Royce McLemore is a dynamic activist whose nonprofit, Women Helping All People, fosters personal achievement, economic independence and a sense of belonging to a community.
In 1990, sixteen Marin City women gathered on Royce’s front lawn to express their concern for the community’s young women who lived in public housing, had nothing to do and faced a future of more of the same. Under Royce’s leadership, Women Helping Women, a grassroots support service, was formed. Through Royce’s strong belief that “you can do anything you want to do,” WHW was gradually transformed into something greater, Women Helping All People (WHAP). WHAP’s mission is to provide low-income Marin residents – particularly those in public housing – with information, support services and educational opportunities that develop self esteem, economic self-sufficiency and a sense of community. (WHAP’s programs are open to all Marin residents regardless of race, color, sex or creed.)
Impressed by WHAP’s plan, the Marin Housing Authority provided office space. With an office, a $1,000 donation, and a lot of hustling for furniture and equipment, WHAP was a business, and Royce was Executive Director. Assisted by the Marin Housing Authority, Community Action Marin, the Sausalito School District and various county agencies, WHAP’s mission expanded again, this time to offer goal-directed bootstrap programs for all low-income Marin County residents.
WHAP offers an impressive line-up. In- and After School Safe House is a tutorial program for K-12 students. Landscape Services, partnering with Marin Conservation corps, trains young men to be gardeners and provides opportunities to own businesses in public housing areas. The Oracle/Independent Studies Program works with MCOE to offer independent study to enable high school dropouts to earn a diploma. The GED/ESL Literacy Class, in cooperation with Marin Literacy Council, provides tutors to teach English to residents who don’t speak English. Vietnamese residents of Marin City have benefited greatly from this program.
The Cumper Learning Center teaches computer skills that open the door to better-paying jobs. The Housing Authority provided funds for Computer Repair Training classes, with even better jobs in mind. Finder’s Keepers, with help from Ritter house, offers clothing and household items to people in need. Finally, WHAP’s Scholastic Academy offers a supportive learning environment for students who perform below grade level and need extra help to improve. Royce’s determination, fired by her strong personal faith, is the driving force behind all this.
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