dhi MEDIA Correspondent
When Tammy Branham was 15-years-old, she was asked to work with a developmentally disabled boy who was a 4-H member. That opportunity, says Branham today, proved to be the turning point in her career path.
“When I was 15-years-old, my mom worked for a photographer in town. They asked me to work with a developmentally disabled boy who was a 4-H member,” said Branham. “He taught me more than I taught him.
“I was able to see the injustice that people go through because they are disabled,” continued Branham. “I was immediately hooked. I decided then that I wanted to be there to advocate for them.”
Branham, a graduate of Lincolnview High School, attended the University of Dayton where she majored in psychology and special education. Following college, she worked for 20 years with people with developmental disabilities in the Fort Wayne area. For 19 of those years, she was employed by Rescare, where she began working as a direct trainer. When she decided to take a break from the intense situations that she encountered, she had become the company’s program director.
However, that respite didn’t last long. Two weeks later, she started looking for a new position.
“My mom kept her eye open for me,” said Branham. “She saw an ad for the position of executive director for the Van Wert YWCA. It sounded good to me; the only thing that concerned me was the fact that they listed, ‘grant writing,’ as a positive for the job and I had never written a grant.
“Even though I didn’t have grant writing experience, I applied for the job. Three interviews later, I got the job,” continued Branham. “Since then, I’ve had hands on experience to do grant writing.”
These days, Branham is focusing on two main priorities in life, an upcoming marriage to Wayne Cripps and organizing the summer food program at the YWCA for children in the area.
This year’s summer food program starts June 16; any child between the ages of four and 18-years-old can receive free breakfasts and lunches Monday through Friday. Children four through 15-years-old can then participate in activities at the YWCA with no cost.
Another unique facet of the YWCA Summer Food Program is participating in a free produce summer market. The local agency acquires food from the food bank in Lima. Families of kids who participate in the Summer Food Program receive fresh produce.
“I love working here. You don’t get from books what you need to know,” Branham said. “I love being part of something that brings about social reform and change. “I love to see somebody who is helpless and hopeless gain hope again,” continued Branham. “ I want to be the person who steps and aside and helps them. It is so worth it.”