Womencare Shelter becomes part of YWCA Bellingham


BELLINGHAM - Womencare Shelter has joined YWCA Bellingham - a move that is expected to help expand services for women and their children in the community, representatives for both organizations said.

The change occurred Tuesday, Oct. 1, when Womencare became a program of the YWCA.

Leaders for both organizations said they were financially stable, and that the new partnership will help free up money to expand and strengthen programs for women fleeing domestic violence and grappling with homelessness.

"One of the best reasons to join forces is when you're both strong," said Cheri Kilty, executive director for YWCA Bellingham. "Then you can really leverage all the resources together to try to serve more people."

Kilty estimated the shift will save about $100,000 annually through sharing one management structure - instead of having two executive directors, for example - finance system, and costs for insurance and other financial services.

She said YWCA leaders helped launch Womencare in 1979; it has worked since then to help end domestic violence. Womencare has an emergency and confidential shelter, 24-hour crisis support services including a hotline, and community education.

Both Bellingham organizations have collaborated over the years.

Womencare will keep its name, shelter, services and employees.

"We thought it was important to keep the name because Womencare has a long history in our community of providing services," Kilty said.

Womencare board president Cathy Craver said deciding to fold into the YWCA wasn't a difficult decision.

"It made sense. It increased our value for providing services for the community," Craver said. "It was really about making sure the community needs and the clients were still going to be served. We wanted to make sure that was preserved."

YWCA Bellingham was founded in 1907 and has operated at 1026 N. Forest St. since 1915.

In 2012, YWCA Bellingham provided 107 single homeless women with housing and case management. Its Back to Work Boutique, which provides clothing to low-income women, helped 525 women last year.

Womencare's shelter has room for 18 women and children. Last year, it provided shelter to 99 women and 98 children.

Its 24-hour helpline answered 2,152 calls last year.

Reach Kie Relyea at 360-715-2234 or kie.relyea@bellinghamherald.com.

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