Five months before Evansville’s YWCA celebrated its 100th anniversary in March 2011, the organization turned over a new leaf of leadership to Chicago native Erika Taylor. The YWCA is a shelter for domestic violence victims and a transitional home for women who are homeless and recovering from substance abuse. As the current CEO, the idea of paying it forward and helping others isn’t new to Taylor — she’s been actively serving the community since she moved here with her husband Matt, a Newburgh, Ind., native, nearly 12 years ago.
Taylor recalls coming to Evansville and immediately getting involved with local organizations. For her first five years, she pursued a law career and served on an array of boards and event committees. “Community service became addictive for me,” she says, and without realizing it, hours dedicated to planning events and fundraisers groomed her leadership skills for positions such as president of the Junior League of Evansville in 2008-09 and the executive officer for Growth Alliance for Greater Evansville (GAGE) in 2009-10. Taylor’s community involvement, coupled with encouragement from local leaders, led her to apply for the CEO opening at the YWCA. At the time, the organization was readying special events for its 100-year anniversary, and Taylor utilized her first few months in office to launch “100 Years, 100 Women,” which honored 100 women who had made significant contributions to the community in the past 100 years, and to rebrand the organization.
By spreading the mission, “empowering women is empowering families,” Taylor continues work that her mother instilled in her when she was around 11 years old. “I would listen to Mom take phone calls at the kitchen table for a 24-hour domestic violence crisis hotline,” she says. “It’s amazing how things have come full circle.” Taylor’s passion for helping others and her drive to serve the community are values she hopes will grow in her two children, Anthony, 10, and Olivia, 7.
Earlier this year, Taylor and the Evansville-Area Human Resource Association implemented Raising Income, a program that pairs human resource professionals with women of the YWCA for one-on-one and group mentoring sessions. The idea, says Taylor, is to help these women find better jobs so they are less likely to become homeless again.
Taylor credits the River City community for her experiences and opportunities that she admits may not have been possible in her hometown. “When you do something (in Evansville) — volunteer, serve on a committee, fundraise — you can honestly see the impact of your work,” she says. “There’s instant gratification of how you made a difference.”
For more information about the YWCA, visit www.ywcaevansville.org.