LaVanda Brown has served as Executive Director of YWCA Greater Charleston since February 2016. Her experience, leadership, and passion for serving others spans more than 35 years.
A passionate advocate for causes including gender equality, diversity, and racial equity, and a strong ally of under-resourced teens and homeless populations, she envisions a world where differences are not just tolerated but celebrated. “The mission of YWCA.GC is one that is very much in line with my personal mission of empowering women and celebrating differences,” she says.
At YWCA.GC, LaVanda works hard every day to empower women and eliminate racism: YWCA.GC’s dual mission. While honoring its historic legacy with programs like its annual MLK Celebration and annual Stand Against Racism, she has also transformed YWCA.GC with a series of highly effective programs like #WhatWomenBring to honor women in business, community, and culture; WE 360° to equip women entrepreneurs of color; Racial Equity Institute workshops to train leaders and laypeople across the US identify and combat institutional and structural racism; Own The Room public speaking workshops to empower women’s career success; women’s health programs to reduce health disparities among women and people color; SheStrong to develop young high school women into social justice advocates and changemakers, Y Girls Code tech clubs to increase financial opportunities for girls of color, and others.
During her decades of on-the-ground experience in social services focused on underserved populations, she has also led and advised multiple nonprofit and for-profit organizations, including Family Promise of Greater Savannah, Union Mission, Greenbriar Children’s Center, Gang Alternatives of Miami, Clarke Community Services in New Orleans, and others in the behavioral health, employment, and community services arenas.
LaVanda’s work has been featured in the respected international journal Philanthropy Journal and has garnered awards including the 2021 Trident Literacy Founder’s Award, U.S. Housing and Urban Development Best Practices Award for Transitional Housing and Case Management, and the Georgia Department of Community Affairs Magnolia Award for Excellence in Housing. She was also the 2018 recipient of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Picture Award for outstanding community service, presented by Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg and South Carolina Rep. Wendell Gilliard, and was named to both the Charleston Business magazine’s 2020 Top 50 Most Influential list and its 2021 Top 50 Influential list.
She is a sought-after public speaker who also serves on the advisory board for Community Solutions, a global organization providing community leaders across the world with an intensive, US-based professional development exchange program, the board of Enough Pie, an organization dedicated to improving Charleston’s upper peninsula, the board of Family Promise Charleston, and the leadership council of the Social Justice Racial Equity Collaborative in Charleston. She has also served as the housing subcommittee chair for the Mayor’s Commission on Homelessness and Affordable Housing.
LaVanda holds a dual bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology from Wesleyan College and a master’s degree in counseling from Georgia Southern University.