April 2022

April 2022


Indiana ranks fourth highest in the nation for reported rapes among high school girls (Indiana Coalition to End Sexual Assault & Human Trafficking). When I first heard this statistic, I gasped, and a tear came to my eye. As a community, we need to do more to prevent this violence. In this newsletter, we share some of the good work already underway at YWCA and in the community to support survivors.

Earlier this month, Mayor Tom Henry signed a proclamation declaring April 2022 as Sexual Assault Awareness Month in Fort Wayne.
Pictured: Emma Walker (YWCA Sexual Violence Coordinator), Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry, and Jennifer Rohlf (YWCA Director of Empowerment).

In recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, we invite you to spread the word! Get involved by wearing teal on Tuesdays in April and using it as a conversation starter about sexual violence issues. We would love for you to share your photos wearing teal and tag us on social media! Additionally, Denim Day is April 27—wear jeans with a purpose, support survivors, and educate yourself about sexual assault. For more information and resources, visit our website.

In this issue, we highlight our sexual violence services, as well as the work Michelle Ditton and her team at the Fort Wayne Sexual Assault Treatment Center are doing. Learn more in Dash of Persimmon below, or click here.

We are also pleased to share the good work Cassie Beer with the Women’s Fund at the Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne is doing to help. On May 10, the Women’s Fund is releasing No Matter What. No Matter What is a new sexual violence resource page specific for Allen County. Cassie says, “After hearing from many of our local organizations that provide assistance for survivors, the Women’s Fund created this new resource to help connect survivors quickly and discreetly to the form of assistance they need most. No Matter What will eventually expand into a community education and advocacy tool to help prevent sexual violence in our community.” Kudos to the Women’s Fund!

Our featured Power of Persimmon (POP) star is Carmen Cumberland, President and CEO of Community Harvest Food Bank. Learn why she was chosen as our featured leader below, or click here.

Join us as we celebrate five work anniversaries of our top notch staff and read about why they have #PersimmonPride. Thank you, Tammy, Kara, Pam, Lynnsie, and Janelle!

If you follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn, then you already know who our featured leaders are in our women’s empowerment campaign. In the event you missed it, scroll down to see who these remarkable people are and read their statements on why they support this campaign. Stay tuned for new folks each week throughout 2022! Many thanks to Heather Herron, Jan Wilhelm, Michelle Gladieux, Cynthia Villanueva, Amy Lehrman, Rev. Roger Reece, John Dortch, Howard Chapman, Scott Glaze, and Tyler Cleverly!

We also give thanks to PHP Foundation for their generous $10,000 gift to support our health and wellness program and to the Goldstein family for their generosity in funding our scholarship program. We are grateful!

What to get involved? We have our inaugural Race Against Racism 5K Walk/Run coming up on April 30. The early-bird registration deadline is April 22. We only need 34 more registrations to make our goal of 200! To register, click on the link in the event information below. We also need volunteers for our laundry project. You can volunteer your time, or you can purchase project items from our wish list.

Thank you for your continued support! It is because of YOU that we are able to provide our life-saving services throughout our six-county service area.

Don’t forget to join us by wearing teal on Tuesday!


Sexual Violence Services

Per the Indiana Coalition to End Sexual Assault & Human Trafficking, one in every five Hoosier women have been sexually assaulted. Additionally, 85% of assaults are not reported to the police. Why are these statistics so staggeringly high? Frequently, after someone is assaulted, the amount of guilt, shame, and self-blame they encounter is crippling. The thought of telling someone about what they have endured, knowing it will lead to further questions and possible judgment, can feel insurmountable. YWCA Northeast Indiana’s sexual violence services are available to help survivors.

YWCA Northeast Indiana provides support and advocacy services for survivors of sexual violence, including sexual assault and human trafficking. Currently, we have a two-woman team working with survivors. Laura Brown, our Sexual Violence Advocate, works one-on-one with survivors to help process their experience, provide emotional support and guidance, and navigate resources survivors may need. She is able to provide medical and legal advocacy, if needed, in addition to providing psychoeducational tools to help survivors cope with their experience and life after the assault.

Emma Walker currently serves as the Sexual Violence Coordinator overseeing program development and working to build partnerships with other community stakeholders like the Sexual Assault Treatment Center and Fort Wayne Victim Assistance. Outside of one-on-one advocacy services, clients also have access to our free therapy services, support groups, and shelter if needed.

