Katy Carrel of YWCA Sonoma County wins Nonprofit Leadership Award

Santa Rosa resident Katy Carrel retired from 20-year career as an Apple software asset manager in 2014 and has been volunteering for YWCA Sonoma County. (PROVIDED IMAGE) Oct. 8, 2017


Katy Carrel, a volunteer for YWCA Sonoma County and creator of the “Make A Room In Your Heart” fundraising campaign, has won one of North Bay Business Journal’s Nonprofit Leadership Awards.

Describe your organization

For over four decades, YWCA Sonoma County has been the local community’s answer to the call for help due to the devastating effects of domestic violence. Central to our programming is the 24/7 crisis hotline (707-546-1234) and the confidential safe house shelter, a 4,500-square-foot Queen Anne Victorian home originally built in 1900. The safe house includes seven bedrooms, 27 beds, two kitchens, three bathrooms, one playroom, a laundry room and YWCA advocacy offices.

Our 117-year-old facility shows her age, particularly where bathrooms and kitchens are concerned. Given the constant day-to-day use of the building with its ongoing influx of new residents, it’s not hard to imagine the wear and tear of flooring, walls holding coats upon coats of paint, worn flooring and years of constant use.

Life within our safe house can easily be described as multiple families’ sharing close quarters in common areas while resting in bunk bed–furnished bedrooms often housing parents with more children than beds. Previously awkward kitchen layouts, insufficient bathrooms, poor lighting and a lack of play space for children of various ages describe the home’s living areas.

Within the safe environment of our shelter, participants and their children receive in-depth case management, including therapy and resources to employment and housing opportunities, legal and immigration services. All while being in the warm atmosphere of a 3-story home.

What’s your role?

I am a volunteer of YWCA Sonoma County, and in this capacity I have established my own campaign, “Make A Room In Your Heart.” Through this entity, I have assembled the support of myriad additional volunteers, contractors, trade people, business owners and designers in pursuing the remodeling projects at YWCA’s century-old safe house shelter.

Tell us a little bit about yourself

I enjoyed a 20-year career at Apple as a software asset manager, and prior to that I was a kitchen and bath designer for a remodeling company. I also tried my hand at small business entrepreneurship in the mid-1990s when I owned and operated The Chilly Cow Creamery in Healdsburg.

Three years ago I “retired” to bucolic Oakmont leaving my long time career in the high-tech industry behind. Since then I have used my professional skills and ability to work with others to bear in my full time role giving back to the local community. My goal with YWCA is to create nurturing safe spaces for families who are so deserving and to in doing so make things better for those less fortunate. In addition to the YWCA Safe House projects, I enjoy volunteering with Jack London State Park, Transcendence Theatre and Meals on Wheels.

What is your role in the organization?

In my capacity as a YWCA volunteer, I add value to project management with my design–build skills, which is where my passion lies. Our remodeling projects allow me to do what I love to do in making the safe house shelter a healing environment.

What achievement are you most proud of?

Among our numerous projects I am most proud of what was accomplished in the first and second floor kitchens within the Safe House. Prior to the remodel, the upstairs kitchen alone had five different drawer styles as a result of well-intentioned intermittent improvement projects over many years. In the second floor kitchen we created two separate stove/microwave work areas and an additional sink allowing more kids and parents to work side by side at meal preparation time. My greatest joy comes from reviewing the “before” images of these rooms in contrast to what now exists “after.”

What is your biggest challenge today?

Our ultimate goal is to remodel and renovate every square inch of living space at the shelter. The challenge comes from the ongoing recruitment of community minded people who are willing to help and lend their individual expertise along the way. We’re just going to do one room at a time and we’re just going to keep going.

What is the next major project either underway or on the horizon?

Thanks to an incredibly generous “Make a Room in Your Heart” donor, we are in the design phase of a second-floor bathroom which will double the efficiency of the space in terms of an additional shower, toilet and vanity. The first- and third-floor bathrooms are also being looked at in terms of update and improvement.

What product or service is helping you do your job more effectively?

Community support from local companies such as St. Francis Flooring and Teevax Appliances along with local suppliers and tradespeople are the most help in allowing us to reach our remodeling goals — on time and under budget.

Most admired businessperson outside your organization: I feel inspired and supported by YWCA CEO Madeleine Keegan O’Connell and so appreciate her trust in me and our process as we navigate the many twists and turns of our projects together.

Current reading: “Dancing With Rose.” It’s about finding light in the land of Alzheimer’s disease.

Most want to meet: The Dalai Lama and Michelle Obama.

Stress-relievers: A good massage, a good movie and playing with friends.

Favorite hobbies: Gardening.

Social media you most use: Texting.

Words that best describe you: Loving, caring, sharing and tireless commitment to project completion.