The YWCA Sioux Falls has ended its membership with YWCA USA to become a local, independent nonprofit organization. The new name, EmBe, is a shortening of the phrase "Empowering you to be."
Despite the change, the organization's programs, services and staff will remain exactly the same. The new setup will allow EmBe to grow in ways that best fit Sioux Falls and the local organization. It will be governed by a gender-balanced board of directors and will save $25,000 this year in dues that would have been paid to the national organization.
For the last 90 years, the YWCA Sioux Falls has been an active community partner offering quality and affordable programs, services and opportunities as the recognized source for meeting the needs of women and their families. Through a variety of programs we have a positive impact on our community:
A group of women and the Sioux Falls Ministerial Association founded the local YWCA on November 2, 1921 and leased rooms at 221 1/2 N. Phillips Ave. The greatest need, the women decided, was for girls 12 to 20, and classes were offered in sealing wax work, gymnasium games, folk dancing, conversation and storytelling, garment reconstruction, basketball and ukulele. The YWCA provided an employment service to help young women find jobs and a room registry to help them find safe, clean, comfortable living quarters. The All Nations Club included immigrant women and girls; the Girls Reserves had grade school and high school chapters.
During World War II, the YWCA served as a social and cultural center for teenagers and women whose husbands had gone to war. Business women who got married and had babies started the YWCA Matron's Club. Factory club girls played Chinese checkers. Black women met as the Intellectual Improvement Club.
In 1952, the YWCA moved from a Victorian house at 221 S. Dakota Ave. to 200 N. 11th St and opened 48 boarding rooms for young women who moved to Sioux Falls and had few other choices for living arrangements.
In 1961, the YWCA moms started a preschool and daycare: "It was one of the first ones in a public place in the city," says Charline Smith, who helped organize the program.
In the early '70s, Shirley Halleen, who became known as the exercise lady, brought aerobics to the YW and Sioux Falls. By the late '70s and early '80s, the local YWCA became more socially active.
The YWCA became the first shelter specifically for battered women. At the time, children were top priority for Children's Inn. "The YWCA was the only alternative for abused women without dependent children," Candy Hanson says.
When women began to run for office, the YWCA scheduled workshops to tell them how to get involved. The YWCA was the place for many for the first workshops about discrimination, the Equal Rights Amendment and equal pay.
Lutheran Social Services turned to the YWCA in 1984 to help provide programs for the new refugee resettlement effort. Vera Lentz, YWCA Outreach Director, helped organize monthly potlucks for immigrant families who played Bingo, shared dinner and swam.
By the late '80s, the YWCA was at a crossroads. The building was aging; the residence was not full. Women's needs had changed and there were more women in the workforce. The community identified that 3,000 children were receiving no care or inadequate childcare.
"These days, a lot of women have jobs - even Grandma has one, and she can't babysit the way she did 15 years ago," past board president Ruth Parry said as the YWCA launched its $1.3 million remodeling campaign 'The Children Are Our Future.'
In 1988 the United Way identified 3,000 children who were receiving no care or inadequate care. The YWCA addressed the needs of the community by launching a $1.3 million remodeling campaign, and remodeled to provide full-time day care, part-time day care, school-age care and preschool.
Under the leadership of Barbara Newcomb, the Center's first director, and board president Kim Overby, the YWCA opened two floors of a licensed child care center for children from six weeks to 12 years old on January 2, 1992. The center was licensed for 144 fulltime children and averaged 200 a day as they came and went with various programs.
As the south and west side of our city began to grow, a lack of childcare was again the issue. In 2006, YWCA South was built on the southern edge of town. In the summer months, over 600 children call EmBe (formerly YWCA) home while their parents are working.
Over the years EmBe has earned a reputation for loving childcare and child development programs. We believe that affordable, accessible early childhood education is vital to the success of families.
EmBe partners with United Way and the state of South Dakota to insure that no family is denied care due to lack of income. We have an open door policy and visitors are invited to tour our centers anytime. Come see us!