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'Thank you [Dayton] for the privilege of being able to serve those women that sit along the margins.'

YWCA Dayton President and CEO, Shannon Isom speaks at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Huber Heights Campus.
YWCA Dayton
YWCA Dayton President and CEO, Shannon Isom in 2021 speaking at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Huber Heights Campus.

Shannon Isom with YWCA Dayton sets sights on serving larger Columbus Community.

Shannon Isom has served as CEO of the YWCA Dayton since 2013. During that time, she has been a vocal leader in the Dayton community. Isom will leave her position to work for a Columbus nonprofit in January. We spoke with her about her tenure - both challenges and successes - and what’s next.

Shannon Isom: You know, after nine years with the YWCA Dayton, in this position as president and CEO, I've had plenty of both of the challenges as well as successes. But I would say the biggest one, which it's really hard to articulate, are those challenges that continue to stay strident and steadfast, not only in this community, but in most communities, are public health challenges - organizing systems, and people, and funding, and then advocacy, community stakeholders.

And even funders sometimes conflate that our service is our responsibility to fix, and so I think that that is the biggest challenge is to reframe the narrative that nonprofits stand in the gap for their communities on behalf of communities. But YWCA Dayton, like no other nonprofits, are responsible for fixing gender-based violence and fixing violence within our space, fixing homelessness. But instead, we walk alongside community officials to help fix those. And then it never stops.

Jerry Kenney: Yeah, and as far as successes during your tenure, I can at least point to facilities in building expansion and improvements and expansion with programs.

Isom: Yeah. I mean the successes I almost nervous to say, 'oh gosh, what are your biggest successes?' I would tell you that the greatest successes is that there's much more mission recognition. I mean, my goodness, I came into this space, and it is something wonderful that people get to recognize that the YWCA, Dayton sits in the space of eliminating racism and empowering women.

We know now that intersectionality matters, and it matters in a way that has allowed a growth strategy in a nonprofit that does social justice around gender and race and poverty, and that that has been successful. And that I think, that is an amazing feat. And that we've had a community really donors, contributors has allowed me to dream and envision something bigger, greater and has allowed me to stand in that space with a good amount of support and for us to help people in a way differently than we did eight years ago.

Kenney: Can you tell us a little bit about what is next for you?

Isom: I am going to Columbus, Ohio, where I will be the next CEO for the Community Shelter Board. And that Community Shelter Board is an umbrella agency that then brings together many other service provider agencies like the YWCA across Franklin County to work together in a system that will change and drive responsive resources strategy around the unhoused, the systems that respond to that, the care, the access, as well as resource and which we which we do well here is give and provide and make sure that there is diversity of resources both from the federal, state and local level.

And they already have a strong network of both public and private sector support, hence the name Community Shelter Board. So, I am excited about increasing the level of effectiveness and hopefully just efficiency on how we respond compassionately and with dignity to people that are looking for assistance. I'm excited about that.

Kenney: Final personal message for the people of Dayton or the clients you've served.

Isom: So, I will take a courtesy and about here, and I say thank you for the privilege of being able to serve those women that sit along the margins, and I was able to center them. So, I thank you, Dayton. I thank you YWCA and thank you clients and residents who paused to give me hugs and words of encouragement. You have allowed me to care for this very audacious mission of 'we will eliminate racism and empower women, and promote peace, freedom, justice and dignity for all people. And with that, I will continue to do so, thank you.

Kenney: Shannon Isom with YWCA Dayton. Thank you so much for serving the people of Dayton and thanks for your time today. Good luck.

Isom: Thank you.

Jerry began volunteering at WYSO in 1991 and hosting Sunday night's Alpha Rhythms in 1992. He joined the YSO staff in 2007 as Morning Edition Host, then All Things Considered. He's hosted Sunday morning's WYSO Weekend since 2008 and produced several radio dramas and specials . In 2009 Jerry received the Best Feature award from Public Radio News Directors Inc., and was named the 2023 winner of the Ohio Associated Press Media Editors Best Anchor/News Host award. His current, heart-felt projects include the occasional series Bulletin Board Diaries, which focuses on local, old-school advertisers and small business owners. He has also returned as the co-host Alpha Rhythms.