Cape Cod Life / April 2021 / People & Businesses
Writer: Julie Craven Wagner
Lisa Guyon, Executive Director for WE CAN, a Cape Cod organization whose own title is an acronym for Women’s Empowerment through Cape Area Networking, knows a bit about mentoring and serving her community. 2021 represents 20 years that this invaluable resource has been providing access to professional services and experts in the areas of legal, employment, business support, and financial empowerment for women in transition who might not otherwise be able to access those services. “We do it by recruiting volunteers in each of those areas and connect the dots between the volunteers and women who might need life skill development, expertise and information, and generally building their confidence around those issues that can help stabilize their lives, in order to start to build pathways to self-sufficiency,” Guyon explains.
WE CAN’s extensive network of volunteers is a Who’s Who list of business professionals across the Cape, many of whom are household names for some, and most of whom are women. Guyon says their valuable volunteers, mentors, and staff are at the core of how and why WE CAN has been supporting women for two decades. “When I think about the kind of intersection WE CAN provides, it is tapping into those incredible experts in our community, and then facilitating access between the women in need, and the experts who can help establish a path to a sustainable future.”
The past year has obviously presented challenges to everyone, so it would track that WE CAN would have seen significant need as well as unprecedented barriers to providing connections. In fact, Guyon shares that the shift in communication style most of society has adopted as a result of a pandemic has actually allowed WE CAN to expand their services geographically, as well to members of the community who may not have been able to access services due to transportation or schedule limitations. “We have been fortunate that our volunteers and professional mentors have been flexible in providing connections with women in need, and on the flipside, in many ways a phone call or a ZOOM call was less cumbersome or intimidating than a face-to-face meeting for our clients that need resources,” Guyon explains. When asked what the future holds, Guyon reveals that the unexpected benefit of virtual meetings will in all likelihood continue in a hybrid approach due to the more effective penetration of the community.
Guyon says, “I think about our programs along a continuum. Often someone might come into our programs because of an episode, for example they might need legal advice. In that case, they would come in, and then step back out after they have gotten what they need from our services. In those cases, we pair one-to-one with our expert volunteers. But then later on, someone might have a more in-depth need, which is where our workshops come into play. They are focused around those same areas such as key areas as legal support, or business support and employment. Then we have programs that are more duration based, like GROW-group programs, mentoring programs, and divorce support groups and these programs are intended to provide a more lasting impact on their lives.”
Celebrating a milestone such as two decades of providing services would ordinarily involve celebrations and galas but 2021, like 2020, anticipates virtual presentations for most of their annual events. Building on the foundation that 20 years has laid for the organization, Guyon expects to see the organization become even more innovative. “I see our anniversary as a critical and wonderful turning point for us into our future, where we take all these lessons we have been taught and ways we have had to adapt over the last year and go deeper into the needs of the community while we leverage technology in different ways for us to deliver our services,” she says with confidence.
“The 2021 summer programs are already filling up,” Reckford says as everyone prepares for an unknown set of criteria ahead.
Across the Cape, the arts are alive, they are vital and if 2020 has taught us anything, they are essential businesses here on Cape Cod.