Locals We Love: Kirsten Sikkelee of the YWCA

The CEO of Charlotte’s YWCA started her career championing equality for women and children from the early age of eight years old. Gorgeous GLO is honored and humbled to have interviewed this pillar of the community for this week’s Locals We Love. We have a feeling you too will be inspired…

GG: Tell us what inspired you to work at the YWCA?

KS: I was inspired to come to work at YWCA Central Carolinas 20 years ago after reading the book The Measure of Our Success: A Letter to My Children and Yours, by Marian Wright Edelman, the founder of the Children’s Defense Fund. I was working at Carpe Diem Restaurant full-time as a server and considering what I might be called to do with my Davidson education, when a regular customer introduced me to a leader at the YWCA. The mission of the YWCA –  eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace justice, freedom and dignity for all – just spoke to me and it felt that my life’s path to that point had led me there. It is a very personal mission to me.

GG: Tell us about your first significant “Ah-Ha” moment in your career?

KS: The first significant “ah-ha” moment in my career strikes me as a conversation I had with a psychologist I supervised, who worked part-time with the Women in Transition program, where we house and help formerly homeless women. We were discussing the urgent need to get supportive services in place, which took some time, and she said to me, “people will only let you confront them on changes they might need to consider if they have truly felt supported by you.” That phrase became a talisman for me. Think about it: isn’t that true in our own lives?

GG: When away from the office what can you be most likely found doing?

KS: When away from the office, I really cherish my relationships that refuel my spirit. So, I might be enjoying the company of my delightful husband, or cooking a meal to share, or catching up with lifetime friends. Maya Angelou talked about taking time to withdraw from the cares that will not withdraw from us, and nurturing close relationships is one way I rejuvenate myself.

GG: What projects are you most proud of both inside AND outside your profession?

KS: At the YWCA, the projects of which I am most proud include developing the Women in Transition program, from a 66-unit residence to a dynamic supportive housing program, followed by conceiving of and helping to make real the Families Together housing program, which we opened 6+ years ago. Outside of YWCA, I am most proud of being a founding member of the Charlotte Lesbian and Gay Fund, a collective giving fund at Foundation for the Carolinas. To see where it has come in ten years and the power of its grant-giving has made me so proud to witness!

GG: What local cause most has your heart?

KS: The local causes that most have my heart are the ones we see each day, to which the YWCA responds: the struggle to move beyond poverty, the need for affordable housing, the re-segregation of our public schools and the vast challenges our educators attempt to meet, the racial justice work that is as important as ever..

GG: What little known tidbit about you would the Charlotte community get a kick out of knowing?

KS: I think one little-known tidbit the Charlotte community might get a kick out of knowing about me is that I used to hold the Equal Rights Amendment banner in front of the White House with my mother when I was 8 years old. And we named our fox terrier “Ms.”

Would you like to get involved? Learn more about the YWCA here.