It Is Messy, and I Am Still ‘Thankful in Many Ways’!

Nina Corder

By Nina Corder, Managing Director, Women of Toledo
Guest Column

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! As I sipped my cup of coffee on Thanksgiving morning, I was debating if I should click send our normal 4th Thursday #419newsletter campaign or take a leap of faith, and draft something new. Well, if this message is in your inbox, the guess is my intuition at overcoming the fear wins the challenge. It has been a while since I just wrote something ‘from Nina’s heart’. I hope your time reading my reflection on thanksgiving day is worth your while. Much appreciation to you all 🙂

It is not easy when you are in the business of challenging the status quo in the human services and social progress fields. Then, you added a framework with one of the goals to elevate the quality of life of the women and young women that you serve especially when it comes to helping creates a positive foundation of well-being and opportunities for them to thrive -Things can get pretty messy. Yet, I have witnessed our team continue to serve with passion, integrity, authenticity, and joy at doing the work.

This week itself, our task team received four inquiries for assistance that are now, move to our Intake System process for referral, resources, and mentorship.

A 23-year-old single mom, 1st generation on track to graduate college with a goal to be a teacher, with a 4-year-son, and now in financial burden because of a custody battle with the biological father, who happens to resurface after 3 years. (what?) She is currently in our Young Women Mentorship program to help with empowerment and is in the process to facilitate a connection with our partners for legal assistance/support.

We received a referral from Michigan’s Family and Job services, to support a Ukraine refugee residing close to our state line who is now in need of mentorship and job connection. We enrolled her in our mentorship program and await further connection with our partners at Toledo Helps Ukraine and Welcome TLC.

A referral from 211, a woman in her 30s who is in need of a women’s circle or support group to help build empowerment and confidence, as she recovers from the trauma of witnessing two of her young children taken away by their biological father. Then, she lost the custody battle because she was labeled as ‘unfit’ to care for the children. Why? She was not financially stable or have a history of holding a steady job because, during their life together, she dedicated her unpaid work as a full-time mom. (Duh!) We are facilitating a connection with a mental health provider, a wellness coach, legal support, and perhaps she will be able to be part of our Women’s Circle or Mentorship cohort 2023 since we wrapped up our 2022 programming end of November.

A week before Thanksgiving, a grandmother, who is a guardian of her granddaughter lost their home because grandma was late at filling out their renewal for housing assistance. I was devastated by this situation as the granddaughter is one of our fellows at Young Women of Toledo. Unfortunately, we don’t provide basic human needs service, but happy to provide the space to listen, resources and validate her ‘frustration’ feeling.

I am sharing these stories because I know comes Monday, I will be disappointed. However, I know my team will remind me – how ‘this’ is not within our organization’s work scope, control or choice and we might have to let one or maybe two of these individuals know that we are unable to provide direct services, however, our team will try their hardest and facilitate connection with the hope other partners or agencies can support or assist them with the crisis.

I am so afraid the reality of the ‘No Women Left Behind’ statement is no longer a reality. There’s a flaw in the system of care in this country, and so does in other countries. I witness this every day, and while I was on sabbatical and diving deeper into global work, for which I have not yet shared my reflection on my experience with the EU and UN Women advocacy (stories soon). The point, it is a messy world out there too.

But, I believe in humanity and hope.

Our leadership team is bold and imaginative, we focus on building the movement and efforts that will equip us in the moment of both crisis and opportunity. To be impactful at serving, with the Governing Board’s support, this year I did my continuing education and Human Rights training. Now, I am certified in ‘Human Right Advocacy and Diplomacy’ with the US Institute of Diplomacy and Human Rights, Washington, DC.

In 2023, it is our goal to train, educate and equip our Young Women with Human Rights Advocacy. With this certification and curriculum partnership with the Youth for Human Rights International, we will be able to teach our local youth about human rights, specifically the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and inspire them to become valuable advocates for tolerance and peace.

It is a messy world and we cannot undo this mess quickly in our time, but we can choose not to leave this future this way. Our youth are the future. I believe, this education program will not only teach human rights fundamental but also, help equip our youth to defend and protect the message of tolerance and cooperation, and the ultimate goal – a world without VIOLENCE.

As I wrote in my journal this morning, I was reminded of Jay Shetty’s weekly wisdom – Don’t avoid the hard things. Don’t avoid the fear. Don’t avoid the uncertainty.

React with love, kindness, and gratitude! And continue to Educate, Engage, and Empower.

I do believe Thanksgiving serves as a strong reminder to be grateful for all of the curiosity, messiness, and joys in our lives. And give hope. I do believe, we at Women of Toledo are thankful for each and every one of you – to our Founding Boards & Members, Leadership Team of Advisory & Board of Directors, our past/current Task Team, our Supporters & Stakeholders, our community, women & youth that we serve… and the list just keep continue… In the nutshell, from my heart to yours, with gratitude, thank you!

Thanks to you we are able to offer hope to others. Thanks to you we are able to offer much-needed programs and services to individuals in our community from diverse backgrounds. Thanks to you we are able to provide mentorship and opportunities for women/youth who may not have had them before. Because of you, we are able to serve our purpose and live our mission daily.

Therefore onward to challenging the status quo.

With gratitude, THANK YOU, and Hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving.

**Each individual gives us permission to share their story publicly, however, we choose not to share their names, just their story

Established in 2014, Inclusive for Women Inc DBA Women of Toledo (WOT) is a 501c3 nonprofit organization serving the Northwest Ohio community that advocates for diversity and inclusion with a focus on economic empowerment. Their mission is to educate, engage, and empower local young women and women to keep moving forward. Under the three initiatives of Economic Development, Mentorship Institute, and Advocacy, the organization offers programs and services that help tackle issues that are critical to women’s economic advancement and interrupt various biases in the marketplace, workplace, family, and community. Their Leadership and Task Team thrive at teaching women and young women to lean in for support, connect with other women, build new skills, connect with opportunities and resources while creating a mentorship and peer circle to share ideas, offer support or seek advice. More info