We sat down with Executive Director Beatrice Black and Corporate Manager Lisa Uhlman to talk to them about the different services the WCA offers, Music on the Water, and why we chose to support them.
On a sunny Tuesday morning in downtown Boise, the partners behind Music on the Water arrived at the Women’s and Children’s Alliance main office on Washington Street with a single goal: to give back to an organization that has spent over a century giving so much. A three-story brick building framed on either side by an ample canopy of green trees, it has stood in this spot for over 70 years, serving as the organization’s headquarters since its dedication in 1940 by Mayor James Straight. To the right of the entrance is a staircase leading down into The Shop, the WCA’s own thrift store founded in 1992. To the left, 8th Street, and beyond that the building housing PERSI (the Public Employment Retirement System of ID).
Walking into the reception area is not like walking into any other decades-old Boise institution. The entryway is an inviting space; colorful couches decorated with homey throw pillows set just to the left of the receptionist’s desk, two of the largest plush horses I’ve ever seen resting against the back wall, books and magazines to interest (or distract) all types of visitors – it is a place that evokes the feeling of home.
We’re met quickly by Bea Black, the Executive Director, and Lisa Uhlman, the Corporate Pillars Manager. They lead us past the welcoming area and through the WCA’s auditorium which has housed countless groups, events, and meetings that have helped to shape Boise’s political and societal landscape in ways often never considered. As we settle into a room at the back of the building, it is hard to keep one’s eyes from wandering. The bookshelves lining the room are not quite overflowing with educational materials, but there is more than enough to go around. The mosaic behind Bea is a wall of glass tiles stacked one on top another, the perfect medium to soak in and warmly disperse the morning’s sun. Introductions are passed around and there is an almost instinctive camaraderie, driven by the same goal: to help those who too often can’t help themselves.
In 1906, the Young Women’s Christian Association of Boise is founded by nine women seeking to provide a safe housing option for the influx of urban, single women arriving to Idaho seeking employment and opportunities following the increased industrialization of the US after the Civil War. For thirty-four years these women began program after program seeking to educate and aid the under-represented members of a rapidly growing state.
By 1943, the organization had been begun housing multiple outside groups, all seeking to benefit the community and its members in a myriad of ways, while at the same time starting to find a voice backing the Civil Rights Movement. As more programs were formed specifically to address Civil Rights, they soon realized there was no longer room for the more than 43 outside associations along with their own services. They began exploring options to expand their locations or relocate, but ultimately decided on an addition to their current offices. The dedication didn’t happen for another 14 years, in 1957, but the space had grown to include a four-hundred seat auditorium, 6 classrooms, and storage space on the ground floor. Several years later the area under the auditorium would be excavated to make room for more classrooms, eventually part of which turned into The Shop. Also added was the 2nd floor, which provided enough residence space for twenty-eight girls. Before dedication even commenced all the rooms were reserved.
That first year they housed sixty-one permanent guests and 16 transients.
From there on the YWCA was a constant name in Boise, working in conjunction with numerous local organizations to create services and legislation benefitting not just Boise women, but Idaho as a whole. In 1968, the YWCA coordinated an alliance with mothers in the area to create tuition-free kindergartens, the first of their kinds in Boise. It was due to their commitment public kindergartens became standard in Idaho in 1975.
A Women’s Conference was held at Boise State College in 1973 and from this event a new women’s group was formed. They held their first meeting in the basement of the YWCA, then they put together a newsletter and then a monthly television series.
But, it wasn’t until their 100th anniversary they started to take shape as the organization we now know. It was in 1995 that the YWCA sent notice to the National YWCA that they had their first male member to sit on their board, and in response the association disaffiliated with Boise’s branch. In August of 1998 they officially became the Women’s and Children’s Association.
It is this impressive and expansive history that inspired Music on the Water to donate their profits to the WCA—the knowledge that the organization behind so many vital programs empowering those in Boise that most need it has always stood its ground, bolstered the community and given back to those that are in no position themselves to give.
With Music on the Water’s launch party upon us, we invite you to come down, enjoy a drink, listen to some local music, and chill out knowing it is for one of the best causes here.
But don’t chill out in the water ‘cause the E. Coli.
See you tonight!