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History and Leadership


With support from the community, we have been empowering women to reach their full potential since 1906. In 1910, we started our first local community support programs: first aid and English classes for immigrant women. Over the years, we expanded our services to provide women and children with a multitude of educational and leadership opportunities, support and encouragement, as well as safe and affordable housing.

In 1977, we began providing emergency shelter and supportive services to domestic violence victims and homeless women and children. Today, we are the largest Shelter serving women and children in North Dakota and Northwestern Minnesota and are recognized as one of the longest standing nonprofits in the Fargo-Moorhead area and an enduring resource in our community. In the last 47 years, we have provided safe shelter and supportive housing to over 47,000 women and children.

In 1990, we launched the Transitional Housing Program, which initially served four families. The need grew, and as a result, we expanded our program based on feedback from women served and to provide flexible arrangements for those overcoming significant barriers to independence.

1991 also marked the establishment of the Job Plus Program, which is now known as the Education and Employment Program. This program was, and continues to be, a crucial component to women breaking the cycles of poverty and violence by providing education readiness and employment training to help women gain confidence and build lasting economic security through career growth.

In 1997, YWCA opened A Child’s World, public childcare center. The center permanently closed in April 2020 with YWCA focusing on its core mission of sheltering, housing, and empowering survivors of domestic violence and homelessness.

YWCA Emergency Shelter was built at 3000 S. University Drive in 2004 due to growing need in the community. As the apparent needs of the community grew, YWCA expanded supportive programming within the Shelter, to further meet the needs of women and children. Through a partnership with Sanford Health, YWCA’s Registered Nurse brings health education to the Shelter and empowers women to better manage their health. In addition, through programs such as Children’s Services and within that, Study Buddies, children experiencing homelessness find safety, support, and fun at YWCA.

Unfortunately, the need for our services is great. On any given day, we serve over 300 women and children in our shelter, housing, and stabilization programs. Today, we serve a diverse population, with women and children of color comprising 63% of those served in shelter and 65% in housing in 2023. With this in mind, we are dedicated to eliminating racism and empowering women and carry out this mission-centered focus in everything we do. With support from the community we will continue our work of helping women break the cycles of violence and poverty for their families.

In 2019, YWCA opened Grace Garden: A YWCA Supported Residence in West Fargo, providing affordable housing to people escaping homelessness, poverty, and violence. The residence has apartments for families ranging from one to four bedrooms and onsite housing advocates who readily support residents in their goals.

In 2023, YWCA added 23 one- to four-bedroom apartments with the opening of Lantern Light: A YWCA Supported Residence. Formerly the Sacred Heart Convent (located adjacent to YWCA Emergency Shelter), YWCA purchased the property from the Sisters of the Presentation and completed the renovation in the fall of 2023. YWCA staff on site help women overcome barriers and offer support.

For more than a century, YWCA has been a place of safety, hope, and support for women, children, and families. We stand ready to continue this work for as long as our community needs.


YWCA Board of Directors

Rayonna Hystead, President

Tammi Jo Barta, First Vice President

Louise Dardis, Second Vice President

Megan Schreiner, Treasurer

Lisa Schwinden, Secretary

Mary Jo Lewis, Past President

Erin Prochnow, YWCA Chief Executive Officer

Krista Andrews

Adair Boening

Jodi Duncan

Jessica Ebeling

Anita Hoffarth

Anne LaFrinier-Ritchie

Celine Paulson

Josie Perhus

Sandi Piatz

Sherri Schmidt

Lisa Schwinden

Paula Swanson

Cassie Wiste