St. Paul YWCA chief sees growth ahead

New State funds create new opportunities

Gaye Adams Massey
Gaye Adams Massey (James L. Stroud, Jr. /MSR News)

Gaye Adams Massey accepted her appointment as chief executive officer (CEO) of the YWCA St. Paul on July 13, 2015. The St. Paul YWCA is an organization known for serving women, men and their families via several programs and services. MSR spoke with Adams Massey about her appointment one year later and asked about her plans for the future. “So far so good,” she said.

Asked what has been most rewarding and challenging in her first year, she said, “All of it is rewarding. I feel like I began with an opportunity to build on a strong foundation,” referring to her predecessor Billy Collins, the previous CEO.

“I’m trying to bring what I know from my experiences to help the organization be as efficient, accountable, and as great as it can be,” Adams Massey said. “All of it has been great. My goal is to help position the YWCA for the next century.”

Originally from Waco, Texas, Adams Massey came to Minnesota in 2001. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Wellesley College and a law degree from Harvard Law School. The daughter of educators, Adams Massey’s father, who is currently a minister, was the president of Paul Quinn College, a historically Black college in Dallas, Texas.

Prior to her current position, she served as senior deputy general counsel for UnitedHealth Group. It was her desire to do something different than legal work, but at the same time something that offered her an opportunity to make a difference and improve lives, which led her to the CEO position with the St. Paul YWCA.

She considers herself an advocate for social justice and says that she uses a three-prong formula for assessing how the YWCA can be most impactful in serving community needs. They are: “identifying community needs, what we do well, and what is financially sustainable without duplicating services.”

The services include housing and supportive services (which fight homelessness), youth programs (which empower at-risk youth to reach their full potential), employment and economic development (which help low-income individuals build skills to support employment and self-sufficiency), as well as health and wellness services and a commercial driver’s license (CDL) training program.

Founded over 100 years ago to provide refuge and support for the young women who moved to St. Paul pursuing work in the factories and mills, the organization’s programs have continually evolved to meet changing community needs. Asked about any plans for new programming, Adams Massey says they are looking at ways they can serve clients more holistically.

One of the challenges for them is the restrictions in the grants the YWCA receives. Foundations tell them what populations they need to serve, what the requirements are for the programs, and what outcomes they expect.

“Sometimes it’s hard, even if you have services in-house, if your clients don’t fit the requirements to give it to them,” explained Adams Massey. “So one of the things we are doing is thinking about ways that we can bring all of our capabilities together to provide more options for our clients. Especially as we take this money from the legislature, we want to provide them with more employment services that are as high-impact as possible.”

The CDL program is very popular, and Adams Massey plans to continue with it. She also has plans for continued focus on youth services and finding additional partners. She wants the type of partnerships that will increase the St. Paul YWCA’s ability to do even more than they are currently doing now.

When asked what type of increased help for youth she anticipates, Adams Massey said they want to continue to help youth with work readiness. This would include homeless youth, who may or may not have children. The housing program is for homeless families, single parents ages 18-25.

”The bottom line is that all of what we are doing now, we are gearing up to do even more of it,” says Adams Massey.


If you or anyone you know is interested in getting a commercial driver’s license; are homeless and in need of housing services or just looking for work and live in the St. Paul area, call the St. Paul YWCA at 651-222-3741.


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