Wednesday, March 25, 2015

YMCA of South Hampton Roads

People think of "The Y" as a gym. To me it's much more than that. It's where I meet my friends, get a good workout, take a fun group class, keep my body strong, or relax in a pool, hot tub, or sauna. The atmosphere is friendly, almost like family, especially at the Greenbrier North YMCA, conveniently close to my daily commute along Route 64 in Chesapeake, VA.

What many of us don't realize is that the Y is actually a nonprofit organization supported by funding from memberships, fees, donations, grants, and the United Way. Its mission is to "put Judeo-Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind, and body for all." So the Y is much more than a gym: it's there to meet the needs of its members and of our community. A typical gym doesn't offer character education, for example, but the Y does. And a more diverse group attends the Y than other gyms because it provides all programs on a sliding-fee scale. This is so working families who struggle to make ends meet can use all its services.

The Y hires certified teachers to tutor students who are struggling academically in local Title I schools. Instead of lamenting the achievement gap, the Y is doing something to help close it. It also runs after school and summer camp programs to provide children fun, healthy activities in an environment that is both safe and enriching. These services allow many hard-working parents both to afford quality child care and to pay their bills. This video shows the positive impact our local Y has on many families, especially those with special needs children.

The Y keeps people healthy and saves lives, and not just by preventing heart attacks and strokes. My brother and sisters and I all learned to swim at the Y when we were growing up. I don't know how many thousands of children the Y teaches to swim every year, but drowning ranks fifth in "unintentional injury death" according to the CDC. In fact, two children aged fourteen or younger drown every single day. By teaching children to float and by teaching water safety, the Y helps to prevent these tragic deaths.

While program fees and membership dues cover many of the YMCA's needs, they do not cover all the costs of the Y's outreach to low-income families and disadvantaged youth. Between March 27 and May 19, the Y's Annual Giving Campaign seeks to raise funds to address the additional needs. I plan to donate, and I hope you do, too. Here are some ideas about where the additional funding goes for low-income families and children:

  • $50 covers two hours of after school tutoring in the Academic Achievers' Program.
  • $65 covers a week of after school child care
  • $75 pays for one week of summer camp
  • $250 pays for a month of after school care for one child or for a family membership in the Y for an entire year
  • $750 covers the cost of summer camp  for the entire summer for one child
As a volunteer YMCA Ambassador, I intend to give generously to the YMCA during this campaign and encourage others to do the same. Even those who do not belong to the Y themselves benefit from the Y's efforts to strengthen the community. If you know me, realize I might approach you during this time with a pledge card. Even if you don't, you may make a tax-deductible donaton online through this link. You can give to the greatest need, or you can give to a specific Y. My donation will go to GREENBRIER NORTH, my home away from home.

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