Dozens of women gathered at Kebo Valley Golf Course to celebrate the MDI YWCA’s continued existence in the Mount Desert Island community and world, but also to honor three women of distinction who have also made a profound impact in the island’s community and beyond.

Before the program, women and a few men, milled around, talking, hugging, making connections and renewing friendships. Each table was adorned with MDI YWCA mugs filled with fresh flowers and herbs. 

Jackie Davidson and her staff watched it all. Their desire to make everything perfect for their volunteers, board members, and the families of the women being honored was evident in every watchful glance, movement to greet others, and hand on an elbow. 

Jackie is the MDI YWCA’s executive director. Her life is all about the Y’s mission to “eliminate racism, empower women and promote peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all.”

She began her role here in 2012, bringing a long history of involvement with the organization, having served in the 1980s on the board of directors and then  as the group’s part-time programming coordinator. 

Back in 2012, she told Rob Levin of the Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander, “I have always been impressed with how women’s lives have been made better because they’ve come here.” Ms. Davidson said, “If we can continue to do that, plus add some things that people can do and talk about, I think that would be a pretty impressive thing.”

It has happened. Since 2012, the YWCA has made important strides forward, helping others in the community be they nonprofits trying to raise money for wheelchair projects, hosting book festivals for kids, art for seniors, programs about female empowerment and against racism and also by housing women who need a place to be. 

A Pirates and Princess Breakfast outside The YWCA raising money for a wheelchair program in Panama.

The Friday night event wasn’t deeply focused on the Y but on its keynote speaker, Anne Gass who spoke about suffragists, and the three women earning their awards, Wendy Littlefield, Maggie Painter, and Gianna Turk. 

The purpose of motivation and engagement or protecting through words, through action, through voting? It’s the YWCA’s purpose, but it was also the purpose of its volunteers as well as the purpose of the three women who were honored for their work.         

The three people that they honored have donated their time, their intellect, and even a piece of their own body to create lasting good and lasting change.

They are perfect examples of what women can do. When we hear about their accomplishments, their sacrifices, their convictions? That’s when their stories become something bigger than them. Their stories become part of the fabric of this MDI community and beyond. Their stories give us examples and light, ways to protect the enchanted. 

When we see what they’ve done, we think if they did that maybe so can I. They were brave? So can I be brave. They were strong. So can we be strong. They’re brilliant. So can we be brilliant. 

So can I. 

So can you. 

So can we. 

As I emceed the event, I said this, “We are the creation of the world of stories around us, a world of the incredible. Suffrage is bigger than us. Empowerment is all our work. Protecting us and others is all of our work.” 

The Y does that work every single day.

Celebrating the strong women in our communities is such a wonderful start and continuation of just that. I hope that celebration continues on.  

To find out more about the MDI YWCA, check out its website.

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