Sylvia Acosta, who led the YWCA Paso del Norte Region through the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and brought in the biggest gift in the history of the organization, has resigned as chief executive officer, the organization announced Monday.

Acosta could not be reached for comment, but in a prepared statement said: “It’s been an incredible five years, and I will be forever proud of the growth and outstanding achievements of YWCA. I strongly believe in YWCA’s mission of eliminating racism and empowering women, and I will continue to live these values as I step into my next opportunity.  I look forward to continuing to support YWCA.”

Jessica Christianson, the president-elect of the YWCA Paso del Norte Region, praised Acosta’s leadership over several challenging years for El Paso and the agency, one of the region’s largest nonprofit organizations.

“I think one of the things that I’m proudest of (Acosta) and the organization is the way that we continued to provide services throughout the pandemic and providing child care and respite services for the whole scope of essential workers,” Christianson said.

“Sylvia, she’s a big personality in our community and has leveraged her contacts and her skills in fundraising to allow us to do both mission-based programs as well as capital projects,” she said.

The El Paso YWCA had revenues and expenses of more than $40 million in 2019, the most recent year for which tax records were available. Acosta was paid about $190,000 that year, according to tax records.

Acosta became CEO of the YWCA in 2017. She previously was a higher education administrator, serving as assistant vice chancellor at the University of California-Irvine for four years before returning to her hometown of El Paso.

One of the key missions of the YWCA has been fighting racism, and Acosta became a key community voice after a white supremacist killed 23 people at the Cielo Vista Walmart in 2019. A daughter of migrant farmworkers, Acosta also has been an advocate for humane treatment of migrants at the border.

The YWCA, which is El Paso’s largest child-care provider, faced a huge challenge after COVID-19 hit El Paso in March 2020. Many of those facilities had to close as part of efforts to slow the pandemic’s spread. But the YWCA also offered child-care services to first responders and medical providers so they could provide health services.

In December 2020, philanthropist MacKenzie Scott announced she was donating $20 million to El Paso’s YWCA, the largest individual gift ever to the nonprofit. It was part of $4 billion in grants the novelist and former wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos announced that month.

Sereka Barlow

Sereka Barlow, a health care executive who has been a YWCA board member, will serve as interim CEO while the board searches for a new leader. A retired Army officer, Barlow served as chief operating officer of The Hospitals of Providence Sierra Campus from 2018 until earlier this month.

“We have a lot of big capital projects underway that are challenging right now, given the supply chain issues and inflation, and she brings a lot of experience to that front, as well as also being really passionate about the mission of the organization,” Christianson said.

Disclosure: Sylvia Acosta is a financial supporter of El Paso Matters.

Robert Moore is the founder and CEO of El Paso Matters. He has been a journalist in the Texas Borderlands since 1986.