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CP Sally Young at the YWCA on 14th Street and Pico Boulevard. (photo by Brandon Wise)

DOWNTOWN The Santa Monica YWCA of today is a far cry from the YWCA Sally Young started working at as an executive director in 1985.

On her first day on the job Young walked into her office to find a desk that faced a wall and a bathroom with wood planks across a tub serving as a file cabinet. The manila files were in complete disarray.

“Oh my God, what have I done,” Young said about her decision to take the job.

Young spent three days wading through files and had to commission the creation of a personnel policy handbook from scratch since no employee handbook existed. To make matters worse she was also contending with a shoe string budget at the time.

Today she is proud to pass on a YWCA that is able to meet pay roll, that has all documents in order, and that has a dedicated staff, the majority of which, have committed themselves to over 12 years of serving the needs of women and girls in Santa Monica.

Unlike Young, who came into an office with immediate logistical issues, the new director will have six months of support from the former director as well as time to travel and talk over the needs of the YWCA with board members and others in the community. The transition time that the new director will enjoy is the result of a grant Young wrote to ease everyone into the next era of leadership. Young is happy to give this extra time to the new director who she says will have to begin to establish their vision for the YWCA.

Young, who enjoys solving creative problems, has left her mark on the community and the center by leading projects that filled the gaps in social services with in the city. For example, Young led a team effort to create a housing and education program for young women leaving the foster care system. She also established Girls in Action/TechGYRLS Program and Girls Sports Programs. All of these programs were unique and presented solutions to needs that were going unfilled within the community.

As a result of these programs more girls have been able to go on and succeed in life. Girls who come out of the foster care system and go through the housing and education program through the YWCA have significantly higher rates of earning college degrees than those who leave the foster care system and left to their own devices.

After speaking with Young for five minutes her interest in the education and the personal development of teens and children is evident. Just last summer Young accompanied her own daughter, Sarah, on a trip to Kenya. While her daughter worked to build a school for children through the non-profit, Free the Children, Young visited a local orphanage and connected with residents. Thinking about how she could help the people she met, Young became inspired. At her annual Christmas party she decided to asked friends to bring a check for the orphanage instead of wine or other gifts. The result was $4,000 of aid for the orphanage.

Cassandra Black, director of community relations and outreach at the YWCA, said that Young has been an extremely accessible and open director.

“Her door has always been open to problem solving and issues,” Black said.

As a director, Young has understood the need for women to balance the needs of work and family, she has been able to look at all sides of issues clearly and make informed decisions, Black added.

Black appreciates the encouragement Young has given to the entire staff over the years, many of whom she hired. Young led the YWCA not only in establishing new programs, but by setting the tone at work through her humor. She is credited with the low turn over rate at the center where the majority of staff has been employed for over 12 years, Black said.

Even though the new director will have big shoes to fill, Black said that they are looking forward to embracing the new person.

“They’re very fortunate to have a stable staff. We’re very open,” Black said.

After two decades of service, Young is looking forward to continuing charity work by building houses for the less fortunate. Always an outdoorsman at heart, she also looks forward to spending more time in nature with her husband and pets.

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