YWCA opens new chapter, celebrates completed RI facility

YWCA Rock Island
YWCA Quad Cities President and CEO Julie Larson gets ready to cut the ribbon on the new Rock Island building on Monday, July 3. CREDIT KENDA BURROWS

The YWCA Quad Cities “opened a new chapter,” President & CEO Julie Larson said Monday, June 3, before cutting the ribbon on the long-awaited, 64,000-square-foot facility in downtown Rock Island.

Mayor Mike Thoms talks about Rock Island’s investment in the city’s new YWCA  Quad Cities as its President and CEO Julie Larson looks on. CREDIT CITY OF ROCK ISLAND

More than 100 supporters gathered on what Ms. Larson called “a fantastic day” in front of the new building at 513 17th St. that was years in the making. 

“This facility is more than just a building. It’s a place where dreams will be nurtured, skills will be developed and lives will be uplifted,” said Ms. Larson, who was celebrated throughout the event for successfully championing and captaining a drawn-out campaign made more costly and difficult by COVID-19.

Among those Ms. Larson saluted was the City of Rock Island, which she called a “steadfast supporter” of the project including by providing funding to get the site ready and American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to help make it happen. 

Mayor Mike Thoms, in turn, commended the YWCA Board and Ms. Larson for completing what turned out to be a challenging mission. “They’ve had a lot of hurdles since they started this project,” he told the crowd, adding “It is a wonder to see the final product.”

Ms. Larson called the new YWCA “a safe haven, a learning center and a beacon of hope in our community” and she thanked the many donors who made it possible.

Major donors saluted

Major donors honored on a plaque inside the facility are: the John Deere Foundation, MidAmerican Energy Co. Foundation, Doris & Victor Day Foundation, American Bank & Trust, Carver Charitable Trust, Hubbell-Waterman Foundation and Scott County Regional Authority, Mackenzie Scott, Quad City Bank & Trust, Harold R. Bechtel Charitable Trust, Marie H. Bechtel Charitable Trust, City of Rock Island, and Illinois state senators Mike Halpin and Neil Anderson.

“This beautiful building you see before me is a result of incredible dedication and hard work and, let’s be honest, a lot of patience,” Ms. Larson said. “Raising the funds and seeing this project through to completion took longer than we anticipated and if I had a dollar for every time somebody asked me ‘When will it be completed?’ we’d have two new YWCAs.”

She also thanked the YWCA board, staff, volunteers and those generous donors for “your support and unwavering belief in our mission” and for turning “this dream into a reality.”

Among them is capital campaign Chair Rob Woodall. “Welcome to a $9 million building, we wish,” he quipped at Monday’s ceremony. “That was the goal right out of the gate before COVID.” And it’s what campaign leaders thought would be enough to build what was then a proposed 30,000-square-foot building.

“So now that it’s an almost $20 million building and it’s about a 60,000-some (square foot) building, I think you would agree with me that is absolutely phenomenal,” he added.

He credited Ms. Larson, who challenged his committee to “go out there and raise those funds so that we can make this happen.” Mr. Woodall, a retired Arconic executive, added, “There were a lot of skeptics, and I might have been one of them for a while, but then major funders got on board.”

A ‘beautiful building’

Ms. Larson also thanked the building’s contractor Bush Construction, based in Davenport, and its President and CEO A.J. Loss for their work on the new YWCA.

Quad Cities YWCA leader Julie Larson is joined  by A.J. Loss, president and CEO of Bush Construction, to talk about the new Rock Island YWCA his company built. CREDIT CITY HOF ROCK ISLAND

“We couldn’t be more honored at Bush Construction for having been selected as the partner of the YWCA and Julie (Larson) to build this beautiful building,” Mr. Loss told the crowd. He saluted Bush’s Nick Hecker, the project superintendent, who he said worked “day in and day out from Day One to make this project happen.” He also singled out Bush team members Patrick Turner, project manager; Wayne Gordon, director of preconstruction; Helen Freeze, project engineer; as well as Bush’s “partners at Shive Hattery who did all the design work.”

And he applauded “the trades contractors who actually placed the concrete, swung the hammers” and did the work “to make this project a reality.”

Standing in front of the YWCA, Mr. Loss said “It’s beautiful now but this project had no shortage of challenges and obstacles. But I’ll tell you what, every step along the way, Julie Larson got more and more creative about how to accommodate those challenges and obstacles and this building being complete is really a testament to her and her willpower to make it happen.”

The John Deere Foundation’s Laura Eberlin applauded the crowd of supporters who ringed the front of the building for the celebration. “We’ve been to a few of these and this turnout is absolutely amazing and it just goes to show the power of community when we come together like we are in supporting such a beautiful organization like the YWCA,” she said.

She saluted the YW, an organization that has supported the community for 100 years, the past 25 years of that under Ms. Larson’s leadership. “And they haven’t always had the beautiful facility to match the beauty of what they do. And I am so proud of the John Deere Foundation for investing in this beautiful building because, for the first time, they have a beautiful facility that matches the impacts of what they do every day to change lives.”

Leaders ‘never gave up

American Bank & Trust President and CEO Jeff Rose called the new YWCA “a beautiful facility that turned out to be a little larger than we thought.” He also recognized the bank’s Market President Rebecca Skafidas for her efforts in helping meet the project’s many challenges.

“Some people called them hurdles,” Mr. Rose said, adding “I would call them walls and Rebecca never gave up and I can tell you, Julie never gave up.” 

Robert Waterman, who spoke on behalf of the Hubbell-Waterman Foundation, recalled swimming at the old YWCA as a child in the 1960s when his mom would bring her children to the old downtown YWCA in Rock Island. “I understand the pool here just opened today so it’s a little bit different from the 1960s and the old facilities,” he said of the YW’s state-of-the-art aquatic center that includes an impressive water slide.

Modern Woodmen of America President and CEO Jerry Lyphout said that as a downtown employer “affordable child care is important to us and obviously that’s one of the missions here at the YWCA and our missions are not all that much different.”

He added, “The Quad Cities community always comes together and they always do what’s right for the community and I want to thank everybody for their participation and their efforts to finish and support this organization.”

Ms. Larson closed by thanking attendees and donors “for believing in our mission and for being an integral part of our journey. Together we are creating a brighter future.”

She added, “As we cut the ribbon today, let’s celebrate the strength and resilience of our community, remember never underestimate the power of a woman and some great men!”

Get the free QCBJ email newsletter

Stay up-to-date with the people, companies and issues that impact business in the  Quad Cities area.