YWCA Bucks County History
|In 1954, the YWCA Bucks County was formed with a charter from the National Board of the YWCA of the U.S.A. The first meeting place was the William Penn Center in Fallsington. Y-Wives groups were formed in seven Bucks County communities. These were usually young mothers who met weekly to discuss parenting and home making issues ranging from personal growth and continuing education to raising children and cooking. The YWCA provided child care for participants. |
In addition to programming in various communities, the YWCA had a home in the Langhorne Community Center building at the corner of Bellevue and Maple Avenues. (This building is now the home of The Peace Center.)
Other early activities included a supper club for young women who were employed, a discussion group, activities for teens and pre-teens and the formation of a thrift shop.
In the 1960s, programs decentralized into four geographic areas: Hampton, Newtown, Warminster and Pennsbury. Each center had a variety of programs and a group of volunteers who worked with staff in planning and implementing activities for women, children and families. There was a nursery at each center where children were cared for while their mothers were in programs.
On September 23, 1966, Dr. Margaret Mead was the guest speaker at Woman Power Seminar, sponsored by the YWCA Bucks County and held at the Buck Hotel in Feasterville.
Community service projects included Christmas parties for autistic children at Eastern State School and Hospital, a reading tutoring program at Centennial, a Braille program to prepare materials for visually handicapped persons and a Saturday Fun recreation program for children in several area schools.
A library was organized in Warminster which later became part of the Bucks County Free Library system. Sewing courses were added to other classes and programs.
During the 1970s, as a result of a National YWCA study and the challenges of the civil rights movement, the Bucks County Board of Directors made it a priority to integrate women of color into the board, committees and staff of the local YWCA.
Another new direction was increased program emphasis on employed women and on employment training for women. The mid to late 1970s also added and strengthened programs for youth in life skills training, health issues, peer counseling and the prevention of chemical dependency and physical abuse. “Project Jobs” provided on the job training opportunities in business and industry for high school juniors and seniors.
In the 1980’s, the YWCA established a Women’s Resource Center and a day care center in Bristol Township and served as an umbrella organization for Women Organized Against Rape and the Center for Flexible Employment until both organizations were incorporated.
Program emphases in the mid and late 1980s included “Women and Work”, money management, health issues and the prevention of violence against women and children. In 1982, a very successful capital campaign raised $100,000 to purchase a 29 foot Mobile Program Center that was driven to various communities each week for program activities for women and children.
Courses offered during this period included: How to Get a Job, Managing Your Money, Parenting Practices, and How to Survive After Losing a Spouse through Death or Divorce. The YWCA of Bucks County developed a training program to teach women catering skills and help them start small catering businesses of their own. Because of the success of this program, the Bucks County Association fro Retarded Citizens asked the YWCA to provide a food service program for their program participants.
“Bucks County Woman” was a magazine published by the YWCA Bucks County, and the agency also produced a Women’s Resource Directory.
In 1988, the ceiling of the Langhorne Community House collapsed, making it unsafe for YWCA activities. The agency moved to several temporary addresses, and ended up in a building where rent was far more than the agency could afford.
From this period through 1992, the agency faced a real financial crisis, severely cutting programs, and moving to much less expensive offices in Langhorne. A nationwide search brought an experienced YWCA director, and the YWCA Bucks County refocused its programming on low-income communities in Bucks County.
With hard work and strong program models, the agency began a period of rebirth, going from an income of only $202,000 in 1992 to $1,285,000 in funding for 2003.
The YWCA opened YWCA “Women’s Centers” at Creekside and Country Commons Apartments, which became the model for YWCA Family Centers that serve Bucks County residents in communities in Bensalem, Bristol Township and Morrisville. Family Center programs include employment training, English as a Second Language, weekly support groups, computer training and practice, food pantry and referral to other county resources. The YWCA’s Early Academic Intervention Programs expanded from serving three schools in Bensalem to include the Bristol Township and Morrisville School Districts.
The Senior Shared Housing Program, which matches senior citizen homeowners with qualified, low-income house-sharers, began as the first of its kind in Bucks County. This program helps seniors remain in their own home autonomously, and extends affordable housing for house sharers.
The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) helps eligible families obtain free or low cost health insurance, and the YWCA was selected by the Bucks County Health Improvement Project to enroll Bucks County children. In April 2004, the YWCA reach the milestone of 2,000 children enrolled in this program.
The YWCA Employment Training and Job Placement Program provides women, men and teens with job skills assessment and with assistance in all aspects of obtaining a job leading to greater self-sufficiency. This program experienced severe cuts in state funding in early 2003. The YWCA was committed to sustaining this critical program. With support from key funders, as well as a grant we received with Congressman Jim Greenwood’s assistance, we will continue to provide this critical component of our self-sufficiency programming.
YWCA programs have been honored by several organizations in the past five years. In 1999, we received the National Association of Professional Organizers Award for Organizing Excellence in Community Service; the Lower Bucks County Chamber of Commerce awarded the agency its 2000 Economic Development Award; and Soroptimist International of Indian Rock, Inc. honored the YWCA Employment Training and Job Placement program with its 2004 Certificate of Honor for Advancing the Status of Women.
Betz Laboratories, which would become GE Water Technologies, offered the YWCA free use of a house beginning in 1999. In 2004, GE Water Technologies donated that property which would become the YWCA’s permanent home, built on the generosity of many donors: the Program Outreach Center.
In addition to a new home, 2004 marked the celebration of the YWCA Bucks County’s 50th anniversary of serving women children and families. In addition, the association introduced a new logo for the YWCA. The YWCA of the U.S.A. instituted a new logo and brand, emphasizing the key components of the YWCA mission: eliminating racism and empowering women.
Throughout its history, the YWCA Bucks County has believed in the families and people that are served. In order to effectively impact the Bucks County community, YWCA programming is built on three pillars of program support: Youth Services, Family Centers, and Self Sufficiency. The YWCA will continue serving Bucks County, working towards eliminating racism and empowering women for the next fifty years and beyond.