women

Despite the pandemic, WiNGS has continued to help vulnerable D-FW women learn to fly

Earlier this month, WiNGS announced Tameka Cass as the organization’s new chief development officer. In January, Kate Rose Marquez became chief executive officer. The 112-year-old nonprofit provides a range critical resources for women in need, including those who are first-time mothers and small business owners. It focuses on vulnerable populations such as communities of color and those with limited English proficiency, single-income households, and women at risk of intimate-partner violence and financial insecurity.

With Cass new to the nonprofit and Marquez nearly nine months into her role — which has held challenges she didn’t bargain for — we asked the women a few questions about the ongoing impact WiNGS has on women in Dallas-Fort Worth, how it’s managed through the pandemic and what 2021 might hold.

FWD>DFW: Tameka, as the new chief development officer, what’s the first big thing you want to accomplish? What do you see as the biggest hurdle to accomplishing that?

TC: The first big thing I want to accomplish is increased awareness of WiNGS and the impact our services provide to women and families, specifically women of color, in our community. The global pandemic exposed the layers of inequities that exist for women and their families. My goal is to focus on ways to address the increased need for support and resources through our fund development strategies. Like many nonprofits, WiNGS has been impacted by the shift in funding from the philanthropic community, as they respond to the growing needs of nonprofits providing critical services to the community.

My biggest hurdle to accomplishing these goals is identifying creative ways to meet the growing needs of the women we serve with so much uncertainty about the future.

FWD>DFW: Give us a specific example of a woman whose life has been deeply impacted for the better in 2020.

KRM: Two specific women come to mind. Amber, owner of LeRouge Cuisine, joined the Women’s Enterprise Center program at WiNGS to grow her catering business. When COVID hit, she worked with her small business coach and was able to pivot to provide a quarantine meal plan. She customized menus each week for delivery and was even able to feed people in need with free meals. Another WiNGS client, Esperanza, received meal kits through our partnership with Dream Cafe. During one of the deliveries, the owner of Dream Cafe noticed Esperanza had no furniture and very few items for her baby. We worked with members of our nurse-family partnership team to get furniture and necessities for her and her baby.

FWD>DFW: What are some of the greatest — maybe even surprising — challenges that women face in 2020 and what resources does WiNGS provides to help them over those hurdles and reach their goals?

KRM: This year has been disrupted by a global pandemic, economic devastation and heightened racial disparities. The challenges of COVID-19 have shone a light on important issues of inequity that have existed long before the pandemic. According to the Texas Women’s Foundation Economic Issues for Women in Texas report, 1.4 times as many women as men completed college, but Texas women earn less than men in every single occupation. While 2.5 million Texas mothers are working mothers, 48% of Texans live in a child care desert, and 21% of Texas homeowners and 45% of Texas renters spend more than 30% of their income on housing. Even further, Texas women are twice as likely to be uninsured as women in the rest of the nation, with almost one in four uninsured across the state.

TC: Beyond those challenges, 2020 has exposed and widened the gaps for women of color. The 2020 wage gap for Black women compared to non-Hispanic white men is 62 cents. This adds up to earning an estimated $946,120 less over the course of a 40-year career. Black women are also more likely to be essential workers in the COVID-19 pandemic and more likely to have lost their jobs in furloughs and layoffs. What’s more, half of Black women have less than $200 in savings.

KRM: With priorities shifting, WiNGS has adapted our resources to fit the needs of our clients. We are partnering with Dream Cafe to provide meals to women and their families who are desperate for sustenance. To date, 5,200 meals have been delivered to client homes. Additionally, we have distributed critical care supplies to 85 families.

Meanwhile, our nurses, coaches and staff worked to continue our standard services, shifting to virtual workshops and classes, telehealth visits, and one-on-one calls to the women we serve.

FWD>DFW: How has COVID impacted fundraising and donor engagement?

TC: The foundations in the North Texas community have been fantastic. United Way has gathered together a group of foundations through their North Texas Cares program, where there is a single application. A lot of foundations have really stepped up, increased their giving or increased their giving cycles. We also see a great opportunity for individual and corporate giving. So many individuals and corporations want to support their neighbors in need, but they seek guidance from agencies like WiNGS that are on the ground daily, identifying and addressing those needs.

FWD>DFW: Have these impacts changed your vision for the future of the WiNGS?

KRM: When looking to the future, our mission remains the same: to empower women, fight poverty and impact generations. Where our vision has shifted is how we accomplish that. We’ve seen great success with our virtual classes and outreach and have been able to meet even more members where they are. Moving forward, there is a lot of opportunity for partnerships, utilizing technology and continuing to connect with clients to serve their needs.

FWD>DFW: If someone gave the organization $1 million today, what would you do with it?

KRM: I would use it to enhance our outreach to women in our community who can benefit from the financial equity programs and nurse-family partnership program that empower women. We know that there are many more women who can benefit from WiNGS programs, but we need to reach them. Then, I would use another portion of the $1M to expand our capacity to serve those women. This would include human capital and technology to support our ability to deliver services both in person and virtually.

FWD>DFW: Kate Rose, now that you’re closing in on a year in your role, what’s been the biggest surprise? What changes do you hope and plan for 2021?

KRM: The biggest surprise for me was having to shut down our offices due to COVID five weeks after I started at WiNGS — and running the agency from my dining room table. In my wildest imagination, I couldn’t have conjured up this scenario. But this surprise accelerated the teamwork aspect of the agency. The need to row in the same direction was critical and the rapidness of how we adapted a working rhythm was the difference between uninterrupted services to our clients or drifting aimlessly. We not only delivered those services, we saw a 20% uptick in clients served over the previous fiscal year.

I think 2021 is all about collaboration. There has always been great need in Dallas, but the financial and health impact of COVID has added to that need exponentially. We, as nonprofit agencies, corporations and civic entities need to work closely together to help our community through recovery and to resiliency. Dallas has a tremendous legacy of successful corporate/civic/nonprofit partnerships. The year 2021 is when we double down for our community and create our future together.

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