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Know Your Nonprofit: Crisis Intervention With YWCA Cass Clay

Photos by Hillary Ehlen and special to Fargo Monthly

Featured photo: YWCA‘s Grace Garden Program Manager Sarah Selseth (L) and Community Relations Manager Morgan Svingen (R)

With help from the Impact Foundation, we’ve broken up the numerous Fargo-Moorhead organizations into 12 categories. With more than 100 charitable organizations in the Fargo-Moorhead area alone, we know that you’ll come across an organization that tug at your heartstrings. Within the listings of local charities we’ve published, the organizations are split into subcategories that will make it easy for your charitable spirit to find its match. Here is our spotlight on the Crisis Interventions nonprofits, featuring YWCA Cass Clay.

YWCA Cass Clay

3000 S. University Dr., Fargo

Women stay in abusive environments when they have nowhere else to go. For many women escaping violence, their first night of safety begins at YWCA Cass Clay. With aid from YWCA Cass Clay, local women and children get a helping hand in overcoming violence, homelessness or crisis, moving from fear to freedom.

YWCA Cass Clay stands alongside women and children in need, providing them a place of safety and comfort when it’s needed most. It is the largest emergency shelter for women and children escaping homelessness due to violence and poverty in North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota. YWCA‘s mission is to eliminate racism, empower women and promote peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. However, it’s hard to express the feelings of hope YWCA creates for their clients.

Safe shelter, food, clothing, childcare, education and employment services, health counseling and transportation assistance are among the many services that YWCA provides in a judgment-free, supportive environment. But beyond these tangible services, YWCA Cass Clay provides a caring team of volunteers and professionals ready to listen and empower women on their journey to independence. Sarah Selseth, YWCA‘s Grace Garden Program Manager, said, “I think sometimes we are those people that women call on their worst day, when they might not have someone else. We are the people who get those phone calls when they need support or someone to talk to.”

“I admire the YWCA because it makes a difference by empowering women to reach their full potential. I especially appreciate the attention and care they give to racial justice and transitional housing and support for those victims of domestic violence. As the FM community grows, so does my awareness to families in need. The YWCA is active and trying to break the cycle of poverty and violence, and I believe that they should be commended for this work.” – Steve Smith, YMCA of Cass and Clay Counties

Organizations like YWCA need support from the community to continue providing services and support for those who come to them. Beyond a regular need for volunteers and financial contributions, one of YWCA‘s biggest needs right now is prepaid cell phone minute cards. Morgan Svingen, YWCA‘s community relations manager, noted, “People who come to us are trying to stay connected to either jobs or employers, or just to stay connected in general. Phone cards are critical. It makes it possible for those in our program to have that link to safety.”

Last year, YWCA Cass Clay provided the essentials of safety, housing, food and clothing to about 1,400 women and children escaping domestic violence and poverty. After their basic needs have been met, YWCA aids women in transitioning out of the shelter and getting back on their feet through services such as education, employment, childcare, transportation assistance and finding strengths in them that they might not recognize in themselves.

“Whether they stay with us for one day, 30 days or if they stay in our supportive housing for two years, we offer classes and budgeting skills that they can use. We are providing them with skills that they can use for the rest of their life,” Sarah said. YWCA Cass Clay is currently constructing a 30-unit housing complex in West Fargo called Grace Garden, which will help even more families arrive to safety and start their journey to a new life.

Domestic violence can take away a woman’s self-worth and leave lasting wounds, but thanks to YWCA, we can help women in our region become re-instilled with the confidence and strength that every person deserves.


From Community Relations Manager, Morgan Svingen

Giving Hearts Day‘s Impact On YWCA

Giving Hearts Day comes at one of the busiest times of year for our emergency shelter. With temperatures below zero and families looking for a safe place to stay, YWCA is above capacity a majority of the time. Giving Hearts Day provides a much-needed New Year boost to provide families with essential items, including food, clothing, hygiene items and the comforts of a safe room to call home.

Something YWCA Would Benefit From

Can you imagine going days or weeks without your cell phone? For many of the women that we serve, prepaid phones are their only way to stay connected. While they are working to rebuild their lives, the resource of a phone is invaluable. A simple cell phone allows them to contact potential employers, reach out regarding apartments for lease or stay connected to family and friends. As they budget for food, rental deposits and essentials for their family, a phone bill or contract is not always a reasonable option. By providing prepaid minute phone cards, you help women make and receive calls that can change their lives.

What YWCA Could Do With More Donations

With additional funding, YWCA could grow our Homeless Prevention Program, helping families with rental assistance and security deposits. These gifts can help families maintain current housing or rapidly move on from the shelter. For many in our community, a decrease of hours at work or a sudden illness can cause significant financial hardship. YWCA’s Homeless Prevention Program helps in these times of need.

How You Can Help YWCA

Our work would not be possible without the generosity of our community, not only through monetary gifts but also through gifts of physical donations and volunteer time. Volunteers help with numerous tasks at the Emergency Shelter, including sorting, distributing food boxes, assisting teachers and tutoring youth through Shelter Children’s Services, and instructing classes in the Education and Employment program. Volunteers also assist with annual special events, including Chocolate Fantasy and Chili, Too and Women of the Year, where all proceeds raised go toward the Emergency Shelter. Last year, 2,372 individuals volunteered 7,897 hours at YWCA Cass Clay.


YWCA began in 1906 as a boarding house for rural women attending college, and since then we have transitioned into the largest emergency shelter for women and children in North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota. We have also expanded to include education and employment programming, Shelter Children’s Services, a Sanford Registered Nurse who also provides respite care, supportive housing, human trafficking advocacy and homeless prevention initiatives.

What Would Be Lost In The Community Without YWCA

Without YWCA, over 1,500 women and children would find themselves homeless or remaining in abusive living conditions each year. YWCA provides them with a safe place to escape crisis and start rebuilding their lives.

What Gives?

  • $23 provides shampoo, toothpaste and a full bag of essential care items
  • $132 provides three days of safe shelter, food and caring support

More Crisis Intervention Organizations in the FM Area

Farm Rescue


“[We’d appreciate] funding to grow our social media campaign: we want everyone in North Dakota and Clay County Minnesota to know there is hope and help available with phone support and texting that is free and confidential.” – Jennifer Illich, Director of Helpline Operations

Minnesota Fraternal Order of Police Foundation

“I really admire the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center. We have the unique perspective of working with some of the people who have been helped out by the RACC and get to see the tremendous job that they do in not only helping people escape dangerous situations, but helping people rebuilding their lives as well.” – Pete Christopher, Lake Agassiz Habitat for Humanity

Red River Children’s Advocacy Center

“Every year a woman (who I know little about and who is from several hundred miles away) calls me and asks for my recommendations on charities for her Giving Hearts Day donations. She is very clear that I do not have to recommend the RRCAC as she will be giving to us, but she wants me to tell her other charities for her an-nual donation. She then distributes her $50 gift to multiple charities.” – Anna Frissell, Executive Director


“Volunteering is never out of style!” – Lauren Hutton, Development Operations Coordinator

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Alexandra Martin

Written by Alexandra Martin

Alexandra Martin is the editor of Fargo Monthly. She hails from Huntsville, Alabama, but graduated from Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri with a degree in Fashion Communications. When she's not in the office, she is busy taking care of her small zoo of pets, cooking up vegetables, or listening to true-crime podcasts.

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