Change Makers: YWCA Director serves community for 20 plus years

Published: Mar. 7, 2023 at 5:05 PM EST
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BINGHAMTON (WBNG) -- As part of Women’s History Month, 12 News is highlighting local women who have made a difference in our community through the “Change Makers” segment. For the week of March 6, YWCA Executive Director Carole Coppens is being highlighted.

Coppens has been a staple at YWCA since June 2000. Even before her YWCA days at Lourdes Wellness Center, her resume has always been about public service.

“It was wonderful,” said Coppens. “And then the next step up of course was coming here, which multiplied that 50 times greater in terms of public service.”

When Coppens received the job offer more than two decades ago, she said it wasn’t the optimal situation for someone to walk into.

“The agency really, by all rights at that time, should not have been functioning,” said Coppens. At the time, the place was hugely bankrupt, had massive debt, the building was failing and more.

Overall, she had doubts about the role and even voiced her concern with her husband.

“As that onion revealed itself to me over the next couple of weeks, I was overwhelmed, went home, said to [my husband] ‘I can’t do this I need to find another job,’” said Coppens.

Despite the situation, she stuck it out. To provide the services we see in action today, Coppens had to work from the ground up to expand the offerings.

“There were no housing programs except for the emergency shelter and that was the only thing that was really a housing program in that it was serving 16, 17, 18 pregnant and parenting young women,” said Coppens. “That was what was here at the time.”

Coppens said she invited herself to every meeting she could find just to introduce herself and to meet people in the community.

“It didn’t take me long to understand the importance of this mission and the fact that there was nothing for women and there had to be,” said Coppens. “So that drove me.”

In her own words, part of her legacy is a construction project from 2005 to 2008 that renovated the building and offered better housing options for those in need.

“That changed everything about the impact and how we managed to build it from there,” said Coppens.

When it comes to the current offers, there’s homeless housing for women and women with children, a licensed childcare center, and cancer screening around cervical and breast cancer.

“We’re touching over 5,000 lives each year,” said Coppens.

Looking at the future of YWCA, there’s a plan for additional affordable housing in the works. Submitting project funding-related applications are still in the works, but it would be ideal for the construction of the YWCA Intergenerational Campus to start in 2025 on the corner of Lisle and Carol. Once complete, this project will have 68 units with a childcare center.