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Abuse Victim Creates Nonprofit to Help Others

Updated: May 30

Yolanda Merriweather - Photo by Taylor Balkom, courtesy of the Columbian

Yolanda Merriweather’s childhood was marked by poverty, so much so that she and her brother had to work during summers to buy school clothes for the fall. But things got worse after she had a baby at 17, and her mother kicked her out in the middle of winter.


“I had nowhere to go, and it still brings tears to my eyes,” she said. “I bounced from house to house with my baby, and people would take my things, even take the baby’s juice.”


After that, she endured domestic violence from a partner who held a gun to her head when she tried to leave, choked her to unconsciousness, and harassed and stalked her to the point that she had to leave her home in Vancouver and moved to Las Vegas.


She also felt the effects of colorism in her own family. Her father’s side was French Creole, with very light skin, while her skin is dark. “My father’s family was not the kindest to me,” she said, and she didn’t feel smart or attractive.


But a visit to her own grandmother changed her outlook and eventually became the basis of a nonprofit she started in September, Inner Beauty in U.


“I cried to her that I’m not pretty, I don’t matter and nobody thinks I’m special,” but her grandmother came back with wise words. “She said, ‘At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is your heart. You are not responsible for how somebody else treats you, and your beauty comes from within.’”


That’s the message Merriweather brings to other troubled young women at The Inner Beauty in U, according to its website:


“We are actively involved in domestic violence prevention and Education. We provider food resources, clothing resources, housing assistance, resume and job search, credit repair and business start-up.”


Merriweather wants to help any young, at risk women, eventually to include young men, to learn to deal with the difficult and sometime unfair situations they find them in preventing them from having healthy, happy and productive lives.


When she decided to leave Las Vegas, by which time she had her mother had healed their relationship, she stayed with her for the next year as she began to turn her life around.


“Women need to understand there is nothing so terrible or so bad that you can’t find a way out of it,” she said. “There is nothing you’ve done that you don’t deserve to be loved.”


That’s the basis of Inner Beauty in U’s philosophy, Merriweather said.


“Inner Beauty in U is a real story about real women who know there is more out there,” she said. “Anyone can change their life and be more than they thought they can be.”


Real change is never easy, but Merriweather hopes to make other women’s lives better because they will have an organization that is on their side and will do whatever it takes to help another woman overcome the obstacles that may be holding her back.


“We don’t want to turn anyone away,” she said. “And at the end of the day if I only able to reach one person, I go to sleep knowing someone’s life has been changed. That’s all I care about at the end of the day.”


In short, Merriweather wants to give struggling young women the support she didn’t have when she needed it most.


It took a while for Merriweather, 50, to get back on her feet and to help other young women, and she gives a lot of credit to Kalondra Porter-Wright of the nonprofit Porter House Resources, who became a mentor and helped her through the ins and outs of becoming a 501(3)c nonprofit as she was getting Inner Beauty in U off the ground.


“I’ve often thought what would have happened if Kalondra had been there when I was 17,” she said.


But it’s her staff, particularly Bri Williams, with a master’s in social worker, and Chandra Haynes, who has a mental health certificate in African/American health. They work with clients individually and also train mentor volunteers, Merriweather said.


“So, Kolandra helped with the financial aspect and Bri and Chandra have been with me, encouraging me, wouldn’t let me quit, from the very beginning,” she said.


To learn more about Inner Beauty in U, go to Call 360-723-2344 or send an email to More volunteers are needed and donations and sponsors are encouraged. 


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