(Times Bulletin/Ed Gebert)
(Times Bulletin/Ed Gebert)

Times Bulletin Editor

VAN WERT - Some time away from the work force turned into a very short respite for Van Wert native Tammy Branham. The Lincolnview grad had been working for companies in Fort Wayne serving those with developmental disabilities while living in Defiance. As of mid-August, Branham became the executive director of the YWCA of Van Wert County.

"I took some time off in April and decided to stay home and help with my granddaughter, take some time off and spend time with my family. I realized very quickly that I'm not a stay-at-home mother!" she laughed. "My mother saw the ad in the paper and I thought, 'Why not? It's dealing with people.'"

It is people that draws Branham to the work. She gained plenty of experience in Fort Wayne in various roles.

"I did direct care, I was a trainer, I was a program director, I was an assistant director, I've done a little bit of everything," Branham said.

She is a mother of three with a degree in psychology from the University of Dayton.

Still, Her first instinct when finding out the YWCA was looking for a new executive director had to do more with her memories than research on the organization. Branham had been an instructor at Pam's School of Dance and had attended lock-ins as a youth, but that was most of what she knew about the organization. Living out of the county, she had been updated by her mother on changes with the building, but she did not fully realize all the YWCA offers the community.

"I always looked at the YWCA as more of the athletic activities," she admitted, "When I started doing research on the YW that I realized just how many social programs that are offered through here. My idea of what the YWCA is has completely changed now. We're not the fitness although we have Peak Fitness who leases part of our building, but the social programs that every community need is what has surprised me, and just how well the small staff that we have manages everything."

Branham got a close look at how well the staff manages in her first week at the YWCA, which was this year's final week of the Summer Food Program.

She noted, "The ladies here that work the program have it down to a science. Just walking in to the program, I was amazed at the activities that were going on and how well they had things laid out and organized. I'm just amazed at their abilities, but they've been doing it for 18 years."

Branham is now at work directing the staff and trying to keep approximately 15 staff members on track and working together.

"I'm here to bring the team together and make it cohesive and make everything run smoothly," Branham summarized. "I am here to remind everybody that we are here for a reason, and that is to eliminate racism, empower women... we're here for Van Wert County, we're here for Mercer County, and Allen County, and Paulding County."

Branham and the rest of the YWCA staff have plenty on their plate being designated a domestic violence shelter, in addition to running the transitional living program. The organization offers an alternative for people to go when in need. And study is underway to possibly expand youth services also.

"Right now we are looking to possibly extend the after-school care for youth," said Branham. "But I think every year, we are going to have to look at the needs of the county. It will depend on the needs of the county."