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December 14th, 2005 Angela Valdez | News Stories
 

Asking Y

Big changes at the downtown YWCA include a farewell to programs for the old and disabled.

     
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This isn't your mother's YWCA anymore.
Two programs helping seniors and the disabled have been asked to leave the YWCA's downtown building a year before their leases expire.

The request from Adella MacDonald, executive director of the YWCA of Greater Portland, signals her effort to refocus the 104-year-old nonprofit on services for women instead of its recent history of serving broader community needs.

But the premature departure for Loaves and Fishes along with Multnomah County Aging and Disability Services before their leases expire in 2007 has touched off some unhappiness from those programs' employees. They worry that a replacement site somewhere else will not be able to serve as many clients.

MacDonald's response to any murmurs of discontent is that she has been focused since becoming executive director in February 2003 on making sure "that all of our programs are very mission-aligned."

"No one is kicking anyone out,'' she says. "And I really bristle at that term."

Officials from Loaves and Fishes, which serves more than 400 hot lunches every day, and Aging and Disability Services, which offers help with Medicaid applications and case management for seniors in nursing homes, are more sanguine about their prospects than their employees.

They have agreed to look for new locations and plan to move out within the next year. The programs serve overlapping populations and hope to find a new downtown site they can share.

MacDonald says she will probably use the extra space to expand the Y's transitional housing for low-income women, who currently occupy just one floor in the five-floor building at 1111 SW 10th Ave.

In addition to taking up needed space, she says, the county aging and disability services program has contributed to a "critical mass problem in the lobby," as clients stream in on their way to the second-floor offices.

The two senior programs will leave just as the rest of Southwest 10th Avenue undergoes an image overhaul. The Portland Art Museum unveiled a major renovation this fall, and the Eliot Tower condominiums, a glass and steel complex with 223 pricey units, will be completed next spring. The YWCA underwent its own facelift in 2003 with an $8 million renovation that was trumpeted as serving a "cross-section of the downtown community." MacDonald acknowledges the renovation was promoted with a "somewhat different vision than what it ended up being."

MacDonald, who earns $114,167 annually (compared with $67, 867 for her predecessor), has overseen other changes that redirect the focus of the YWCA. She brought in a for-profit management company to run the fitness center, hoping to raise membership rates enough to make the gym break even and pay for itself.

MacDonald also plans to sell the land occupied by the YWCA's 69-year-old Camp Westwind, and lease the Oregon Coast property near Lincoln City from the new owners.

 
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