand strong filled the Judson Williams Convention Center, each guest had their own story of how the YWCA helped them to meet and overcome the challenges they had to face in order to achieve their goal.
Welcoming the audience were Giselle Smith-Johnson, President YWCA Board of Directors, Minister Kanequa Chancellor, Teresa Tapia, Chair YWCA Women’s Luncheon, Ginger Francis, Dr. Sylvia Acosta, YWCA CEO, Sally Hurt-Deitch and Monica Vargas of Providence Hospitals.
Prior to the keynote speaker taking to the stage, a young mother of five, and a recent UTEP graduate with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, spoke. Gisela Garcia Escobedo related how the Judy and Kirk Robison Mi Casa Homeless Program came to her rescue. Child care programs allowed Escobedo to realize her goal of attending UTEP while knowing her children were safe and sound at the Y. Her gratitude was simple, eloquent and heartfelt. The audience was clearly moved by her story.
The 2017 Benefactress of the Year was Rosa Santana. Santana gave much of the credit to her success to the YWCA that empowered her to carry on and meet her goal of securing her own business, Integrated Human Capital. Santana spoke of challenges, despair and hope. “The impact the YWCA had on me and has on this community is beyond measure. I give thanks for the opportunity to give back to this organization that has made such a difference in my life and in the lives of countless women since its inception.”
Keynote speaker, Erin Gruwell, was the Wilson High School teacher (Los Angeles, CA.) who inspired her students to create an innovative writing program to improve their reading and writing skills while meeting their day to day challenges such as homelessness, drugs and gangs. In 2007 the film, “Freedom Writers,” (homage to the Freedom Riders of the Civil Rights era) was created based on the New York Times best-seller/The Freedom Writers Diary. Actress Hilary Swank portrayed Gruwell. Gruwell spoke with such passion and energy that the audience was visibly moved to action.
A special note of thanks was afforded members of the Benefactresses of 2017 Circle of Friends, who provided a combined gift of $2,500 to $7,500 in support of the YWCA mission, Judith Gaskin Ross, Jody Casey Feinberg, Patti Wetzel, Heather Cuthbertson, Rebecca Krasne and Cindi Matrikin. The Family Legacy is a group of mothers and daughters whose joint commitment reflects the notion of standing on the shoulders of those who raised them. With strength, grace and convictions they pass on their philanthropic spirit to their daughters, so that they may carry on the tradition of such values. Adair Margo, Elizabeth Margo, Liliana and Emma Margo, Betty Ruth Wakefield, Lillie C Staten, Isha Rogers and Dede Rogers.
Raffle Chair Gloria Macias-Viramontes and Lisa Elbjorn, Co-Chair thanked the Raffle sponsors who helped to create a flurry of excitement when it came time to draw the winning raffle tickets. Eight lucky winners took home the following, The MedSpa Southwest Plastic Surgery gift certificate valued at up to $2,600, Ben Bridge Jewelers provided a beautiful David Yurman sterling silver and 14k gold bracelet valued at $950, Westend Hair Company and Day Spa $950, Arbonne facial/body products valued at $436., Armoire patent leather tote and canvas carry on $300, Closet Factory gift card valued at $500 and G2 and Hotel Indigo dinner for two overnight stay valued at $250 and Wholesale Foods Market gift certificate valued at $50.