YWCA Fort Worth & Tarrant County, the first YWCA in the state of Texas, has changed its name to more clearly define the nonprofit organization’s mission of helping women and children out of poverty in Fort Worth and surrounding communities.
The local YWCA is now known as the Center for Transforming Lives. The name change ends the nonprofit’s 108-year-old relationship with YWCA USA, one of the oldest and largest women’s organizations in the nation. YWCA has more than 230 local associations across the United States and is found in more than 100 countries.
The organization unveiled its refreshed moniker and logo during a dedication ceremony Oct. 16 at its headquarters, a historic 1920s building in downtown Fort Worth.
The switch to Center for Transforming Lives reflects what the organization does and tells its essential story, said Board Chairwoman Lisa Grady.
“It’s the stories of our women and children and their transformation as they break the cycle of poverty,” Grady said.
Since 1907, the YWCA has provided anti-poverty and housing programs to area women and their families. Today, the organization’s on-site transitional housing program has evolved into an emergency shelter to better serve the needs of women in crisis. In 2014, 443 women and families were safely housed. All women in the emergency shelter and all clients in the financial empowerment programs receive financial education, job training and coaching.
Additionally, the nonprofit provides early childhood education programs for homeless and low-income families at its three child development centers located in downtown Fort Worth, at the Polytechnic Child and Family Development Center and on the campus of the University of Texas at Arlington. All parents participating in the child development centers are offered free financial education classes and one-on-one coaching sessions.
In fiscal year 2014, YWCA served 2,300 women, children and families. To date, from April to September, the organization already has served 2,748. The goal is to reach 10,000 by 2023.
With the name change and rebranding, the agency’s staff and board of directors hope to increase community awareness and in turn boost financial support to serve more clients.
“More than 94,000 women and 126,000 children live in poverty in Tarrant County today, or one in 10 women and one in four children, and an increasing number of those live in extreme poverty,” said Chief Executive Director Carol Klocek. “When we realized that level of significance of need and how much service delivery we were doing, we realized we need to do more. We’re not making enough of a community impact. We must grow and expand to meet the demand.”
According to Klocek, the organization has struggled with general awareness and confusion with other social service agencies, specifically the YMCA.
“Is it only for young women? Is it evangelizing? Is there a gym? These were some of the questions we’ve heard,” she said. “People thought we were the same organization. People are confused about our work and what other organizations do. Once we realized how significant the confusion is in our community about our work we knew we needed to make a change.”
The organization hired Fort Worth marketing and advertising firm Global Prairie to conduct a series of surveys within the community. The survey responses showed not only a lack of clearness about the agency’s work but also a need to increase its services. The board voted to change the name in September.
“Today, you have to be so clear about your brand. You have to have a clear understanding about your name, your brand, your work and your results,” Klocek said. “Now, we’re not starting the conversation with who we’re not. We’re starting the conversation with who we are.”
The Center for Transforming Lives will continue providing help to women and their families by moving them from poverty to self-sufficiency through housing stability, child care, financial empowerment services and job skills training. Essentially, nothing has changed except the name, Klocek said. The programs and mission remain intact, the budget – $6.8 million for 2015-2016 – stays the same, and the staff and board have not turned over. The Center for Transforming Lives remains a partner of United Way of Tarrant County Inc. and will continue operating its social enterprises, which include a catering business, a resale shop and facility rental for weddings, parties and corporate meetings.
“The biggest change we’ve made is ending our long relationship with the national office. It was a difficult decision to do that,” Klocek said.
No funding came from the national organization and it did not support local fundraising, she added. Without its national affiliation, the Center for Transforming Lives will no longer be paying $36,000 in annual dues to YWCA USA and will instead re-invest that money in benefits to its employees. The agency has 108 current employees.