Interview by Mary Martin. Photos courtesy of WiNGS.
Kate Rose Marquez recently stepped into the role of CEO at WiNGS Dallas, a foundational nonprofit with a 112-year history of empowering women to lift themselves out of poverty and adversity, while imagining a new chapter for themselves and their children. Now the WiNGS team is using its deep Dallas roots to provide the resources that women and families need during the time of COVID-19, offering financial coaching, employment support, small business advising, and individualized nurse partnerships for women expecting their first child. We asked Kate Rose about her new role, and how her team is creating opportunities in the face of hardship and changing roles.
WiNGS is known for its support and empowerment of women, especially those who may be facing financial hardship or systemic poverty. How has your programming shifted to help women who have lost income due to COVID-19?
WiNGS has always provided resources that meet women where they are at to help them achieve their goals, and we’re still doing that now. As goals have shifted amidst COVID-19, our programming has shifted into survival mode – for instance, instead of growing assets, we’re focusing on protecting assets. We’re maintaining our personal, one-on-one coaching and transitioning our classes to virtual webinars to arm these women with the information and tools they need to make informed decisions with what may be limited funds so they can take care of themselves and their families. This can look different for different people – some people are trying to save their small business; others are looking for their next meal – WiNGS is prepared to help people on an individual level.
As stay-at-home orders affect career and education rhythms, how are you serving women who are now teachers, alongside their roles as mothers and employees?
Stay-at-home orders have certainly made balancing professional and personal roles very challenging. During our response to COVID-19, our goal at WiNGS is to help connect women with the services that make sense for them. We are in a time of high stress and pressure, and we are expected to manage full-time jobs and full-time motherhood while distanced from our community. Our coaches and staff work directly with members through video and phone calls to listen to them, help them cope with stress and challenges, provide them with the tools they need to gain control over their finances and help them chart a tailored path through recovery. Our team serves as a third-party accountability partner, a sounding board, a trusted mentor – and in times of crisis, that can be a huge thing.
As an organization with a large team of coaches and mentors, how are you keeping your staff and volunteers encouraged and connected right now?
We’re fortunate at WiNGS to have a team made up not only of people skilled in what they do, but people dedicated to the cause. Our mission remains at the center of everything we do and it has been amazing to see how our coaches, staff and volunteers have come together to adapt and provide uninterrupted resources to our community. Even though social distancing keeps us physically apart, we remain in close communication every day. This connection is so important, both on a professional and personal level, for our staff as well as our members. A crisis like COVID-19 can bring a lot of challenges, but I’ve also seen it show a lot of strength and resilience among our organization, our partners and our members.
In order to provide resources to the women in the WiNGS program, how are you collaborating with other local nonprofit organizations?
It has been amazing to see Dallas band together during this pandemic, and our partners have steadfastly stood by our side. We have a robust resource guide full of partners that are offering help during the COVID-19 response – from tangible toiletries and emergency supplies to food and resources for senior citizens. We have an Instant Response Phone Line where WiNGS staff members help people navigate these resources and match them with those that fit their needs, and we work hand-in-hand with our partners to ensure their needs are met. We have partners, like Bank of America, who we have a cohort program with. They train our members for a career in finance and they have let us know they have no intention of stopping that with the current crisis. Partners like this who help us provide training and programs will be crucial during recovery. Looking toward the future, I know our team, our partners and our members are resilient. We will learn from this time of struggle and come out as stronger and better prepared to help others.
By empowering women in their personal finances, what kind of immediate economic impacts can be felt in the short and long term?
The economic impact is going to be different for different people, but empowering women with knowledge and information about their financial options is going to be a huge factor. For some women, weighing the decision of paying the rent or buying groceries is a very real and very overwhelming choice. We’re here to let people know they have options and to help them navigate their specific situation. Our financial coaches are well equipped to create custom roadmaps for women to make the best, most responsible decisions. They can have a big picture view when members are having a hard time seeing past the immediate present, which will help women not only get through this crisis but prepare for a strong future ahead.
What is your favorite tip for women who may be updating their resumes or searching for a new job in this current crisis?
I know there is a lot of difficulty and uncertainty in many people’s professional lives right now. My favorite tip for those that are looking for a new job is don’t be afraid to ask for help. If I’ve noticed anything amongst the Dallas community, it’s that people want to help people. And WiNGS is no different. We have WiNGSCareer coaches that can help those out of a job know and weigh their options, explore unemployment benefits and connect to new job opportunities. Our advisors can give individualized professional skills training and career guidance, and work to connect you with our partners and employers in the community.
How can the community best support the WiNGS community? Are you still accepting volunteer applications?
One of the main ways the community can support WiNGS is to spread the word. We have expanded our programs during this time of response to help women, men and the community as a whole. If you know someone who is struggling during this time, we are prepared and ready to help. While volunteers are being utilized in a slightly different way during this time of shelter-in-place, we are always accepting people who want to make a difference and help others. To begin your journey as a volunteer or for questions, contact email@example.com or call 214-802-5098. And, it’s important to mention that gifts are still being utilized during this time. While our situation has changed, the urgent and significant needs of our members and community have not and we are working diligently to meet those needs in challenging circumstances. You can also schedule your WiNGS donation for North Texas Giving Tuesday Now or give on May 5th!
What is your favorite local restaurant for a good take-out meal?
What a great question! There’s a family of restaurants that I rotate through, depending on what I’m up for. Because I love to cook at home – a lot of times I get fresh seafood from Lovers Seafood. If I’m just looking for great food to take home my go to is Shinsei. And also, my friend, Chef Kent Rathbun has been doing incredible underground BBQ distributed in the parking lot at Lovers Seafood. I go to chefkentrathbun.com to see what’s he’s cooking up!
If this story has inspired you to support the North Texas nonprofit community, visit our Support Nonprofits During COVID-19 page to learn how you can get involved!