Like many other Columbus Partnership members, Doyle-Ahern is motivated to give back in ways that extend beyond economic development. "I don't believe anyone comes to the Columbus Partnership table wearing their own corporate hat for their own corporate benefit,” she says. “Everyone comes in eager and ready to serve the community.”
“Eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all”—the mission of the YWCA—speaks as loudly to Sandy Doyle-Ahern today as it did 10 years ago, when she joined the board of YWCA Columbus. “Even after all these years, my passion for the work is unchanged,” says Doyle-Ahern, who now is board chair. “The board, staff and leadership of the Y during the many years before me accomplished significant goals, and it’s simply my job to take that baton and carry it.”
Doyle-Ahern’s personal passion— making sure that as the region grows, everyone can access the opportunities that open here— is driven by a love for the community she’s been a part of since 1992. “I know it’s much easier for some than others,” she says. “One thing I’m encouraged by is that as a region, I believe we’re willing to look in the mirror and realize that we have significant work to do to ensure access for all.”
At the YWCA, she says the nonprofit is continuing to focus its work on three areas of programming:Gathering resources and partners so women and their families have access to housing, education and employment. It does this through the YWCA Family Center and the Women’s Residency Program. Initiating community dialogue to address uncomfortable realities of discrimination and injustice. “We do this through events throughout the year that convene allies, share resources and insights and bring bias to light so we can see each other’s value more clearly,” she says. Guiding young people to create the next wave of social change agents. This is done through before- and after-school child care programs and two leadership programs: Leadership for Social Change and Bright Futures.
The YWCA Columbus staff is working to re-image the Bright Futures program that will provide leadership, confidence building and empowerment training for middle- and high school-aged girls.
New this year and going forward, the board has adopted a “courageous advocacy and engagement agenda to change policy to help us fulfill our mission now and over the long-term,” Doyle-Ahern says.
The agenda includes increasing the number of affordable housing units and programs that stabilize households, removing the barriers that racism and inequity create, increasing economic mobility for women and people of color and investments in young women and children.
“We know that stable housing is a fundamental catalyst for people to survive and thrive,” she says. “There will be policy changes that are needed and cooperation between communities that allow us to bring the price of housing down. Don’t get me wrong, though. I know this is really complicated. But I think [community leaders in Central Ohio are] off to a great start to advance making some policy changes.”
Her love for Central Ohio prompted Doyle-Ahern to join the Columbus Partnership in 2018. The region’s success can’t succeed without a strong commitment from the business community, and there’s plenty of buy-in. “I don’t believe anyone comes to the Columbus Partnership table wearing their own corporate hat for their own corporate benefit,” she says. “Everyone comes in eager and ready to serve the community.”
Christie Angel, YWCA Columbus president and CEO, calls Doyle-Ahern “a visionary business leader and passionate community advocate who is well-recognized as a strategic adviser and problem solver.”