Director of YWCA likes busy schedule New chief no stranger to tough challenges, issues of families

February 12, 1997|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

The new head of the YWCA of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County hates being bored. Good thing.

For the past several weeks, Karen R. Winne has been working 12- to 14-hour days six days a week, learning the ropes of the county's leading organization for service to women and families. The Y also is a prominent advocate on issues such as domestic violence and abortion.

In her spare time, Winne is looking for a house she and her husband can rent, a place where she can plant a garden.

"I can't stand to be bored," the former Charlottesville, Va., resident said in a recent interview in her corner office at the YWCA building on Ritchie Highway. "I have to be doing something."

Running an organization with a $2 million annual budget, 70 staffers, programs in Arnold and Odenton and at Meade Senior High School and a 20-bed shelter in an undisclosed location should keep her active.

Winne replaces Dolores J. Bail, who stepped down last year after 17 years.

During Bail's tenure, the organization raised enough funds to move from Annapolis to the Richie Highway building, opened the shelter for victims of domestic violence and a family support center in Odenton, and started a program for teen-age mothers at Meade.

The YWCA counsels battered women, conducts career workshops and classes for parents, operates a travel club, and offers activities for children and young adults, and fitness and recreation programs.

"It just seemed to fit me," Winne said of the variety of activities.

She left her last job, in Kuwait, in 1994, when her husband's assignment with a company rebuilding refineries ended. Winne had rebuilt the high school counseling program, taught English and made sense of a student record system at the war-ravaged Al-Bayan Bilingual School.

The Philadelphia native accepted the position here in November after more than a year job-hunting.

And after years of moving across the country and halfway around the world with two daugh- ters to follow her husband's job changes, Winne has the "lead job" this time. Meaning her husband Lee, a contracts manager and consultant, agreed to follow her to Maryland.

Winne said she needs more time to develop a vision for the YWCA. "I need to learn the politics of Maryland and Anne Arundel County in particular," she said

She wants to bring programs such as the Meade Teen Infant Program to other county high schools, expand services in the western part of the county and find ways to help the pockets of "hidden poverty" in the county.

Neither Winne nor YWCA officials would reveal her salary, but Winne said it was "in keeping with the size of the organization."

"We were not hiring an executive director to come in and radically shake up the organization and clean house," said Kathleen Emmert, president of the YWCA board of directors. "We think we have a good program in place. We are certainly faced with a lot of challenges as far as providing a diversity of programs to a diverse population of women."

Winne is no stranger to tough assignments.

Soon after moving to Saudi Arabia with her husband and two young daughters in 1977, Winne found herself walking door to door to every home in a desert compound for foreigners, mustering volunteers for a recreation center.

The barbed-wire-enclosed compound offered few diversions for families with children. "Somebody came up with the idea of having a summer recreation program, and I decided to chair it," said Winne, who holds a master's degree in political science from the University of California at Berkeley. "I got every woman working in it except for one wife."

She also got refugees working while she was an employment consultant and then director of employment and education services with Catholic Charities of Orange County in California, where she worked from 1986 to 1992.

As a volunteer in Kuwait, she organized the creation of a University of Maryland teacher certification program for the many women there who were unable to return to the United States for one or two years of schooling.

Of tackling a challenging task, Winne said, "There are a lot of resources out there. It's making the contacts and just being creative about it."

Pub Date: 2/12/97

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