Pop! Pop!

YWCA’s Pop! Festival celebrate Tucson’s cool women doing the work of heroes

They're not donning flashy capes and there are no magic lassos hanging from their belt buckles, but the YWCA of Southern Arizona is celebrating women for the superheroes they are at this year's annual Pop! Festival on Sunday, Oct. 2.

"Pop!"—Purses with Purpose—and was created to bring women together for good food and cocktails, a bit of fashion, and to raise money for the YWCA and educate folks on the organization's programs.

The theme, Where Heroes Meet, highlights the entrepreneurial spirit of women. Liane Hernandez, YWCA community life director, called some of the women they work with "micro-entrepreneurs," which includes those who have the drive and desire within them, but need a support mechanism to help facilitate their dreams.

"We work with all kinds of women every year, whether they are in a domestic violence situation, are newly relocated from Mexico, or perhaps out of the workforce for some time and just don't have the tools they need to get the right job," Hernandez said. "One program we have is called Your Sister's Closet, where you get an hour with a volunteer that helps you choose a wardrobe (according to your skills,) get five days worth of work clothes for free, including shoes. If you look the part, you have confidence to get the job."

Renee Kreager, owner of Renee's Organic Oven, chair of the event and one of the food vendors at the festival, has a passion about bringing together women who may have different issues or hurdles to overcome, but all have a common goal—to be happy, prosperous and share their knowledge with others.

"The women we help have leadership initiative. They want more than to have a minimum wage job. They want to get a good job, where they can stay at that job, get raises, and have some upward mobility," Kreager said. "Yes, some women get the accolades, but most don't and they really are superheroes—they aren't ordinary women doing extraordinary things. They are extraordinary women doing extraordinary things."

Buffalo Exchange will present a fashion show while bartender Sallie Baron from La Cocina slings specialty cocktails. Wine and food will be provided by Dos Cabezas Wineworks and Sand Reckoner Vineyards, two Southern Arizona wineries. Renee's Organic Oven, the Surely Wench, Boca, the Gourmet Girls, Claire's, Riley's Pizzeria, Isabella's Ice Cream, Yellow Brick Coffee, the YWCA Cafe and Blu are just some of the food and beverage options available at the festival this year.

Hernandez said the YWCA helps approximately 1,000 women a year through a different programs including Your Sister's Closet, and this event is integral to getting the word out to the community about women in business, as well as the programs the YWCA provides for women in crisis.

Emerge, the Center Against Domestic Abuse, is a partner and works with women to help them transition out of an abusive situation by providing a variety of services. One example is the Jobs Corporation, which teaches women how to build a resume working alongside Arizona Works, which helps them secure a job in a field suited to their skillset.

There are also women who have different kinds of issues that need assistance. Hernandez gave a few examples like women who recently come from Mexico, have a degree or vocation, but because they studied outside the country, they are unable to work in the fields at the levels they were accustomed to, and in turn end up in low-paying jobs.

Kreager has faith that the grass roots community effort is making a difference in Southern Arizona. But the festival is not exclusive to women, Hernandez and Kreager both readily encourage men to come enjoy the festival as well.

"We have had some amazing men help us and the men that come here do powerful things," Kreager said. "Men (who have had issues) have learned to cope, communicate and learn understanding. It is amazing to see them go back to their roots and learn a new way of communication. And that's what the center does it protects these men and women.".

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