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All the Good She Could
Betsy (Elspeth) Czaya’s career with the YWCA felt destined. Growing up in Nutley, NJ, her mother’s pioneering work in the special education system and the tenets of her Methodist faith encouraged her from an early age to make a difference in the world.
“My mother was my role model,” she says, “and I have always been influenced by John Wesley’s gospel: ‘Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.’”
Betsy’s first experience with the YWCA was via trips to a pool in a nearby town as a high school Mariner Scout. She later became a volunteer while attending Ohio Wesleyan University and, at the urging of a professor, was recruited on campus and interviewed at three Eastern Region associations. “I was a speech major, studying communications and theater and felt I could bring those skills to bear at the YWCA,” she says. “I felt I had something to contribute.”
Following graduation, Betsy’s first professional YWCA role was as a Y-Teen program directorin Ridgewood, NJ, a jointly owned and operated association. As the first girl born on her father’s side in six generations she relished the opportunity to help level the playing field and build girls’ self-esteem. “At the time, boys were elected ‘president’ etc. There weren’t many leadership programs for girls.”
Finding herself a newlywed in Wichita Falls, TX ,she continued that role with the YWCA there. "Working in this diverse community was a challenging and invaluable experience." After 1-1/2 years in Spain (compliments of the USAF) she returned to the U.S. and picked up work with YWCA teens at a jointly operated location in Cincinnati, OH.
Betsy went on to become a YWCA branch director in Cincinnati but soon returned to program administration, where she felt her skills belonged. Her work touched many aspects of the YWCA’s mission: early childhood education, training childcare providers, and domestic violence prevention, including support for men with a history of intimate partner violence. “That’s one of the great things about the YWCA,” says Betsy. “It provides initiatives that are local, and particular to what communities need.”
Prior to her March 2020 retirement after 48-1/2 years in Cincinnati, the YWCA Retirement Fund allowed Betsy to enjoy 12-1/2 years of partial retirement. “That is one of the great things about the Retirement Fund,” she says. “There is so much flexibility. I was able to work part-time and still have the benefit and the security, and the ability to withdraw funds.”
While the good times take care of themselves, Betsy was also able to continue retirement planning when she lost her husband. “I became a single parent when my daughter [pictured with Betsy in 2019] was just 14 months old,” she says. “I was able to contribute to my retirement, and I was lucky enough to work for associations that contributed 10% to the Fund.”
“I would encourage any young person to find that this is a rare benefit. Because you just don’t know what life is going to throw at you.”