YWCA Wheeling Receives Prestigious Purple Ribbon Award from National Organization

WHEELING, West Virginia – July 2024 – The YWCA Wheeling proudly announces its receipt of
the prestigious Purple Ribbon Award from DomesticShelters.org, in recognition of the
outstanding community impact achieved through its Capital Campaign, “Building Hope,
Reclaiming Lives.” The campaign launched publicly in January 2023, aimed to raise $16 million
for the renovation of the century-old building located on Chapline Street in Wheeling.
The Purple Ribbon Awards, organized by DomesticShelters.org, encompass 34 categories and
are adjudicated by a distinguished national panel comprising professionals from the domestic
violence field. This marks a significant milestone as the first comprehensive awards program
dedicated to honoring the unsung heroes of the domestic violence movement. Nominations
pour in from across the United States and Canada, making this accolade particularly

“We are thrilled and deeply honored to receive the Purple Ribbon Award from
DomesticShelters.org,” expressed Lori Jones, Executive Director of YWCA Wheeling. “This
recognition underscores the tireless efforts of our organization and community in combating
domestic violence and providing support to those in need. The success of our Capital
Campaign speaks to the unwavering dedication of our supporters and the resilience of our

The Building Hope, Reclaiming Lives campaign represents a pivotal step forward in the YWCA
Wheeling’s mission to create a safer and more supportive environment for survivors of
domestic violence. Through extensive renovations and upgrades to its facilities, the YWCA
Wheeling aims to enhance its capacity to provide comprehensive services and resources to
individuals and families affected by domestic abuse.

Individuals and businesses have had the opportunity to collect room naming rights during the
Capital Campaign. With a donation of $5,000 over two years, anyone can attach their name
and be a lasting legacy with the YWCA Wheeling.

In accepting this esteemed accolade, the YWCA Wheeling reaffirms its commitment to
advocating for survivors, raising awareness, and fostering a culture of empowerment and
support within the community. The Purple Ribbon Award serves as a testament to the
collective efforts and dedication of all those involved in the fight against domestic violence.
For more information about the YWCA Wheeling and the Capital Campaign, please visit


Wheeling Juneteenth Celebrations 2024

As community members brought depictions of four black community leaders to life by adding color to the designs on Tuesday, Wheeling Juneteenth Committee Chairman Ron Scott Jr. could feel the excitement build for today’s Juneteenth Celebration.

“This has been one of the best lead-ups to Juneteenth in the city because people are showing up and enjoying themselves,” Scott said Tuesday. “We had folks in the past showing up with the attitude of, ‘OK, let’s see what this Juneteenth is all about.’ This year, they’re not showing up for a crash course in black history but instead are just coming to have fun with us while celebrating the holiday.”

Beginning Sunday, each day this week offered a unique Black history-centered activity for residents to enjoy, organized by the Wheeling Juneteenth Committee. Tuesday’s mural painting was the final event scheduled before tonight’s Juneteenth Celebration, which will be held at 6 p.m. at Wheeling Heritage Port.

The ceremony will begin with music provided by Voices of Praise of Macedonia Baptist Church. From there, various speakers, including city leadership and NAACP representatives, will take the stage to give speeches.

Speakers during the opening ceremony include Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott, Men of Change Vice President Hayden Cook, West Virginia NAACP President Darryl Clausell, Wheeling NAACP Branch member Owens Brown, Wheeling Human Rights Commission member Unique Robinson-Murphy and Nathan Rouse.

After speeches, Ezra Hamilton will take the stage at 7 p.m. in conjunction with the weekly Waterfront Wednesdays at Heritage Port.

“I’m hoping that the speakers really bring it this year, and with Ezra performing, his name speaks for itself,” Scott said. “I think this is going to be one of the best Juneteenth celebrations we’ve had in the city.”

Juneteenth celebrations kicked off Sunday with a Soul Food Cook-Off held by the YWCA in collaboration with Wheeling Heritage and Towngate Theater. Scott said more than 85 hungry residents attended the event to judge the best soul food in categories including greens, potato salad and cornbread.

“People were asking during the cookoff, ‘When is the next one happening?’ so I knew people were having a good time,” Scott recalled. “Food and cooking is a universal topic, so people were not shy when talking about what greens or sweets they liked. Soul food can’t be nailed to exactly one thing when opened to an entire community like on Sunday.”

