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YWCA’s 36th Annual Salute to Women of Achievement

Westside Future Fund

Intro by John Ahmann

Recently, I had the honor of joining the YWCA of Greater Atlanta’ Salute to Women of Achievement, the annual event celebrating women leaders throughout Georgia whose professional and civic lives embody the organization’s mission to eliminate racism and empower women. I am grateful to this great organization, and the leadership of CEO Sharmen Gowens for demonstrating the Power of We. Through its collective efforts across the city of Atlanta, the YWCA is advocating for a better future for thousands of women and their families. And while they are already active on the Westside, the YWCA is leaning even more into the work of lifting up Westside residents with a commitment to reactivate programming of the Historic Westside’s Phyllis Wheatley building.

By Sharmen Gowens, CEO, YWCA of Atlanta

The 36th Annual Salute to Women of Achievement benefiting the YWCA of Greater Atlanta drew 600 supporters to the Marriott Marquis Atlanta last Wednesday night and raised $490,000 in support of the organization.

YWCA of Greater Atlanta, along with this year’s honorees, work to ensure that women and girls in the Greater Atlanta community and beyond are empowered to pursue bright futures. Our mission -eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all – keeps us focused on leveling the playing field, to remove barriers caused by racism and sexism and to reverse the negative narratives about the role of women in the world. Our aim is to provide a foundational, lasting solution that truly makes an impact on women’s lives.  

We celebrated 36 years of inducting a diverse group of women of industry, influence and power into our sisterhood who serve as a formidable force for change for our great city.  We stand together to claim our space, and demand equality and authority over our bodies, careers, education and interests.

As CEO, I had the opportunity to open the event by celebrating how far the organization has come while also looking toward the future. YWCA’s Education and Empowerment arm provides quality educational programs including the Early Learning Academy for over 160 children, ages 0-5. Additionally, our Teen Girls in Technology program, located in eight middle and high schools throughout Greater Atlanta, enables girls to access non-traditional pathways and career trajectories, just like Atlanta Chief of Police Erika Shields, one of ten honorees inducted into the Academy of Women Achievers, did in her career.

Our Health and Safety programs offer education and access to healthcare to underserved women while advocating for policies and practices that eliminate racial health disparities for women of color at the local and state level. And our Advocacy and Social Justice work empowers women to get involved in all aspects of the policy change process, ensuring that women have a seat at the table when decisions are being made about their lives.

A major initiative of the YWCA going forward is the transformation of The Phyllis Wheatley building in the heart of Atlanta’s historic Westside. This year’s Woman of Achievement, Liz Blake, board member of the Westside Future Fund, shared the organization’s vision for the building and its goal of transforming the property into a hub for serving women and their families.

“This key community resource will provide access to the services identified and prioritized by the community so as to enrich the lives of the women of the Westside and their families.  As we uplift others, we strengthen our entire community,” Blake said. “Our goal is to renovate and re-program this building that is a big part of the rich history of Atlanta.”

For more information on how you can support the YWCA and its initiatives in the Greater Atlanta area, visit https://ywcaatlanta.org/.

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