New YWCA Dayton leader strives to be 'voice for the voiceless'
On May 8, the YWCA Dayton announced Terra Fox Williams as its new president and CEO. The YWCA Dayton chose her to lead the organization after a four-month search.
She comes from Public Health-Dayton & Montgomery County, where she was director for the Office of Health Promotion. She has a Master's degree in public health from Wright State University.
Fox Williams explains to WYSO’s Mike Frazier why she believes her background makes her ideal for the position.
Terra Fox Williams: As a little girl from Louisiana born in 1976, most people would think that I grew up with the basics of life and everything. But I did not. I did not grow up with indoor plumbing or indoor A/C or heating at all. I grew up with the disparities that many of our individuals are also experiencing within the YWCA, and that's obstacles and barriers to overcome. And as a little girl having to go to an outhouse to use the restroom, and also being a little girl who has to go out and chop wood for an indoor fireplace to be able to warm the home, and then having a box fan as your way of being cool.
And then having my first child at the age of 15 and being told that you're just going to be another statistic — for me, that set my trajectory to be the voice for the voiceless, to be the one that speaks up that says that anything is possible and to be able to set the standard for, if we just take the time to educate, mentor and help people understand that we all can be successful in anything that we want to do in life.
Mike Frazier: What do you plan on doing with the YWCA once you become president and CEO in June?
Fox Williams: My plan is to work collaboratively with our current partners that we have to understand and emphasize our overall mission, goal and vision to continue the track of letting everyone know that the YWCA is the only domestic violence shelter and rape crisis shelter in Montgomery County and Preble County.
Again, there's so many individuals out here who experience domestic violence, who experience rape crisis, who experience racism in all shapes, forms and matter. And most of them most of the time don't step up and come up and talk about it, because they don't feel like they have a voice. So working with my team and my community partners that we currently have, how do we continue to be the voice for the voiceless?
Frazier: Do you think there is a reluctance of folks in need to come to the YWCA for help?
Williams: I think when it comes to the YWCA and our mission and what we are accomplishing each and every day, we are what I call an open door policy. We're here to help each and every citizen who needs help. And we are the voice for the voiceless. And I'm confident that each and every individual knows that we are here to provide support, no matter who you are or what you are.
Frazier: Do you want to quickly summarize some of the services the YWCA offers?
Williams: We are a center for survival of sexual violence.
We do have a 24-hour, seven-day crisis hotline and individuals can access that by calling 937-222-SAFE. Again that number is 937-222-SAFE.
Prevention education. We have what's called Amend Together, Shift, and Gem City Safe Bars. When it comes to economic empowerment, we have a housing program. We also have life services and support and education. We have a focus on women and girls leadership. So we have a program called Girls Lead, and we also have our annual Women of Influence program that's put on every March as it relates to racial and social justice. We have legislative and policy advocacy councils. We have a stand against racism, and we also have the Sojourn Leadership and Justice Academy that we have each and every year.
Frazier: Why did you want to apply for this position?
Williams: For me, when it comes to again being a voice for the voiceless, as a woman, as a Black woman, sometimes our voices are muted. And coming into the YWCA and understanding the mission, the goal and the vision. When I look at eliminating racism, when I look at social justice, when I look at being the only domestic violence shelter and rape crisis center in Montgomery County and Preble County, that's been my journey. That's been my journey to be the individual that stands up when nobody else will stand up.
Terra Fox Williams, incoming president and CEO of YWCA Dayton, starts her new job on June 7.