The festivities took an educational turn Monday during Ohio County Public Library’s Juneteenth Special Edition Lunch with Books featuring Raymond Thompson Jr. During the program, Thompson displayed photos from his book “Appalachian Ghost: A Photographic Reimagining of the Hawk’s Nest Tunnel Disaster,” which recreates workers’ experiences of Hawk’s Nest through photography using primary source materials.

The 1930s disaster was a large-scale incident of occupational lung disease in the mostly black population of construction workers who mined the Hawks Nest Tunnel near Gauley Bridge, West Virginia.

“I didn’t know anything about the tragedy, and I found the presentation very informative,” Scott said. “I was surprised by how many people in the audience knew about Hawk’s Nest already. I’m a big fan of the medium of photography as an art form and seeing all his work was just great.”

The last celebration before the holiday on Tuesday invited locals to add color to drawings by local artist Vondel Bell depicting local black leaders Anne Thomas and Leon “Chu” Berry and national black leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks.

Anne Thomas was the first black registered nurse in the city and the wife of Wheeling Ironman and Councilman Clyde Thomas. Born and raised in Wheeling, Berry was a prominent tenor saxophone player in the jazz world whose life was cut short in his early 30s by an automobile accident.

According to Wheeling Heritage Programming Director Alex Panas, after the mural is displayed during the Juneteenth Celebration, it will remain at the Wheeling Artisan Center through the “end of the month.” From there, Wheeling Heritage, the Wheeling Arts Commission and the YWCA will decide where the mural will go next.

Wheeling Heritage Programming Director Alex Panas, who coordinated the art project, noted the mural is centered around the theme of this year’s Wheeling Juneteenth Celebrations: “Our Ancestors’ Wildest Dreams.”

“I think it’s really important to highlight all of our local figures because even though Juneteenth is a national celebration, cities have local ties to the holiday,” Panas said. “Juneteenth is just as much a day of remembrance as it is an opportunity to celebrate how far we’ve come as a nation, so being able to spotlight some of those people who have helped Wheeling progress is important.”

Scott found the mural encompassed his goal for Juneteenth activities in the city this year – to unite the community through celebration and commemoration.

“Juneteenth is not just a black holiday but a community holiday for all folks to come down and celebrate,” Scott said. “You might learn something or you might just come and enjoy yourself, but it is open to everyone.”


Groups come together for new award honoring local women


Two area organizations that presented annual awards to women of leadership and advocacy have now joined forces to combine their awards into one.

The Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce and the Wheeling YWCA made the announcement.

The Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce started giving the Athena Award last year.

And the Wheeling YWCA has presented their Tribute To Women award for about four decades.

Both awards recognize women in the Ohio Valley who are exemplary leaders. They not only excel in their chosen fields, but they help to empower other women.

Now both groups will combine to present the Athena Award.

We for many many years from the 70s have done a Tribute To Women every year pre-COVID and then we stopped and then when I was fortunate to get the Athena Award last year, it only made sense that I stepped forward and said we have to do this together. And the Chamber was willing and able and we’re honored.LORI JONES, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, WHEELING YWCA

So I’m very excited for the combining and collaboration between the Wheeling Chamber and the YWCA. It seemed like we’re both striving for the same goals, same purpose, same passion behind it. So why not make it bigger and better than it was before.BROOKE ANDERSON, WHEELING AREA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

To be partnered with the YWCA is a great thing. To honor women’s leadership and work with a very strong women’s organization within the valley, that’s exciting.MIKE HOWARD, WHEELING AREA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

This year’s Athena Award will be presented June 6th at the Wheeling Park White Palace. If you want to nominate an exemplary woman in your life, log on to the Wheeling Chamber website.



Rethink Crimes Victims – experience a day in the life of a crime survivor

WHEELING, W.Va. (WTRF) — Vance Memorial Church hosted a walk-through simulation where everyday people experience the life of someone who is a part of the system.

Rethink Crimes Victims is an immersive learning activity put on by the Young Women’s Christian Association for National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.

Challenges and barriers that reflected real-life struggles were used to educate participants on the different aspects of poverty, domestic violence, crime, and recovery.

