Director led YWCA to empower women Retiring leader took agency into new era

August 15, 1996|By S. Mitra Kalita | S. Mitra Kalita,SUN STAFF

Dolores Bail is an administrator, a fund-raiser, a real estate broker, a financial planner.

She has played all those roles as executive director for 17 years of the Anne Arundel County YWCA, a post from which she'll retire at the end of the year.

But Bail says she sees herself not as the executive of an organization but as the leader of a movement.

"The image people have of the Y is that it's the place they learned to swim," she said. "But there is serious empowerment that goes on here. Our motto continues to be the empowerment of women and the strengthening of families."

Under Bail's leadership, the YWCA moved in 1993 from its downtown Annapolis location to a renovated facility in Arnold. Bail, 62, also helped start the first shelter in the county for battered women. Last year, 265 women and children sought shelter in the 20-bed house at an undisclosed location.

The YWCA that Bail found in 1979 was falling apart physically and financially, with 50 percent of its $300,000 operating budget coming from aerobics instruction, Bail said.

"When you build on a fad, it's like building on quicksand," she said.

So the Riva resident established an aggressive set of goals to expand the scope of the existing counseling services, women's center and career programs.

"Our goal was to turn the Y into a one-stop shop for women," she said.

During her tenure, the Y started the Teen Infant Program at Meade High School, which allows teen-age parents to leave their children at an on-site day care facility while the parents attend school. She said the YWCA also works closely with state legislators to get tougher laws passed on domestic violence and women's rights.

And the YWCA in Arnold now has an operating budget of $2 million which makes it easier to meet goals, said Bail.

Colleagues said that in addition to stabilizing the Y's budget, Bail forced volunteers and staff to realize the YWCA has a vital role in community advocacy.

"She helped put the YWCA in a position to decide where it wants to go instead of just letting things happen," said Barbara Hale, assistant executive director.

Another of Bail's goals was to make the YWCA more aesthetically pleasing. "Unless we improved our image, it wasn't very fair to ask the community to have faith in us," she said.

Nine years after she proposed renovating the Annapolis building or moving, the YWCA found a new home on Ritchie Highway in Arnold. Fund-raising for the new facility was difficult, Bail BTC acknowledged, but it enabled the organization to make several contacts in the community.

"It was the first time in the history of the Y that we had to go out into the community and ask for monetary support," said board member Patty McManus. "Dolores had to be an administrator, a fund-raiser, a real estate broker, a financial planner."

Bail said the Y has many roles to play in the community it serves. As a young mother new to Cleveland, Bail said she turned to the YWCA 30 years ago to find a place to feel good about herself.

"I thought, 'Here is a place where women talk about things beyond diaper rash,' " said Bail, who had been active in YWCA programs as a youth in West Virginia.

She became program coordinator for the Cleveland YWCA, branch executive in Akron and executive director in Alliance, Ohio.

Board members said Bail's projects, such as recognizing women in the business world and women of color, have helped diversify both YWCA membership and the board.

"Dolores' work will really take the YWCA into the next century," said McManus. "We've come a long way from rolling bandages."

Pub Date: 8/15/96

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