By Kalea Hall
When Eileen Kinnard came to the YWCA, she had nothing.
Then she got her General Education Diploma and went to Youngstown State University for an associate’s degree in hospitality management.
She’s now lived in a dorm/apartment at YWCA Youngstown on Rayen Avenue for 35 years and works there as a resident aide.
“I’m independent now,” she said.
The YWCAs of Youngs-town and Warren both work to empower women like Kinnard, eliminate racism and promote peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.
Their joint mission encouraged them to merge to form YWCA Mahoning Valley.
The merger, officials say, will make the local YWCA more efficient and effective. Local leaders from both YWCAs announced the merger on International Women’s Day on Thursday.
“We will be able to reduce our expenses and increase our impact,” said Leah Merritt, CEO and president of YWCA Youngstown, who will be CEO and president of YWCA Mahoning Valley.
Officials do not anticipate any layoffs from the merger, which is expected to go into effect April 1. Youngstown YWCA has 32 employees and Warren YWCA has 12.
Administrative offices for the merged operation will reside at the Youngstown YWCA, but all existing YWCA facilities in Youngstown and Warren will be maintained.
YWCA offers housing services, youth programs as well as empowerment programs including job skills and financial literacy workshops. Combined, both locations provide housing for 300 people.
YWCA Youngstown has been in operation since 1904 and Warren since 1916. Documentation shows that the two have worked together since 1918.
“We work together on advocacy housing and physical oversight,” said Kenya Roberts-Howard, executive director of YWCA Warren, who will serve as a strategic integration consultant for YWCA Mahoning Valley.
The Youngstown and Warren locations have looked at merging for the last two years to save money on overhead costs.
“Merging does not mean we become less effective. It means we do more,” Roberts-Howard said.
“It just made sense to try to figure out how to work smarter and still provide the services YWCAs provide.”