“This is your story; do you choose option A or option B? Then you are redirected to another location, another station. So, everything here is representative of all community relevant programs that individuals who have experienced hate crimes would have to encounter in order to be considered successful when they come back into their community.”LAURA ALBERTINI-WEIGEL, DIRECTOR OF PROGRAMS AT THE YWCA

Laura Albertini-Weigel says that everybody has their challenges, but by building awareness, we can learn more and help lower the barriers people in the system face when re-entering society.



Ignite Hope Donates $7,000 to Two Local Organizations

WHEELING, W.Va. (WTRF) — One local organization that is working very hard to bring awareness to human trafficking in the Ohio Valley made two special donations on Friday.

The Upper Ohio Valley Sexual Assault Help Center and the YWCA of Wheeling both received $7,000 on Friday thanks to Ignite Hope, who is looking to put an end to human trafficking in our region. 

Human trafficking is becoming more common in the Ohio Valley each day, but fortunately for victims, there are organizations looking to change that.

Ignite Hope recently held a fundraiser to bring awareness to human trafficking and to discuss ways to prevent it. Their goal at the fundraiser was to raise a significant amount of money for two other organizations that are doing everything they can to provide resources for victims.

”Ignite Hope is doing a really great job at creating that awareness, and I think that we need to continue rolling that ball down the hill so that we together can fight against trafficking within our communities.”ASHLEY CARPENTER – EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, UPPER OHIO VALLEY SEXUAL ASSAULT HELP CENTER

The Director of Operations for the YWCA of Wheeling, Heather Lapp, says partnerships with organizations with similar goals are important to help teach people about human trafficking. 

”The work that we do, if we don’t have that collaboration between other groups, it just helps us build awareness and really stretches our reach out throughout the community.”HEATHER LAPP – DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS, YWCA WHEELING

Although the region is dealing with this horrific crime, there are plenty of people in the community who are taking a stand to help those who have been affected.  

”Upper Ohio Valley is like one of the most wonderful communities. They come together no matter what and they support, you know, victims service like people, individuals within the community and organizations. You can’t ask for a better community.”ASHLEY CARPENTER – EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, UPPER OHIO VALLEY SEXUAL ASSAULT HELP CENTER

The fight to put an end to human trafficking is not over, but Lapp says that they are moving in the right direction. 

”Seeing all the different people that are actually starting to understand what human trafficking is and that it’s here in our valley and the work that we do. It’s just a wonderful experience to watch women restart their lives.”HEATHER LAPP – DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS, YWCA WHEELING

Both organizations that received the $7,000 say they will use the money to continue providing various resources to victims of human trafficking. Some of those resources include the YWCA’s Emergency Shelter for victims to escape from a trafficker, as well as self-defense classes provided by the Upper Ohio Valley Sexual Assault Center.



YWCA Wheeling Offered Free Trip to Historically Black Colleges and Universities in Atlanta

WHEELING, W.Va. (WTRF) — The YWCA of Wheeling is offering students and faculty from local high schools to participate in a 4-day trip to Atlanta to tour four different Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

For no cost, students and faculty from local high schools are invited to join the YWCA of Wheeling to explore what Historically Black Colleges and Universities in Atlanta have to offer. 

The trip is free for anyone to attend thanks to funding from the The Hess Foundation, Ohio County Schools, and the Communities of Color grant awarded through the Benedum Foundation.

The main purpose of the trip is to show students that there are endless opportunities regardless of ethnicity, race, or social background to pursue outside of the Ohio Valley.

The Cultural Diversity and Community Outreach Director for the YWCA says the trip will be one that will provide a new perspective for anyone who attends. 

”We set up full school visits, like they’re going to take us through tours, we’re going to see classrooms, dorms, we’re going to see the whole experience. That’s why I think the whole four days of it is going to be really nice. We’re going to try to fill it with as much information as we can and as much experiences as we can. It’s one of the more inclusive events that we have cause we want to invite everyone to see what these HBCU’s have to offer.”RON SCOTT JR. – CULTURAL DIVERSITY AND COMMUNITY OUTREACH DIRECTOR, YWCA WHEELING

There are 30 spots for students and 20 spots for faculty on the trip. The trip will be from March 25 to March 28.



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