YWCA: A Place for Shelter, Volunteer Opportunities

DIANA PETRAS
El Vaquero Staff Writer

When a person volunteers, he or she has offered to perform charitable acts without receiving any pay for them. Whether a person does actual volunteer work or donates to those who need it most, the giver often receives the biggest reward of all.

As a result of an ASGCC sponsored canned food drive on campus from Nov. 13 through the 21, students, faculty and staff helped the Glendale chapter of the YWCA (Young Women’s Christian Association) give to needy families in the community.

“Twenty bags of food were handed out,” said YWCA Volunteer Coordinator Eliza Karagezian. “Hundreds of women throughout the year will benefit from [the donations].”

The YWCA is one of many organizations that enables people to help those who need support. It is a counterpart of the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) and is part of the nationwide and international non-profit organization whose motto is “Eliminate Racism/Empowering Women.”

“Each city has its own chapter and each chapter has its own mission or program that they run,” said Karagezian. “Ours happens to be the Domestic Violence Program (DVP) and we help women and children who have been victimized in their lives with domestic violence.”

“[People] should come by to shop for some fun things, often interesting vintage products, because [your] shopping will help a good cause,” added Karagezian.

Karagezian explained that the YWCA has an emergency service center for women and children who need to escape abusive relationships. The YWCA also has a two-year traditional housing programs for women and children who have been in a crisis shelter and don’t have any place to return to after the shelter.

At the service center, women can join support groups based on their ethnicity and language preference. There are groups that cater to English, Armenian and Spanish speaking women. Women can also obtain individual therapy and counseling, case management and childcare.

There is also pet therapy for kids in a park nearby the center. Since pets are not allowed in the buildings, this gives the children the ability to connect with animals and relieve some stress.

“There is also an ESL program for women who need to improve their English skills,” said Karagezian. “The crisis shelter and the transitional shelter are in two different areas, as well as the service center. All the support programs we provide are all at the service center.”

The Y also accepts donations at New To You thrift shop located on 735 E. Lexington Dr., where people can shop to benefit a cause. Each thrift shop worker mentioned that fashion designer Karen Kane donates boxes of clothing to the YWCA twice a year. “Anyone can donate,” said Karagezian. “We get people donating all the way from Beverly Hills [because] of our mission.”

To support their services, the Y needs customers and volunteers, explained Linda Knudsen, a four year volunteer worker.

“Volunteers are essential to what we do. It’s hard to imagine [the programs] without them,” said Karagezian.

“We have a limited budget. We wouldn’t be able to generate the income [for] the shelter, support groups and administration. ”
Anyone can volunteer at the thrift store or for administrative purposes, but community service programs only allow female volunteers. “Women escaping abusive relationships are a little apprehensive about men [being] in the environment,” said Karagezian.

“We hear people who say, ‘I hate my job. I don’t want to go to work,'” joked seven-year Saturday volunteer Amita Baiocco. “So I say, ‘How would you like to be a volunteer? You get up in the morning, put a smile on your face and work for no pay.”
The rewards have kept Baiocco volunteering since age 15. She likes the fact that the money they make goes to others in need. “I like it [and] I look forward to it,” she said. “You do it because you want to, not because you have to.”

There are no current GCC student volunteers at the YWCA; however, there are some volunteers from the University of Phoenix and UCLA, according to Karagezian.

The hours are flexible and Karagezian said that she needs volunteers, especially with after school tutoring or homework programs with the children.

During the holidays, the National Charity League (NCL) sponsors an annual party for the women and children. Help is welcome for the party for tasks from decorating and gift wrapping to the cleaning up.

For more information about the YWCA of Glendale, call Karagezian at (818) 242-4155, Ext. 227.

“Volunteering is one of the most amazing things that people can do,” said Karagezian. “So if anyone has an interesting idea about support that they would like to offer, we are definitely open to it.”