YWCA partners with WLU students to serve community


WLU Media Relations

WLU Criminal Justice student Austin Gray delivers care packages to Lori Jones, YWCA Wheeling executive director.

The Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) is a national organization with a branch in Wheeling, W. Va. Many West Liberty University criminal justice students have helped this organization meet their goals; however, what is this organization, and how do they help local university students and the community?

According to the YWCA history website, the organization was founded in the U.S. in 1858 in New York City, N.Y. Branches were later founded all over the county, but regardless, all YWCA branches have the same mission — to eliminate racism, empower women, promote peace, justice and dignity within their communities. Today, YWCA has over 200 local associations across the U.S.

YWCA Wheeling has several programs, one of which is the Women Inspired in New Directions (WIND) program. The Director of WIND, Laura Albertini-Weigel, says that the Wheeling branch has been active since 1906 and remains in the original building built for it.

Albertini-Weigel has and continues to oversee WLU criminal justice student interns and stays in contact with the CJ Society. “You guys are great! WLU’s interns go back to West Lib and educate their peers on topics such as human trafficking and addiction. Just getting the word out and making information available for when those individuals are ready to get help is helpful,” Albertini-Weigel said. According to Albertini-Weigel, interns have also redone brochures and have spent their time creating and participating in craft activities with children and women.

Senior Macy Lemasters of Hundred, W. Va., is a criminal justice major at WLU and is expected to graduate in spring 2022. Learning of YWCA Wheeling through her advisor, Hannah Kern (a criminal justice instructor at WLU), Lemasters decided to intern with this organization as her goal with her degree is to work with domestic violence and sexual assault survivors. “Getting the chance to work in the field I want to go into directly was a no-brainer for me,” said Lemasters.

Lemasters’ responsibilities with YWCA Wheeling include spending time in the shelter, helping out in the office or on the floor, as well as traveling with her adviser to presentations, seminars and interviews. “I already am really enjoying myself at the YWCA! The work the YWCA does is such an important section of the social work and criminal justice world and I’m glad I get to help out along their way,” said Lemasters.

In December 2021, WLU’s CJ Society provided YWCA Wheeling with holiday care packages after making $800 from a YETI cooler raffle. The care packages contained basic necessities such as shampoo, soap and lotion, as well as fun items like socks and nail polish. A CJ Society member shares his experience with the club and the event.

Senior Austin Gray, of Wheeling, W. Va., is a criminal justice major and minors in addiction studies at WLU. He will be graduating in spring 2022. As a member of the Hilltop’s CJ Society, Gray says he learned of the YWCA’s mission through research.

“We researched various domestic violence victim shelters around the area, then carefully planned how we could impact the community. Every year, we as an organization come together to put together hygiene kits for those who are living in the domestic violence shelter. To some, it may seem little, but we do it because we know what we are doing is helping provide resources to those who need it and to hopefully inspire big change in the community,” shared Gray. The CJ Society is open to all majors.

YWCA Wheeling helps the community by looking at the gaps where people aren’t being served or could be served better. “We deal with all of the subjects that people don’t like to talk about,” said Albertini-Weigel. She goes on to say, “Some of the issues we deal with are women empowerment, education, racism, human trafficking prevention programs, domestic violence shelters, helping the homeless, and self-pay residence.” According to Albertini-Weigel, the self-pay residence offered through the YWCA helps individuals who need a place to live for a short period of time, for a reasonable price.

Always seeking to further serve the community of Wheeling, Albertini-Weigel said, “We are always welcoming community input. If you guys see a need or want some training on a topic, we are here to meet that need. We welcome input. We will gladly provide that opportunity to grow the minds of the community.”

Lemasters says the YWCA is there to help those in need. “If you or a loved one is ever in need of domestic violence assistance, don’t be afraid to reach out to the YWCA’s hotline at 1-800-698-1247. There are also plenty of excellent resources available at ywcawheeling.org,” shares Lemasters.

For more information about this article, please contact Annalise Murphy at [email protected].