Headshot of Norma McDonald Ewing. Text on right: 75 years of leading change

Norma McDonald Ewing: Reflections on YWCA Cambridge’s 75 Years

October 2023 marked YWCA Cambridge’s 75th anniversary.

For 75 years, YWCA Cambridge has been responding to the changing needs of women, girls and gender diverse individuals.

Norma McDonald Ewing is the current YWCA Cambridge board chair, a position she’s held since 2020.  However, her history with this trailblazing organization goes far beyond her time as board chair, spanning back into the 80s and including a time as board chair in the 1990s.

In fact, Norma – along with current CEO, Kim Decker, who has led the organization for 37 years – is credited with bringing the nationally recognized Women of Distinction Awards to the Cambridge and North Dumfries community. Because of her efforts, more than 250 women, girls and gender diverse individuals have been recognized by these prestigious awards for their various contributions to their communities.

We asked Norma to share her reflections on YWCA Cambridge’s 75-year history:

As we honour the 75th anniversary of the YWCA Cambridge, it’s an occasion for reflection on a journey marked by resilience, compassion, and tireless dedication to the mission of the organization. A journey that began 75 years ago when four remarkable women met over tea in downtown Galt, with a shared vision of creating a better future for women and girls in their community. That meeting sparked a legacy of transformation that we are proud to continue today.

I was initially drawn to the YWCA in the 1980s because of its unyielding commitment to empowering some of the most marginalized individuals in our society. Through comprehensive services like employment support, youth programs, summer camps, childcare, mentoring and special events, the YWCA has changed lives in profound ways, one life at a time. Today the YWCA Cambridge provide an invaluable sanctuary for cis and trans women and girls, as well as non-binary and two-spirit individuals.

Photograph of an old newspaper clipping, undated. Norma is leaning over and speaking with a long-time member of YWCA Cambridge, Betty Mahaffey
A newspaper clipping over coverage of YWCA Cambridge's 50th anniversary celebration. Norma is pictured on the left.

What keeps me devoted to the YWCA’s mission is its holistic approach to empowerment. This is not just an organization that ‘helps’; it empowers, fosters resilience, and truly transforms lives. I have witnessed firsthand how the YW’s wide ranging programs and services make a lasting impact on individuals, echoing through communities and creating a cycle of positive change that is awe-inspiring to behold.

The work of the YW could not be possible without the incredible commitment of the leadership team, staff and volunteers, including the exemplary Board of Directors. Their hard work and devotion turn mission statements into actionable outcomes and truly embody the vision set forth by those four women.

The YW has also shown a remarkable ability to adapt to the ever-changing needs of our community, evolving without straying from its foundational mission. This flexibility has kept the YWCA not just relevant but essential, ensuring that we continue to meet the needs of those we serve.

In my journey with the YW, I have found a community that resonates with my own values and amplifies my hopes for a more equitable world. Supporting the YW enriches not only the lives of those it directly touches but my own life as well. It’s a symbiotic relationship, where my investment of time and resources returns a sense of purpose and fulfillment that makes my life whole.

As we look ahead to the next 75 years, I am filled with an overwhelming sense of optimism for what we can continue to achieve. May the YW remain a beacon of hope, an agent of change, and a sanctuary for all.

Celebrate our 75th anniversary with us by donating $75 for 75.

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