“The beauty of the programming offered through YWCA Northeast Indiana is our ability to help anyone who identifies as a survivor, regardless of age, socio-economic status, gender, or sexual orientation. No matter how long ago the assault occurred or whether or not they chose to report the assault, we are here to provide services. We know it often takes time for survivors to be ready to talk about what they experienced, and that’s okay. If you or someone you know was assaulted awhile ago, let’s say six years ago, and you feel like you are ready to now process, we are here to provide guidance. If the assault happened yesterday and you don’t know what to do or who to call, we are here to discuss options and navigate systems. If your son or daughter was assaulted and as a parent you don’t know how to be supportive, we can provide education on secondary-survivorship,” explains Emma Walker.

Laura Brown added, “In my role as a sexual violence advocator, I see the repercussions sexual assault or human trafficking has on an individual, and I work with them one-on-one to rebuild what was stolen from them. I sometimes meet clients in their lowest moments. I listen. I hear their pain, and sometimes I see their physical pain—scars, bruises, and even open wounds. I have sat in doctors’ offices and courtrooms holding the shaking hand of someone who is scared and unsure of what is next. I have been asked many times why I chose to be an Advocate and the answer is simple—I do it for the moment my client is walking away. I know that seems strange; why when they walk away? Because when they walk away they no longer need services. This is when I know I have truly helped. I do it for the impact I can have on others in their darkest hours. I do it for the one person who tells me that I made this terrible moment in their life a little more bearable. I do it for the smile after all the tears.”

As our sexual violence program continues to grow, YWCA Northeast Indiana hopes we can improve the staggering rate at which sexual violence is occurring in Indiana, and provide a place of safety and comfort for survivors when they need it most.

If you would like help processing sexual violence for you or a loved one, please reach out to advocatecoords@ywcaerew.org or call our 24/7 hotline at 800.441.4073.


In this year-long awareness campaign, local men and woman join together in solidarity to tell stories of how they help empower women. Stay up to date with our weekly featured community members here and learn more about YWCA Northeast Indiana here.

Heather Herron, Jan Wilhelm, Michelle Gladieux, Cynthia Villanueva, and Amy Lehrman


“Be the woman that straightens another woman’s crown.”

“I learned early on that my achievements didn’t mean that someone else had to fail. There’s plenty of room for all of us to be successful! Don’t be afraid to seize opportunities to become a mentor, an advocate, and a cheerleader for other women. When that happens, we all win!”
Heather Herron (VP, Corporate Communications, Sweetwater; Featured Leader in YWCA Northeast Indiana’s Empowering Leaders Video Series)

“Throughout my career, I have been given many opportunities to learn and grow. Having the courage to take on those opportunities has been extremely fulfilling. We all need to allow ourselves the opportunity to explore new challenges, to learn from success and failure, and embrace everything in between. Wisdom comes from experience. It is my responsibility and honor to help others along the way, by giving opportunities and encouraging others to take risks. I will remain available for “crown straightening” moments along the way. Thank you to those that help me straighten mine.”
Jan Wilhelm (Vice President, Private Banking Manager, 1st Source Bank)

“I straighten crowns by helping women perceive, accept, and understand their strengths and weaknesses as communicators. They can then celebrate and leverage their unique gifts and overcome obstacles (baby steps count!) in the way of their self-esteem and success.”
Michelle Gladieux (President, Gladieux Consulting)

“I am from Peru, South America. As a single mother with two beautiful children, I came to America 22 years ago looking for a better future. I will never forget the day when I walked away from something unhealthy, even though I stumbled a little on my way out the door. I was determined to be brave, and that decision positively changed my life forever. Leaving the shadow of my past and my whole entire family was not easy, but nobody said life would be easy for any of us. We must have perseverance and, above all, confidence in ourselves. We must believe we have our own unique gifts, and work towards utilizing these gifts. Passion has been my powerful force, and has helped me accomplish all that I have set my mind to. I live my life, professionally and personally, to the fullest extent possible. Each time a woman stands up for herself, even during the times she feels as though what she is fighting for is not possible, she stands up for all women in our community. Every single woman wears a crown because every single day we all fight our own battles. Always remember to shine and smile because that’s when the love begins.”
Cynthia Villanueva (Bilingual Branch Sales Manager, Partners 1st Federal Credit Union; Featured Leader in YWCA Northeast Indiana’s Empowering Leaders Video Series)

