Under new leadership, YWCA of Greater Memphis seeks path forward

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Under new leadership, YWCA of Greater Memphis seeks path forward

Categories: News

Katie Fretland, Memphis Commercial Appeal Published 3:53 p.m. CT Aug. 22, 2018 | Updated 8:21 p.m. CT Aug. 22, 2018

Drawing from about a decade of experience with the Memphis Housing Authority and several more years working with domestic violence victims, Marquiepta Odom recently took the helm as interim director of the YWCA of Greater Memphis.

Odom, 49, is a native Memphian who grew up in Frayser and went back to college during her 40s, earning a degree from Bethel University in organizational development. With the housing authority, she worked to help families with self-sufficiency, housing vouchers and home ownership programs. In the past four years, she has had several roles at the local YWCA, including shelter director.

She is also a survivor of domestic violence.

“I came from a middle class family,” she said in an interview Wednesday. “There were some issues growing up. I saw some domestic violence. As I started dating and I got married, I ended up in an intimate partner domestic violence situation. I went through a lot of different changes. It took me awhile to get stable again. The trauma was still there. I was a silent victim. Most people did not know until I told my testimony 10 years later.”

Odom takes over as the organization charts a path forward following the loss of some of its funding.

Marquiepta Odom, interim director, serves a new leadership role for the YWCA of Greater Memphis. (Photo: Ariel Cobbert / For CommercialAppeal.com)

Judi Bishop, a former interim CEO at YWCA San Antonio, has come in to help at the Memphis office to create a plan involving fund development activities, facilities management, financial management and oversight, staffing and personnel, and program development and evaluation.

“YWCA USA has given YWCA Memphis a technical assistance grant,” the YWCA national office said in an email. “YWCA Memphis have used that grant to contract with (Bishop) to come in, assess their situation, and help them craft a plan to move forward.”

With adequate funding, the YWCA’s shelter in Memphis could operate at its capacity of 78 beds. Currently, 44 people are housed in the shelter, and there is a waiting list, Odom said. The shelter houses women, children and men.

The YWCA has a long history in Memphis beginning in 1919.

“The YWCA has been instrumental in addressing most of the social issues that this community has faced throughout the years whether that was race relations or the issue of domestic violence or workplace training for women in nontraditional fields,” said Dottie Jones, director of the Memphis-based CoactionNet network of social services. “I would hope this community would continue to support their work as they grow and change.

“The YWCA was the first organization in this community that ever talked about the issue of domestic violence, and not only did they talk about it, they were the first organization to open a shelter for abused women. There is no other shelter for abused women in this community. The YWCA shelter is a place where women and men can go with their children and be in a safe, supportive environment while they decide what the next step might be.”

The YWCA’s 100-year anniversary is next year, Odom said, and they are working to revive and renew the organization to be viable for years to come.

“We’re not about to drown tomorrow or close tomorrow, but we need to build upon what we have and make sure we are sustainable for the future,” Odom said.