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Skid Row shelter to be named Calif. Nonprofit of the Year

By Hayley Fox
Published: Tuesday, May 21, 2013, at 12:19PM
Mae Ryan/KPCC

The Downtown Women's Center is being named Nonprofit of the year by the Office of the Governor and CaliforniaVolunteers. The organization has been on Skid Row for about 35 years, providing long-term housing options as well as medical services and vocation

The Downtown Women's Center (DWC) will garner some state-wide attention on Wednesday.

The DWC is being named Nonprofit of the Year by the Office of the Governor as well as CaliforniaVolunteers, a state office that oversees service and volunteer programs across the state.

In 2011, the DWC served more than 4,300 homeless women, many of which have been victims of abuse and have physical or mental complications. The center offers long-term housing options as well as medical services, educational classes, hot meals and use of a computer lab.

Cheryl Willard was a victim of domestic violence and has been visiting the Women's Center for more than 13 years. She calls the non-profit a “safe haven.”

"I can’t say enough about this place," Willard told blogdowntown in December. "They taught me working skills, I learned to make jewelry, candles, there’s been journals and they’ve been put in the shop and sold so... yippee! I’ve had a little money in the sack here."

Although the DWC was run entirely by volunteers for its first 14 years, it is now overseen by a variety of paid positions. But volunteers still pay an integral role by cooking meals for the women, leading workshops and teaching vocational skills.

“As more and more women become homeless, DWC is fortunate to have the support of 2,500 volunteers, advocates, and friends who empower our organization to work towards ending homelessness for women,” said Lisa Watson, CEO of the DWC, in a statement.

A total of seven other agencies and individuals will also be receiving state volunteer and service awards on Wednesday, three of which are located in Los Angeles: Reco Sanders Jr. of City Year Los Angeles will be awarded California’s AmeriCorps Member of the Year; Muslims and Jews Inspiring Change (MAJIC) will be awarded California’s Faith-based Organization of the Year; and Power 106 FM will be awarded California’s Small Business Volunteer Program of the Year.

According to 2011 data from Volunteering in America, about 26 percent of Californians volunteer, mostly for religious organizations, educational outlets and social services.

This lands the Golden State at number 37 for volunteering, out of all the states in the U.S. The top state is Utah and number 51 (the list includes Washington D.C.), is Louisiana.

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