I remember the YWCA as the place where I learned to swim as a child. But through some very thought-provoking remarks by YWCA President and CEO Monica Zulauf at last Thursday's Empowerment Breakfast, I learned how the organization has gone from teaching swimming to teaching survival.
My friend Kate Benway invited me to the fundraising breakfast. I had a plan to show up, say hello to some friends, eat a free breakfast, and get out of there as fast as I could. But Zulauf's passion for her team and the important work they do moved me so much that I sat on the edge of my seat and even wrote a check.
Since the 1920s, New Hampshire's YWCA has continuously evolved its services to help the needs of women and their families. Its swimming-lesson days stemmed from the need for a place to provide fitness opportunities for girls and women. Today's needs are crisis services and educational programs designed to prevent a crisis from happening in the first place.
It is the YWCA's victim advocates who get the middle-of-the-night phone calls when a woman or child has fled home or been hospitalized because of physical and/or sexual abuse. The YWCA also runs a shelter for abused women and their children.
The statistics Zulauf shared about abused women, children, and even men in our own community were staggering. She pointed out that Americans were outraged about the recent shocking sexual assaults in India.
"But I have to say, how are we treating women here?" she asked. "I don't think we should get too smug with the Third World at this point."
Looking back at last week's horrific discovery of the three kidnapped women in Ohio, I realized how correct she was.
Somehow, Zulauf was able to pepper some very sad stories with brighter details that made the audience smile and even laugh. Zulauf's sense of humor seems to be as keen as her sense of why some boys grow up to be men who abuse and some girls grow up to be women who get stuck in abusive relationships. She referenced our society that requires both parents to work just to make ends meet, and children who are learning unhealthy gender roles as they are raised by media.
She also talked about how the natural child-rearing support people once found through their neighbors is being diminished as parents become more isolated from one another. The YWCA does seem to be filling that gap through a long list of parenting support groups that can be found at www.YWCANH.org. But, as Zulauf said, there is still so much prevention work to be done and very few resources to do it.
I struggle with being a decent parent, let alone a good one. I can't imagine how hard it is to be any kind of parent when you are also in an abusive relationship. The YWCA is trying to help, but they can't do it alone. I hope you will join me in supporting the YWCA and the work it is doing to break the cycle of abuse for families in Manchester.
As difficult as it is being a parent, I wouldn't take a million dollars to be a teenager again. Being a teenager is hard; being a responsible teenager in our world of excess and social media is even harder, and overcoming personal obstacles to stand out among one's peers is nearly impossible.
The nine nominees for the NH Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs' Youth of the Year Award give me hope. They were chosen for displaying outstanding leadership skills and moral values, dedication to their families, communities, and clubs, and academic achievement, all while overcoming enormous personal obstacles.
I am sure all nine finalists are deserving. But, since this is Scene in Manchester, I am going to secretly root for 16-year-old Danny McMillan, the Manchester Boys & Girls Club's nominee.
McMillan, a West High student, was chosen as the Queen City's representative after an extensive essay competition and interview process. He and the eight other finalists will compete to become the Granite State's Boys & Girls Club Youth of Year during a day-long event this Thursday.
You should always wear your seat belt, but especially today. To promote Buckle Up NH Week, NH Motor Speedway, the Manchester Police Department and 96.5 The MILL will be giving out pairs of NASCAR tickets to random drivers who are wearing their seat belts. If you are driving near the intersection of Elm Street and Lake Avenue between noon and 2 p.m. today, be sure to buckle up and slow down. You're hoping to get NASCAR tickets, not the speeding kind.
NH365.ORG Event of the Week
You can paint a beautiful picture of Boston's Zakim Bridge and the city's skyline during a fundraiser for the Boston Marathon bombing victims Tuesday night. The 6 p.m. fundraiser by The Canvas Roadshow, which will help you paint your masterpiece, will be held at Shorty's Mexican Roadhouse in Bedford.
Canvas Roadshow owner Debbie Ellis said she was born in Boston and wants to do anything to help the victims. She is donating $20 of every $45 ticket to One Fund Boston. For more information on this and other fantastic fundraisers throughout our region, visit www.NH365.org.
If you have an interesting item for Scene in Manchester, write to Scene@UnionLeader.com.