YWCA Metro St. Louis Celebrates 120 Years of Service

YWCA Metro St. Louis Celebrates 120 Years of Service

Tuesday, March 12, 2024 / St. Louis, Missouri – The St. Louis region’s oldest and largest women’s advocacy organization celebrates 120 years with innovative programs and anchor events. An Anniversary party will be held on May 2, and YWCA USA CEO Margaret Mitchell will help close out the agency’s milestone year at Leader Lunch 44 in December.

YWCA Metro St. Louis has much to celebrate in 2024. The agency has been gathering accreditations and accolades over the past two years as it has rebuilt, rebranded and reimagined its programming to serve more clients with greater impact.

The human services agency was founded in 1904 to provide safe housing for women traveling from rural areas to work at the World’s Fair. Today, YWCA serves more than 10,000 women and their families each year through three core service areas: Crisis Intervention and Rapid Re-Housing for women who have experienced sexual and/or domestic violence, Head Start/Early Head Start education and childcare, and Economic Empowerment and Career Readiness services. For 120 years, YWCA has worked to create a safe and equitable path to self-sufficiency and prosperity for women and families.

“A woman may come to us afraid and in crisis – and with compassion and professionalism, we can help her heal, provide the wraparound services she needs during this time (such as childcare, transportation, food and housing), educate her children, and prepare her for employment or even entrepreneurship, so she can exit our programs having changed the trajectory of her family’s life,” said Dr. Cheryl Watkins, MBA, President and CEO. “We have no financial requirements for our clients; all of our services are free.”

Concurrent to delivering impactful service to clients, YWCA is also committed to creating innovative solutions for the challenges faced by their clients and the community.

“The state of childcare – or rather, the lack of childcare and shortage of childcare professionals – in our region and in our nation is dismal. It is a national crisis,” Watkins continued. “Childcare and the workforce are inextricably linked, and we are committed to finding solutions that will serve both families and employers.”

YWCA’s Early Education program currently serves more than 1,200 children in St. Louis City and County, but 400 families remain on the waitlist due to a shortage of qualified staff. To solve for its staffing deficit, YWCA developed an accelerated, pre-credentialing program for aspiring childcare professionals.

This innovative, award-winning solution is YWCA Metro St. Louis Successful Pathways™, a Department of Labor registered apprenticeship created as a strategy to help YWCA grow its own staff. Successful Pathways places aspiring professionals in the classroom while they work toward their Child Development Associate credential (CDA®).  This allows YWCA to keep classrooms open so parents can remain in the workforce, or creates opportunities to open new classrooms, which allows parents to return to the workforce.

Earlier this month, YWCA received FOCUS St. Louis’ What’s Right with the Region Award, recognizing Successful Pathways in the Demonstrating Innovative Solutions category.

Stacy Johnson, YWCA Chief Program Officer and Head Start Director, reports that early in its second year, the Successful Pathways apprenticeship has already allowed YWCA to keep 85 Head Start classrooms open – serving 1,041 families. YWCA USA invited Johnson to present the innovative staffing model at its recent national conference because they believe it can be replicated and scaled to benefit YWCAs nationwide.

Coming Events

YWCA will celebrate its anniversary throughout the year, beginning with “Cheers to 120 Years,” an anniversary party to be held on May 2 at the Four Seasons Hotel, and culminating with Leader Lunch 44 on December 13 at the Marriott St. Louis Grand Hotel. Leader Lunch is the St. Louis region’s longest-running recognition of the achievements of women. YWCA USA CEO Margaret Mitchell will attend this year to share how the advocacy efforts of YWCA nationally helps support the work YWCA Metro St. Louis does locally and regionally.

Nominations are now open for the Leaders of Distinction who will be honored at Leader Lunch in December. Details and tickets to the events can be found here.

“That our agency has endured for 120 years is no small feat and we are extremely grateful,” Dr. Watkins adds. “We are celebrating twelve decades of service, thousands of women and men and partner organizations who provided advocacy, education, services, volunteer hours, financial support and empowerment to hundreds of thousands of women and families in our region. We hope our community joins us!”


YWCA Metro St. Louis is the region’s leading advocate for the safety, security and stability of women and children, serving more than 10,000 women, girls and families annually. The mission of YWCA is eliminating racism and empowering women. YWCA offers crisis intervention and rapid re-housing for victims of sexual and domestic violence; services for pregnant women and Head Start and Early Head Start early childhood education; economic empowerment services for all clients; and racial justice educational programs.

YWCA 24/7 CRISIS HELP LINE 314.531.7273

Skip to content