The next big achievement: A new YWCA

Building plans unveiled at Women of Achievement ceremony

DIXON – As usual, the Dixon Elks Club was packed for Thursday’s YWCA Women of Achievement Luncheon, but the excitement level was up a notch this year.

That’s because the YWCA of the Sauk Valley is on the cusp of taking a big step forward in its history that dates back to 1924. From humble beginnings, the nonprofit has grown by leaps and bounds. With a staff of 41, it now serves more than 700 domestic violence clients and more than 100 victims of sexual violence each year.

The problem is that the organization has outgrown its building at 412 First Ave. in Sterling.

“People are now working in what used to be closets, and the shelter no longer meets our needs,” Executive Director Rebecca Muñoz-Ripley told the crowd of more than 400 who attended the 37th annual luncheon. It is the YWCA’s biggest fundraiser of the year.

Eric and Madhu Gresla of Chicago-based Gresla Architects Inc. were on hand to unveil some preliminary plans for the YWCA’s new home.

The architects started working with the staff and board of directors 2 years ago.

“The first thing we did was ask whether we could renovate or a new building was needed,” Eric Gresla said. “It quickly became clear that a new facility was in order.”

The current building doesn’t meet requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, making it difficult for the YWCA to truly serve everyone in the community. A new building also could allow additional programming.

Several potential sites have been identified, but the YWCA declined to disclose where they were. One of the sites in the running is the Limestone site at 200 W. First St., along the riverfront in Rock Falls. The city mentioned the possibility in its application for the $250,000 U.S. EPA Brownfields Grant it is seeking to clean up the property.

“We’re looking at multiple sites, but still searching for the perfect spot,” Muñoz-Ripley said.

The nonprofit is still working to come up with an estimated cost for the building project. A capital campaign is being planned, but a kickoff date isn’t yet on the calendar.

Winners in seven awards categories were announced during the luncheon. Four women will have their names added to the Spirit of Achievement plaque at the YWCA. The award gives posthumous recognition to area women who did not receive an award at the event during their lifetime. This year’s winners were: Catherine Akker, a nursing instructor at Sauk Valley Community College; Pat Campbell, a Morrison English teacher who started the Morrison Seahorses swim team; Pamela Knight, an Illinois Department of Children and Family Services worker who was beaten while doing her job and later died of her injuries; and Pam Topper, a local bank executive.

Other winners were: Kris Noble, the Crete Dillon Bowman Award for community leadership; Traci Mueller, the Jane Reid Keefer Award for professions and education; Angie Delhotal, the L.L. Ely Award for clerical excellence; Pat Lachat, the Pearl Woods Award for business and industry; Vicki Wright, the Louise Bittorf Sullivan Award for inspiration; and Tiara Muñoz, the Young Woman of Tomorrow Award.

The YWCA provides domestic violence and sexual assault programs in Whiteside and Lee counties. It also does work in the areas of anti-bullying, diversity training, immigrant services, girls empowerment and women’s career services.

NOMINEES AND WINNERS

Spirit of Achievement Award (posthumous)

Winners: Catherine Akker, Pat Campbell, Pamela Knight, Pam Topper

Crete Dillon Bowman Award for community leadership

Winner: Kris Noble

Nominees: Karen Abele, Janna Groharing, Tekla Martin

Jane Reid Keefer Award for professions and education

Winner: Traci Mueller

Nominees: Deb Cleary, Beth Hubbard, Janet Matheney, Julie Morse, Alice Vetter

L.L. Ely Award for clerical excellence

Winner: Angie Delhotal

Nominees: Marie Rombouts, Roberta Vanderlin

Pearl Woods Award for business and industry

Winner: Pat Lachat

Nominees: Michelle Burns, LeAndre Hartman, Michelle Musgrove

Louise Bittorf Sullivan Award for inspirational women

Winner: Vicki Wright

Nominees: Deborah Duerst, Brenda Helms, Christine Interone-Cutter

Young Woman of Tomorrow Award

Winner: Tiara Muñoz

Nominees: Noelle Jones, Xena Trujillo