“Success looks different for everyone. For some, it may be securing a large account, or getting a big promotion. For me, it’s about helping others, especially women, find passion and meaning in their work, and growing leaders within our community. Working in an industry traditionally dominated by men, I realized there weren’t many networking opportunities specifically for women. So, several years ago I began organizing networking events for women in the Fort Wayne business community. These events bring women together to make connections, build relationships, and empower and uplift one another. I hope that my small contribution to bring together members of our female business community will help advance the straightening of women’s crowns throughout our area!”
Amy Lehrman (Managing Director, Katz, Sapper & Miller; Featured Leader in YWCA Northeast Indiana’s Empowering Leaders Video Series)

Rev. Roger Reece, John Dortch, Howard Chapman, Scott Glaze, and Tyler Cleverly


“Men of quality support women’s equality.”

“When I think of women’s empowerment, I can’t help but think of my mother and how she spent 45 years with one employer. That hardly ever happens, especially now. I think of the changes that she had to deal with while at the same time raising two “strappin” boys, for the most part, by herself. She raised a family with a generative spirit that fed us with beauty, creativity, and generosity, but perhaps most of all, she passed down to us the importance of leadership and tenacity. I was blessed that I had that kind of influence in my life.”
Reverend Roger Reece (Executive Director, Associated Churches)

“I have a wife, two daughters, two granddaughters, and seven sisters. I have always believed in women’s equality and the importance of it being recognized and supported. As a community, we all should be challenging prejudicial attitudes and assumptions related to thoughts people have regarding gender, age, race, disability, or sexual orientation. We still have work to do in order to break down negative stereotypes, whether they are at home, work, or school.”
John Dortch (President/CEO, The Preston Joan Group Inc. and President/CEO, Fort Wayne Ink Spot LLC; Featured Leader in YWCA Northeast Indiana’s Empowering Leaders Video Series)

“I support women’s equality. I come to this from a background in the legal profession. Our Constitution requires equal protection and equal rights for all citizens, and laws have been enacted to carry that forward. Our diligence is required to assure that this protection and these rights are respected and enforced on behalf of everyone.”
Howard Chapman (Retired Attorney)

“Growing up in a household with three sisters, and now, as a father of three daughters, I place great importance on equality and fairness for everyone, in both my personal, and my professional life. I am a business owner who depends upon the talents of over 1,000 women and men for the manufacture of products in the medical device field. The culture of Fort Wayne Metals is based on fairness and equality for all. Anything short of this undermines an individual’s ability to attain their full potential and lessens their contributions to our company’s success. We will continue to strive to ensure that women have equal opportunities, equal access to resources and maximum control over their own destiny. I fully support the YWCA’s Women’s Empowerment Campaign and am proud to be a part of empowering women to improve the economic strength of our community.”
Scott Glaze (Chairman and CEO, Fort Wayne Metals Research Products, LLC)

“Women should have the same rights and opportunities as men. We should not base any decision on gender or race. Once we start making decisions based on who and what is best, our city, county and country will be a better place for all. We all need to work together to advance women’s rights and equality.”
Tyler Cleverly (Executive Director, United Way of DeKalb County)

Check out our website to see who else has been featured so far this year


Dash of Persimmon offers you expert information on a variety of topics every month. We hope you will find this information valuable. May a Dash of Persimmon sweeten your cup!

Michelle Ditton


In this Dash of Persimmon Video Series, we are featuring Michelle Ditton RN, SANE-A, SANE-P, CEO/CNO of Fort Wayne Sexual Assault Treatment Center (SATC). SATC’s mission is to be the most respected and trusted resource for superior medical forensic care, education, and research in bringing justice to those impacted by sexual assault and abuse.

Learn more here.

Thank you to Michelle Ditton for being our featured Dash of Persimmon expert!


YWCA Northeast Indiana’s Power of Persimmon (POP) initiative honors empowered women who diligently seek to help empower other women through mentorship, networking, and education. Kudos to these remarkable women!

