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Paving the Way — A New Direction for YWCA Minneapolis

By YWCA Minneapolis
August 16, 2023
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Dear YWCA Minneapolis Community,

Recently we announced we are responding to changing community needs and refocusing our program priorities in those areas in which we are needed the most, including Early Childhood Education, Girls and Youth, and Racial Justice and Public Policy; as well as reimagining our Midtown location as a community cultural hub and consolidating our fitness offerings to that location. These were not easy decisions to make, and we value and thank you for your feedback. While our new vision emerged from a comprehensive strategic planning process and robust data and analysis and will not change, we are listening as our plans continue to evolve.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the fitness landscape and worsened existing disparities in our community. As part of our strategic planning process, we analyzed the greatest community needs, and then examined the impact and outcomes from our various programs to both assess where we are making the greatest impact, and where additional investment could help us deepen that impact. Shifting our strategic focus will better position us to address the changing needs in our community and provide crucial relief and support for women and the children, youth and families we serve.

The important role the Uptown and Downtown fitness, gym and swim programs have played in the lives of many families in our community makes this decision especially difficult. However, our Otters and Masters coaching staff are connecting swimmers with other partners and programs, and we will continue to offer fitness and aquatics programming at our Midtown location. Additionally, through our fitness scholarships, we will continue expanding access to health and wellness programs for individuals and families living in low-income households. In fact, as we reimagine and invest in our Midtown location as a community and cultural hub, it will continue to be a space where youth, seniors, women and their families can connect with our programs and services and access essential resources.

In our land of 10,000 lakes, swimming is one of those essential resources. We will continue to offer water safety and swimming lessons for children and youth from all families. Our Early Childhood Education families receive free fitness memberships, and all children in our Early Childhood Education program are provided swimming lessons. Additionally, our Swim for Change program expands access to swim lessons, lifeguard training and swim teams; more than 80% of these participants live in low-income households and nearly 90% are youth of color.

This past weekend, we hosted our 14th annual Women’s Triathlon. As the largest all-women triathlon in the country, Sunday’s race attracted more than 800 participants ages 11 to 80+ with varying levels of experience, diverse backgrounds and powerful stories. Women and non-binary people who identify with womanhood challenged themselves to a swim, bike ride and run around Lake Nokomis. This year’s event also featured community favorites, including food trucks, music and kids’ activities, as well as people of color and women-owned businesses. We are committed to the Women’s Triathlon and hope you will join us next August, and every August thereafter.

As a trusted social justice organization with a 130+ year history of supporting women and their families, we remain dedicated to our mission of eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. I have included two documents to keep you informed of our new strategic direction. The first provides an overview of the new path we are paving forward, while the second provides answers to frequently asked questions about our new journey. We have also created a dedicated page on our website to keep you updated. Please feel free to reach out if you have additional questions by contacting

Thank you for all you do to support our mission. We are grateful to be in community with you as we shift priorities and operations toward higher-impact, sustainable programming to meet the changing needs in our community.

All the best,



Shelley Carthen Watson
President and CEO
YWCA Minneapolis