We had the good fortune of connecting with Debbie Pope and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Debbie, how does your business help the community?
YWCA Boulder County (YWCA) is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. Founded in 1922, YWCA tackles social issues of importance to women, particularly around housing, employment, education and childcare. As early as 1926, YWCA formed the Blue Triangle Club for young businesswomen and provided women assistance in finding employment and suitable housing options. Today, YWCA continues its work to create effective, lasting change by breaking down barriers so all women can thrive and be self-sufficient. As the needs of local women, children and families have changed, so has the focus of YWCA programs.
YWCA programs include: 1) Persimmon Early Learning Center: a CO Shines Level 4 rated high-quality, affordable childcare center serving Boulder County families for 40 years. Persimmon is a nurturing, creative space for children to engage and grow, and offers a nutritious meal program, parenting classes and a wellness program. 2) Latina Achievement Support (LAS): a unique mentoring program for high school Latinx that builds confidence and encourages students to graduate and pursue higher education or a career. 3) Reading to End Racism: an intergenerational literacy program that empowers 1st – 5th graders to understand, discuss and work to eliminate discrimination and bullying. 4) STEM E3: a hands-on, real-world STEM program emphasizing education, employment and entrepreneurship, for young women of color in 5th – 8th grades. 5) Racial Justice & Equity Education: addressing the community need for anti-racism and equity education and training and public policy advocacy.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
The road to my current role as CEO of YWCA Boulder County is filled with many twists and turns, not uncommon to all of our journeys. I started as a broadcast journalist determined to educate the public about social justice. After working with all three network affiliates, and as a young woman in a very sexist industry, I found myself searching for how I could create greater impact. My mother, Luanne, had multiple sclerosis and as a morning show anchor I found myself championing the National MS Society as a board member. At a board meeting, they shared they were looking for someone to do their fundraising and marketing work. I jumped at the opportunity and essentially started my career over in the non-profit space. Nearly twenty years of my non-profit executive experience was gained at the National MS Society. I moved four times during that time and realigned the organization first with regions and eventually as the EVP, Development for the national organization. During my time with the Society, I led teams to raise $500+ million dollars to help fund the research for a cure. I started to feel a greater pull back to social justice and advocacy three years ago. Being a mother of four, commuting to Denver from my home in Boulder, also made me start exploring what the next chapter needed to look like. I found the YWCA’s mission of eliminating racism and empowering women incredibly compelling. I started as the CEO for the Boulder County organization in 2018.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
We are so fortunate to live in such an incredible community with wonderful food, arts, and natural beauty. No trip is complete without taking a hike on one of the beautiful trails. My favorite and one I like to share with others is Lions Lair trail winding up to the beautiful view from Mount Sanitas. Then after that wonderful early morning hike, I would take them to Taco in downtown Boulder to enjoy their incredible chips and multiple salsas and of course tacos. The owner Peter is always welcoming and makes everyone who comes—newcomers or oldies, like me, welcome. If the Farmer’s Market is still open, this is always a fun and “buzzing” space to be when the weather is nice. Picking up some fresh vegetables and a beautiful bouquet of flowers makes all the difference for the evening meal. If there is time to take a short drive, Rocky Mountain Park, never disappoints. The drive up to Estes Park and then into the park is truly magical.
On the way back it is fun to stop in Lyons at the local market and pick up some locally sourced meat for dinner. I think that the street fairs and festivals are a wonderful way to be part of the community and celebrate such talented artists. On a summer night, strolling the down towns of Louisville or Lafayette while hearing bands play, eating great food and beer, and enjoying local arts, crafts, and goodies make a Saturday night extra special.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would like to give a shout out to all of the incredible women’s organizations and advocates sharing their time, talent, passion, and voice to creating a more equitable, safe, and powerful community for women and girls. Starting with the incredible staff at the YWCA-those leading our programs, teaching the children in our programs, and staff making sure we are building awareness and raising funds to support our mission-in turn supporting thousands of women, girls, and the community as a whole. We focus on specific work in the women’s movement and then strengthen that work and impact with groups like Zonta, League of Women Voters, MESA, Cobalt, AAUW, BPW, Women’s Lobby, and the Women’s Collaborative of Boulder County (to name a few). The leaders in these organizations have provided strength, kindness, powerful advice and mentoring on a daily basis. It is a constant reminder of how much more powerful we are as a collective and that the greatest gift we can give to one another is support, shared knowledge, and voice for every woman and girl.
Photos: YWCA Boulder County