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On April 11, 2023,  the Rotary Club of Cortland recognized two of YWCA Cortland’s directors at their Annual Pride of Workmanship Ceremony: Jessica Smith, AVV Program Director, and Robyn Hayes, Development Director.  This award aims to celebrate the outstanding workforce of our community. 

Read what YWCA Cortland Executive Director had to say about Jessica and Robyn’s accomplishments below.

Jessica Smith, AVV Program Director

“Jessica started her career with us in 2016 as an Advocate in the Aid to Victims of Violence Program. One year later, she quickly moved into the Sr. Case Advocate position, where she ran the day-to-day operations of the program. 

In 2021, Jessica continued to advance in the organization and accepted the AVV Program Director role. AVV is one of the longest-standing programs at the YWCA. It includes emergency services, victim assistance, emergency housing, permanent housing, and a long list of advocacy services for victims of any crime. predominately the program serves a high percentage of women who are experiencing domestic violence, rape, and sexual assault.

When Jessica moved into her role as Program Director, it was at this time the agency was expanding its housing services to complete a new housing facility that would operate 25 units of permanent supportive housing for women and children survivors of domestic violence. This permanent supportive housing, Grace Brown House, was started from the ground up. Jessica, though learning as she was building, did an exceptional job managing this project. She juggled so many roles, from building construction, hiring new positions, writing policy manuals, advertising for the units, meeting with potential residents, and learning all the New York State funding requirements. She did this with a smile on her face though I know there were many times she was faced with obstacle after obstacle.

She was instrumental in getting this new project off the ground for YWCA Cortland, and she did so while managing the victim’s services side of the program, which never missed a beat in providing vital services to our community. 

Jessica is a strong leader, one who leads with compassion, a whole lot of grit, passion, and drive to help others.

Jessica is such a vital part of our leadership team. I truly hope she knows how valuable she is to her YWCA family and what a difference she is making in the lives of every client we serve in the program!”

Robyn Hayes, Development Director

 “Robyn started her development Director career at the YWCA in 2019. In her role, she is responsible for all fundraising events, annual giving, communications, and marketing. She is the staff Chair for the Development and Communications Committee, and she has grown the department in such a way that she now has a full-time Marketing and Events Specialist position.

Under Robyn’s leadership, the YWCA adopted a corporate sponsorship program, has grown our Annual Giving efforts through a strategic donor cultivation plan, and streamlined the fundraising events that support vital programs of the agency. She brought the Development office into the 21st century by adopting a cloud-based donor database and continues to bring our platforms online, creating user-friendly and convenient ways to support the YWCA.  Robyn spearheaded a YWCA National Stand Racism Platform that is now an annual program that runs at the YWCA to bring the racial justice component of our mission to the forefront.

In 2020, as a fairly new staff member, Robyn rose to the occasion when the pandemic hit and designed an emergency fundraising campaign that brought in over $70,000 to keep essential programs and staff running through the initial onset of the crisis. Without this campaign, the YWCA would have had a hard time staying open.

Robyn loves data and is very strategic in her work, a skill set that is essential in the role she holds in the organization. She has built a strong rapport with the YWCA donors, board members, staff, and members and is a vital part of the YWCA family.

There is never a task she isn’t ready to tackle, and I applaud her efforts and tenacity for the YWCA mission.

Thank you, Robyn for your stellar leadership!”