Four questions with YMCA Dayton CEO Shannon Isom.
Shannon Isom, who came to Dayton 18 years ago to purse a medical degree, is marking her third anniversary as CEO of the YWCA Dayton. She sat down with Dayton Magazine to discuss the YWCA’s programs and her own role with the nonprofit.
Housing services have been a part of the YWCA’s mission from the beginning; what does that include?
In the late 19th century it involved housing for women who were widowed and had no economic empowerment. Today, we’re doing the same thing for women who are homeless and without family or other resources.
One iteration is the Single Room Occupancy program, one of about 20 such programs still operated by the YWCA around the country. We provide housing for 96 ( Single Room Occupancy) residents; some for just short periods but others have been with us for 15 years or more.
Secondly, we operate the only domestic violence shelter in Montgomery and Preble counties. We have 83 beds for women and children facing a domestic violence crisis. We’ve been providing that service for about 40 years. We also provide transitional housing for up to two years for women who are ready to move out of the shelter to re-establish themselves. We also operate a 14-bed domestic violence shelter near Eaton in Preble County with the (Housing Is The) Foundation.
What other YWCA services should people be aware of?
We don’t discuss it a lot but at any one time we have 40 children in our shelter who have to maintain their education without falling behind. Imagine how difficult that is in a shelter in the midst of a domestic-violence crisis. We have a strong focus on our children and their education.
We also operate one of two Girls Inc. programs in Ohio. The other is at the YWCA Hamilton. Each year we serve about 900 girls from ages 8 to 18 helping them achieve their highest potential with in- and out-of-school programming and summer camps.
What was your introduction to the YWCA?
It was a bit of accident and fate. I found a job at the YWCA in Columbus working on a pilot program on women and mobile mammogram units while I was doing post-graduate education at Ohio State University.
When I came to Dayton I went through Leadership Dayton and they required we do some additional volunteering so I picked the YWCA because I knew the mission and felt pretty passionate about it. I ended up serving on the board and then as vice chair and chair and was picked to be CEO after a national search.
What do you enjoy about your work?
I think what I appreciate and enjoy the most is that I’m serving women and that aligns with my personal value system. One of the reasons I actually decided to pursue a medical career was because I believe very strongly in serving the least of us.
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