YWCA of Westmoreland County Technology Impact

Organization Information:

Organization Name:
YWCA of Westmoreland County
City & State:
Organization Website:
Organization's Mission Statement

We create opportunities for women and girls to lead purposeful lives and strive for a community that values diversity.

Submission Information

Impact Essay

The mission of the YWCA of Westmoreland County is a profound one: The empowerment of women and the elimination of racism. Thanks to the donated Microsoft products through TechSoup the YWCA has been able to optimize our mission delivery and increase the effectiveness of the organization within our community. We are able to take advantage of a stable infrastructure to greatly increase our effectiveness by integrating technology into administration, programs, and service delivery. In 1998 the YWCA opened a state-of-the-art computer lab as a resource center to serve students and adults in our community who did not have access to computers. As our reputation and stories of successful learning grew, so did the need to expand the services offered. Donated Microsoft software has been a key component to that expansion. Because of the donated Microsoft software we are able to offer computer classes in the current version of the Microsoft Office Suite. Staying current with this software is crucial to the survival of our computer center. It has enabled us to successfully extend our service within a 40 mile radius to both non-profits and for-profits, enabling others to achieve their goals and missions while we achieve our own. The use of current software and the comfort and non-threatening environment of our lab due to the small class size (maximum 6-8 students) are major factors to our success for eleven years. However, the program deficit from our small student-teacher ratio makes it difficult for us to have the money to keep up with the current technology; the donated Microsoft software is such a blessing to our organization. Our goal is to make it possible for everyone to take our computer classes regardless of income or other barriers. One way we accomplish this is by offering scholarships toward the cost of the class. To date, over 5,873 people have taken our computer classes and we have awarded in the range of 25 % to 100% scholarships to over 853 people. These include those with financial need and also those experiencing extraordinary life circumstances. Additionally, we extend our existing scholarship program to organizations whose clients need to learn the current Microsoft Office applications to be eligible to apply for a job. Some of the organizations we are currently offering scholarships to are: PA CareerLink (PA Commonwealth Workforce Development System), Latrobe Senior Computer Associates, Senior Community Service Employment Program, Center against Domestic Violence, and the Lifelong Learning Program. We have also served clients from the Vietnam Veterans Association, Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, and Westmoreland County Area Agency on Aging. Our educational outreach has impacted non-profits and for-profits (within a 40 mile radius). The growth of our teaching lab enabled us to offer Microsoft Office trainings to over 993 employees. The non-profit agencies we’ve served are better able to serve their clients and their mission due to the training we have provided. Many of them have upgraded their Microsoft Office Suite to the 2007 version and have requested our trainings for their employees so they can become proficient in the new interface. We have provided customized trainings, enabling them to learn how the entire suite can be used specifically for their agencies needs. Some of the non-profits we have trained are: Bethlehem Haven (a women’s shelter), Center for Organ Recovery and Education, Greensburg YMCA, accessAbilities, Mental Health America of Westmoreland County, Latrobe Unity Parks and Recreation, West Overton Museum, Ligonier Valley Writers, United Cerebral Palsy of Allegheny County, American Red Cross, Westmoreland Human Opportunities, Operation Outward Reach, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Laurel Region, Westmoreland Case Management and Support, Salvation Army, Westmoreland County Blind Association, Communities in Schools in Southwestern PA, and the United Way of Westmoreland County. We know our trainings are successful when we hear these comments from employees: “I never knew that I could do that in the Microsoft Office Suite,” “I have been doing this the long way, what you have taught me will save me so much time,” “Thanks to this training, I am more comfortable doing my job.” There was an apparent need in our community for private tutoring for many local non-traditional college students. They have benefitted from this service by making it possible for them to earn their graduate or under graduate degrees. Their urgent need to know how to use the applications to complete the coursework becomes a major factor in their ability to earn their degree. Graduate and under-graduate students are expected to know how to use the applications; this becomes an education barrier for the non-traditional student. Our private tutoring is affordable and can also be funded by the scholarships that we offer. One adult student, soon to receive her graduate degree in Special Education, credits the YWCA’s computer tutoring for her being able to complete her research graphs in Microsoft Excel. She states, “Now I feel confident that I can meet the computer skills requirements of my career, thanks to the YWCA.” Through the use of a laptop and a projector the YWCA teaches sessions in the Microsoft Office Suite at libraries and provides presentations on various technology topics using Microsoft PowerPoint. This provides libraries a way to impact their constituents about technology and through the use of technology. Our impact on our community is continually growing and we know we have succeeded by the letters people send informing us: “Currently I am working in a position that requires me to use Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Access. Prior to enrolling in the classes you offer, I would never have applied for this position. My employer recently installed Office 2007 and I did not need to attend the orientation. Furthermore, I am helping my fellow employees adjust to this program. Never have I been the person to go to with a computer question.” “I am most appreciative the YWCA has made the Technology Center available to women in our community.” The donated Microsoft Office Suite through TechSoup has also enhanced the quality of the other programs and services that we offer. Our class enrollment for our health, wellness, children’s programs, computer classes, literacy and English as a second language have increased because we can share our electronic files in PDF. This has made it possible for us to make our computer class schedules, newsletters, enrollment forms, and other program literature available online. It enables us to open our front door to a much broader audience than before. We create all of our publications in Microsoft Publisher and then publish them as PDF’s. Our newsletter is created in Microsoft Publisher and then sent to a professional printing company in a smooth, seamless manner. The Microsoft Office Suite has also enabled the staff to enhance the quality or impact of our services by tracking the outcomes of our programs and other relevant data either in Microsoft Excel or Microsoft Access and then analyzing that data for the welfare of our organization. For example, Microsoft Excel made it possible to track the pledges for our most recent capital campaign. Through this tracking our fund development staff was able to give current and accurate data to our board of directors regarding our campaign goals. One of our most successful programs is our YWCA Thrift Shop, which provides good used clothing and household goods for sale to the community as well as donating interview ready clothing and work clothes for people re-entering the job force. Our donors choose our Thrift Shop over other thrift stores in our area because we track their donations for them in Microsoft Excel and then use the mail merge feature in Microsoft Word to provide letters listing their itemized tax deductible donations at the end of each year. Being able to purchase Microsoft Windows Small Business Server at a discount afforded us the opportunity to acquire a server. This server took our organization from using an inefficient client computer acting as a server to being able to have a “real” server which entered us into the wonderful world of current technology. Microsoft Windows Small Business Server provides a way for us to share our files, printers, have Internet connectivity, and most important a way to effectively back-up our files. Using Microsoft Outlook in conjunction with Microsoft Exchange Server has had a great impact on how our staff stays “connected.” We use shared calendars and contacts, and we also have a public Master Calendar that is heavily used by all staff to be aware of the current schedule of programs and room locations, enabling us to effectively answer our clients’ questions about current program dates, times and locations. This calendar also makes it possible for us to know the location of our staff so we can contact them if needed. Microsoft Exchange Server also helps the staff stay “connected” on days that we are out of the office or need to work from home because we use Microsoft Outlook Web Access to remotely get our emails, contacts and other Outlook components. Many thanks to Microsoft and TechSoup for the donated Microsoft software that has enabled our organization to: increase our range and number of clients and grow our membership, enhance the quality of our computer classes, trainings and other programs, and enable us to impact not just our organization but numerous other organizations and companies to help us and them successfully and proficiently attain our goals and missions.

Submission Category
Optimize Mission Delivery
Project Image