Serving our community in crisis: a message from Katherine O’Neill, YWCA Edmonton’s new CEO

March 16, 2020 is a date our community won’t soon forget.

It was the day when it became very clear the COVID-19 crisis had reached our borders and every single Canadian was now being urged by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to stay home indefinitely to help stop the spread of this deadly virus.

It was also the day I started my new role as the CEO at the YWCA Edmonton.

Before lunch time had even hit, our leadership team had to make the difficult decision to close our doors to the public and send our staff home.

But our organization has faced adversity before, and we are ready for the challenges that lay ahead.

YWCA Edmonton has been proudly serving and empowering women, girls and families in our community since 1907. During that time, we’ve supported our city through two world wars, the Great Depression, the Spanish flu and more.

And through it all, we always adapted, innovated and did what needs to be done to help Edmontonians through extraordinary times.

The COVID-19 crisis will be no different.

Our staff has already been hard at work finding new ways to limit COVID-19’s impact on the vulnerable women, girls and families we are proud to serve.

Here are a few of the ways we’re already responding:

  • Those in need of mental health supports are accessing our psychologists via telephone and video sessions.
  • We’re working with community partners on an urgent and preventative domestic violence strategy.
  • Youth leadership programs are being delivered directly into girls’ homes through their laptops and phones.
  • Sexual health support is being delivered by our experts online.
  • Our social media feeds are being turned into reliable, trustworthy sources of information on a variety of topics, including mental health supports and tips on how to keep your children active and healthy during this period.
  • We’re working with other YWCAs across Alberta on a coordinated strategy to ensure women and families aren’t left behind in this crisis.
  • Our team is exploring the possibility of converting our outdoor education centre into a temporary shelter for rural Albertans who need to isolate or flee domestic violence.

As you can see, there’s a lot of work to do, but we are committed to ensuring women and families always have a helping hand during this difficult time. We will also work to make sure that there is a diversity of voices at every decision-making table.

How can you help us?

Please get in touch and let us know if we could be doing more. Please also consider donating to YWCA Edmonton. Every gift, big or small, is appreciated and will be put to good use.

Together, we can keep building a stronger, safer and more equitable world for everyone.

I look forward to meeting you in person when this crisis is over. In the meantime, please feel free to connect with me by phone (780-952-2869) or email ( It is a great honour to lead YWCA Edmonton and I look forward to continuing our role as a community leader on the issues of equality, opportunity and choice for women and families in Edmonton. To learn more about my background and what brought me to the YWCA, please click here.

Katherine O’Neill

About Katherine O'Neill

Katherine O’Neill joined the YWCA Edmonton as Chief Executive Officer in March 2020. She is a passionate advocate for the rights of girls and women and inspiring people to hear the important call of community service.

Katherine has worked in leadership positions in communications and politics throughout her career. A writer by trade, she spent most of her journalism career working as a national correspondent with the Globe and Mail, dispatching stories from across Canada and even the dusty battlefields of Afghanistan in 2008.

After leaving journalism, Katherine led several organizations, including the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta and Alberta Together, a non-partisan, not-for-profit that conducted political research and worked to attract more young Albertans to enter politics. She also ran a communications company that specialized in crisis communications and media relations.

Katherine has volunteered on and led several not-for-profit boards, including some with a focus on early childhood education, literacy and disability services.

She holds a Bachelor of Arts from Wilfrid Laurier University and a Master of Journalism from Carleton University.