Carmen Cumberland


Carmen Cumberland, President and CEO of Community Harvest Food Bank, is a Fort Wayne native. She is also a Veteran, having served four years in the United States Navy. “The best sense of empowerment comes from within, not necessarily from someone else. It means you have the freedom to choose in both your professional and personal life.” Learn more about Carmen here.

Stay tuned to upcoming newsletters to see who will be featured next in Power of Persimmon! Thank you to our media partner, glo magazine.


YWCA Northeast Indiana Staff Anniversaries

What is Persimmon Pride? Persimmon is the orange Pantone color of our YWCA brand. Internally, #PersimmonPride is more than a hashtag or mantra. It is a belief in the impact the YWCA team is having in our community. It’s more than a saying. It is who we are and what we believe in.


“I choose to work at YWCA because many wonderful women took the time to empower me with self-esteem, self-sufficiency, and guidance. I choose to do the same for each individual I come in contact with. I believe there is hope.” -Tammy (Lead Case Manager – Hope & Harriet) “The YWCA is such a wonderful environment to work in, one that promotes growth, learning, and compassion. Throughout my time in client services and my professional development journey that brought me to the finance department, I have been floored by this supportive community of amazing coworkers. I love our focus on empowering individuals and our agency mission that is truly lived out by each and every staff member.” -Kara (Finance Manager)

“I choose to work at YWCA because I enjoy helping others”. -Pam (Crisis Service Assistant – Floater) “I choose to work at YWCA because I believe in the mission and the vision. I believe I can use my skills and knowledge to help our clients learn about healthy, balanced meals.” -Lynnsie (Nutrition Coordinator) “I choose to work as an educator with YWCA because I trust that when young people are given language to describe for themselves the world around them, they are able to write more agency, safety, empathy, and care into their futures.” -Janelle (Community Educator)

The passion from our staff, in addition to the unending support from our community, is what makes our work possible. Thank you to our staff and the northeast Indiana community for your support!

Race Against Racism 5K Walk/Run

Come run with YWCA NEIN in our first annual Race Against Racism 5K Walk/Run! The event provides an opportunity for the community to come together in solidarity for racial justice. Building a more just and equitable community takes all of us, so YWCA NEIN wants to offer community members the opportunity to run the race against racism, together. The event will also include educational opportunities and be a great place for those interested in working to end racism to network together.

The Race Against Racism 5K Walk/Run will raise funds for YWCA’s racial justice efforts, which include community events and organizing, assessing community priority areas for racial justice, working with BIPOC-led groups, and developing educational content to share with Fort Wayne and the northeast Indiana community.


The chip-timed race will take place at PFW on Saturday, April 30th with a 10:00 a.m. start time. Early-bird registration ends on April 22; day-of registration will also be available for a higher rate. Packet pickup for all runners will start at 9:00 a.m. the day of the event. Get your spot reserved today!

Laundry Volunteer Opportunity

We need your help to wash, store, and preserve quality linens at our new location. All clean linens will be redistributed to our clients when they graduate our programs!


Want to help? Call Patty Dunn at 260.424.4908 ext.238 to learn more and set up a date. If you would like to help by donating, you can view our spring storage wish list here


We would like to thank the PHP Foundation for awarding us a $10,000 grant that will support our operations, specifically focusing on our health and wellness services.

Clotheline Project: Story Guide through Fort Wayne’s Resources

A huge thank you to everyone who planned, provided resources, and attended our Clothesline Project: Story Guide through Fort Wayne’s Resources event! Participants followed a storyline and traveled from booth to booth to learn what options and resources are available. Booths were different agencies that provide services to survivors of sexual assault. Special shoutout to:

  • Victim Assistance, FWPD
  • Fort Wayne Sexual Assault Treatment Center
  • YWCA Northeast Indiana
  • Headwaters Counseling
  • Indiana Department of Child Services
  • Fort Wayne Police Department
  • Allen County Prosecutors Office
  • Department of Veteran Affairs – Northern Indiana Health Care System (VANICHS)

Goldstein Family Scholarship Program


The goal of the Goldstein Family Scholarship Program is to help female survivors of domestic violence improve their self-sufficiency and quality of life by completing higher education. The scholarship fund provides financial support for tuition, books, rent, utilities, and childcare. Learn more here.


If you would like to financially support YWCA Northeast Indiana, you can access our donation page by following this link.