Waypoint spent 2019 celebrating 125 years of working to improve the lives of those in need in the community. With a long history beginning as the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), Waypoint continues to focus on providing life-changing resources and services to community members experiencing poverty, homelessness, and domestic violence. While the mission of “inspiring people to move forward” has remained a constant, the organization itself has changed drastically over the years.
In 1894, the Cedar Rapids chapter of the YWCA was established. The chapter was formed from the Bohemian Young Women’s Union, whose purpose was to study Bohemian reading, writing, and literature. When the organization was established, its efforts focused on the feminine disciplines of vocal music, dressmaking, and fancy work. In 1911, the YWCA constructed a new building on 5th Street SE where Waypoint is housed today. Eventually, the YWCA’s focused shifted. Women who migrated to Cedar Rapids for work relied on the YWCA for lodging, skills training, and support finding a job. The organization also focused on physical fitness, self-improvement, and social outreach. As time went on, the work the organization did was continually changing and evolving to fit the needs of the community.
In the 1970s, the YWCA began addressing sexual assault services and collaborated with other community organizations to open a Women’s Emergency Shelter; a domestic violence shelter and the Madge Phillips Resource Center for homeless women were opened in 1989. With the support of the Junior League of Cedar Rapids, the current Madge Phillips Center Shelter was built in 1995. Today, the shelter provides emergency overnight shelter to over 300 women and families with children each year.
The YWCA also began addressing child care needs, recognizing that access to quality, affordable child care was a barrier that many in the community were facing. In 1985, an addition was added on to the building to offer care for children from birth to 6th grade. This addition currently houses KidsPoint Downtown. Today, the KidsPoint Child Care Program (formerly Waypoint Kids) provides care to nearly 550 children each day through two Learning Center & Preschools, 11 Before & After School sites, and 3 Summer Adventure Day Camps. Along with accepting families on financial assistance through the Department of Human Services (DHS), KidsPoint also offers their own form of financial aid called the Sliding Scale Fee to ensure all children have access to quality child care to gain the skills they need to thrive.
As Waypoint’s focus shifted to addressing the area’s need for critical support services, the Board of Directors voted to disaffiliate from the YWCA in August of 2001. Waypoint Services for Women, Children, and Families was chosen as the new name of the organization. The name was chosen because “waypoint” is a nautical term for a resting spot on a journey, which is exactly what we hope to be for our clients. Waypoint’s goal is to provide individuals with access to resources and support during their time of need so they can move forward with their lives.
Today, Waypoint serves nearly 7,500 individuals each year through three main programs: Housing & Homelessness Services, Domestic Violence Victim Services, and Child Care. The work that Waypoint does would not be possible without a strong network of donors, volunteers, and staff who have made it possible to serve the community for the last 125 years. Waypoint offers our sincere gratitude to anyone who has supported us over the years. Your gift—whether it be time, money, awareness, or otherwise, has truly changed lives.