History


Photo by Amanda Opitz/Sentinel

For 80 years, the Walnut Avenue Women’s Center has helped women, children and families lead healthy, happy an productive lives. Our interactive programs aim to improve the economic, physical and emotional well being of the people we work with. Founded as the YWCA in 1933, the Walnut Avenue Women’s Center was renamed in 1994 to better reflect the programs offered and our community’s needs. The Women’s Center serves over 3,000 women, children and families each year.

The Walnut Avenue Women’s Center provides a variety of services for the purpose of helping women to improve their life situations. The organization is women-centered, seeking to put women’s experiences at the center of our thinking. We provide services which empower and inform women, their children and their families, enabling those we serve to realize their potential in all aspects of their lives.

What do you give a 88 year old for her birthday?

The old YWCA sign still hangs on WAWC signifying the historical significance of the location.

Well, when the 88 year old is a colonial style house in a beach town, she deserves a face lift and a lot of TLC! That is exactly what has happened to the old blue house at 303 Walnut Avenue. The seemingly out of place colonial style house has been the home for “rebels” since its conception in 1921 by Salvator and Frances Fachutar. They ignored the architectural trends of the area and built it as a combination home and music studio. It became known as the largest music house between San Francisco and Los Angeles. In 1944, Mrs. Fachutar sold the house to the Santa Cruz YWCA. The Y women including Mrs. Fred McPherson, Edith Hinds, Mabel Byrne and Bertha Adams laid the foundation for 50 years of service to the Santa Cruz Community including a Club 303- a night club for teens, the Gay Troubadours-the first all boys club sponsored by the YWCA, and multiple programs for women and girls of all races and cultures.

In 1994, the YWCA left National Y and became the Walnut Avenue Women’s Center. The change was motivated by the desire of the board to expand services to Battered Women. Since then the Walnut Avenue Women’s Center has grown from a small organization with 10 staff members to a thriving Family Resource Center with over 30 staff and 5 programs providing support and services to over 3000 people a year. Many of the beliefs and attitudes that spurred the Fachutars to build their own style home and spurred the women to create the Santa Cruz YWCA are still present in the house today. The landscape has changed and the issues have expanded. We no longer grow flowers for perfumes or sell music to lift the spirit. Now we “grow” children who thrive and we “sell” hope for a better tomorrow for the women, children and families we are privileged to serve. Just as Salvator Fachutar wrote in one of his compositions the spirit of the building and the women who make up the Walnut Avenue Women’s Center are like a “Flower that Never Withers”.