The YWCA Greater Los Angeles (YWCA GLA), under the leadership of CEO Faye Washington, serves as an advocate for dignity and justice for all people. Eliminating racism, empowering women is the main mission the Southland organization shares with all member associations in YWCAs across the United States.

Building on its 115-year history of eliminating racism, empowering women, crusading on behalf of human rights and increasing opportunities for all who live in America, the (YWCA GLA) recently opened the doors of its $9 million Union Pacific Empowerment Center and prior to that received an $82 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant for its Job Corp program housing.

Washington considers the award an indication of her longtime goal of “raising the expectation” and “changing the paradigm” of how nonprofit fundraising is done. “It takes just as much work to pursue a $1 million grant as it does a $100 million grant” she said. “And because of the urgency to move our community forward, I am not afraid of extra zeros. My vision is to create fundraising partnerships that sustain a generation.”

The YWCA Union Pacific Empowerment Center is a partnership between the YWCA GLA and the office of Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina. Established in 2002, the center was created to address the need for affordable childcare in unincorporated East Los Angeles. At its inception, the program operated for several years in modular units. Recently, a ribbon-cutting ceremony unveiled a new two-story facility that features double the child development spaces, a community center, and commercial kitchen.

“We wanted a place where young people can feel at home and develop intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually,” Washington said. “I want my legacy to be about happiness that I brought to people who I did not meet. I am grateful for the help and joy that I have given to those who I know, but I am equally, if not more so, gratified about people whose lives I have had a positive impact on, who I have never met and may never meet.”

This vision to help others was instilled in Washington as a child growing up in Los Angeles. The 12th of 13 children, her father was a church bishop who taught Washington and her siblings compassion and the importance of helping the underprivileged in their community. “Our father was always telling us to make an effort to help those less fortunate,” she recalled. “Coming up in the church, that was the message that he preached often.”

As she grew older and worked in the administrative positions of Los Angeles city government, the future YWCA CEO saw that she could help people, particularly young women, through developing programs and venues that would supply them with the education, training, and life skills they needed to survive and thrive in their adult lives.

The Union Pacific Empowerment Center represents a culmination of Washington’s ambition that complements the goals and programs established by the YWCA.

The Y provides child development services for more than 300 children at five program locations throughout Los Angeles and its surrounding communities. At these centers, children learn pre-reading, writing, communication, sharing and conflict resolution, cognitive skills, physical dexterity, and cultural awareness.

Through the basic principles taught in these key programs, YWCA GLA has been able to attract a ethnically varied clientele as well as a diverse base of donors. “With diverse stakeholders,” Washington says, “we will embark on community-based planning with the intention of enhancing the design and content of our facilities and program portfolio.

“Each YWCA GLA center will reflect a common set of programming elements that support family and individual self-reliance, while remaining responsive to local needs.”

Some of the common elements include child development, parent education services, and programming that Washington says addresses the key component of the Y’s mission–the elimination of racism and empowerment of women.

“Now that our building is funded and paid for, I invite local businesses to partner with us on the funding of programming,” Washington says.

“Charitable giving is the ultimate investment in our community, our country’s quality of life, competitiveness, and humanitarian leadership.”