The YWCA Southern Arizona is looking ahead to its next 100 years of empowering women.

Its Second Century Fundraising Campaign aims to raise $1 million for the Women’s Impact Fund and $500,000 for the Stand Together Arizona Training & Advocacy Center.

“Women are driving economic development in Arizona, and we are stepping up our advocacy and focusing on our mission to eliminate racism and empower women by making sure that training, funding and resources are available to women and minorities in our community so that everyone can be successful”, said Kelly Fryer, CEO of YWCA Southern Arizona. “YWCA does more than help women get back on their feet. We are creating systemic change, giving marginalized people a voice and working tirelessly to create a community in which everyone thrives.”

The YWCA recently celebrated 100 years of accomplishments.

Helping women such as Sarah VanPelt is among them.

She is in the process of buying Test Generator, which provides generating applications so customers can create tests, exams and surveys on paper or electronically.

VanPelt has worked for TG for 10 years and approached the YWCA’s Women’s Business Center, where she got help with her business plan, financing options and consultation with a business broker.

+4 

The YWCA’s Victor Mercado listens to Sarah VanPelt discuss her ideas about the business she is negotiating to purchase.

“They have been an amazing resource,” VanPelt said. “They have helped support, educate and prepare me as I work toward the purchase of Test Generator.”

Nurse practitioner Margo Burrows will open Age Less Wellness & Aesthetics Clinic in June. She provides holistic and integrative health care to patients as well as primary care.

The YWCA walked her through the steps of putting together a business plan, Burrows said.

“I have known for years that the YWCA has been a leader in providing education for women regarding direction for small business and business plans,” she said. “I support this program wholeheartedly because women are often overlooked in new business startups.

“I really appreciate this organization for providing an outlet to help people like me.”

Irma Palomo de Garcia, owner of Benny’s Restaurant, learned of the YWCA’s programs while attending a business certification class at the University of Arizona.

She received referrals to a company that provides financing to small businesses.

Her restaurant has been open for seven months at 2702 E. Grant Road.

+4 

Irma Palomo de Garcia learned about the YWCA’s programs while attending a business certification class at the UA.

“At YWCA I have always found people interested in supporting my project as if it were theirs,” Palomo de Garcia said. “They are professional people who have shared their knowledge in favor of my personal dream, which is to make Benny’s Restaurant the best option for people who love Mexican food with traditional taste … like if you were in Mexico or as if it was cooked in your own house by your grandmother.”

It is stories like these that inspired the YWCA to create the Women’s Impact Fund, which will provide micro-loans of $500 to $50,000 to female entrepreneurs and support enterprises, including a kitchen business incubator on the south side for aspiring restauranteurs.

The YWCA holds orientation meetings every other Monday, both in English and in Spanish, to explain how the process of becoming a business owner works, said Victor Mercado, director of the Women’s Business Center of Southern Arizona.

“We ask about their customers, cost structures and revenue channels,” he said. “And we explain to clients what they need to study.”

Some aspiring entrepreneurs walk away, realizing they are not ready to launch a business. Those who are ready take the second step of making one-on-one appointments.

If a business idea doesn’t seem right, Mercado said he asks the tough questions.

“We’re not judgmental but do ask that they walk us through their thinking,” he said.

Working with clients who process the tough questions and research answers is a sign that the person is a business leader.

“It’s very gratifying,” Mercado said. “I understand how hard the process is.”

Aside from assisting business owners, the YWCA has also had a long history of fighting racism in the community, as it plans to continue doing with the goal of raising $500,000 for the Stand Together Arizona Training & Advocacy Center.

A group of 150 women started the organization in 1917.

“Segregation was legal and the norm until the mid-1950s, but a woman of color who came to the university could rent a room at the YWCA,” according to a YWCA brochure citing historical accounts. “Anna Jolivet, who grew up to become the first African-American principal of a TUSD school, remembered doing craft projects with YWCA friends in 1930, right around the same time 13-year-old Esther Tang, who became an influential activist in the Chinese American community, was learning to swim in the YWCA’s pool.”

Contact reporter Gabriela Rico at grico@tucson.com.