BY TOM GACSE
CEO, YMCA of Youngstown
In 2020, the YMCA of Youngstown celebrated 137 years of service and impact to our communities. However, this year was like no other. For the first time in our history, the Y had to shut its doors in March, April and May.
When the pandemic hit, our response was quick and focused. The Y adapted and pivoted to new ways to help the most vulnerable. With child-care businesses closed, the Y obtained a pandemic child-care license to provide care for children of essential workers and first responders.
We partnered with the Red Cross to hold blood drives at our Central YMCA. We collaborated with the United Way to deliver groceries to seniors and families in Youngstown. Virtual workouts and group exercises were made available not only to our members but to the entire community. This allowed those who were shut in to remain active and connected.
The Y reopened in June, committed to the health and safety of members and staff. We implemented cleaning and safety protocols, mask policies and provided information to keep everyone safe. And we provided socially and physically engaging activities to youth who had been inactive since March.
A safe space where kids can express themselves, make friends, and learn in an environment where they thrive, the YMCA provided youth an opportunity to learn new skills and make lasting friendships. We are thankful for our collaborations in youth development with the Youngstown Metropolitan Housing Authority, Envision Center, Dre Day Foundation, and Mahoning County Job and Family Services.
In response to schools changing classrooms to virtual or a hybrid of in-person and virtual learning, we created our Scholastic Support Program and transformed our spaces into virtual classrooms. This program provides a safe space and academic support that includes tutor support, school materials, lunch, games and activities.
Even though our traditional resident summer camp was limited by COVID, Camp Fitch YMCA safely served over 500 families through summer and fall family camping. Our Campus Connection program provided a safe learning harbor for working families who were struggling with hybrid school schedules. We provided virtual learning classrooms to students from five Erie County, Pa., school districts.
Camp also took its Mobile STEM Lab and Farm on the road to the Youngstown area to provide family outdoor education in partnership with the Autism Society of Mahoning Valley and local churches.
The Y is committed to being accessible to all. As a nonprofit organization, we work toward a better community through the support and generosity of our donors and members. The Y’s Annual Campaign, which raises funds to offer financial assistance to children, families and individuals, once again surpassed its goal by raising over $700,000 in 2020. As a result, 2,673 lives were impacted by the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of a YMCA membership.
Also in 2020,we were blessed with an important addition to our Y family. Shawn Armstrong was named the executive director of the Central Y. Shawn was born and raised in Youngstown and returned home from a successful career in health care administration to lead the Central Y.
The outlook for 2021 is to expand our reach into our communities as we take the YMCA to city parks and various outdoor locations in addition to our in-house offerings.
Understanding that it takes a village to make a difference in our community, we look forward to partnering with nonprofits and businesses to increase our impact. Our 2021 goal is to serve more youth, seniors and families through community engagement, healthful living activities and purpose-driven programs.