By TOM GACSE
CEO, YMCA of Youngstown
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – In 2021, the YMCA of Youngstown celebrated 138 years of service and impact to our communities.
The mission and legacy of the Y causes us to identify needs and unite community partners, Y staff and donors to show up for those who need us most.
There is a widening divide in our community between youth and families who can afford their basic needs and can access health services and life-enriching experiences, and those who simply cannot. At the Y, we consider these gaps a threat to community health, which affects us all. So we find new ways to meet needs and bridge these gaps, especially for those who are furthest from opportunity.
We created Y on the Fly which brings programming and health services to communities where transportation to the Y facility is challenging.
At the Central Branch, we organized the Respect Basketball League, an initiative with a mission to reduce violence among young adults. The program was a collaboration of the YMCA, the city of Youngstown, the Youngstown Police Department, the Community Initiative to Reduce Violence, and My Brother’s Keeper.
More than 200 young adults, ages 19-24, were impacted by this league. In addition to athletics, the league offered educational opportunities, mentoring and leadership skills. Workshops were held by
The Academy for Urban Scholars and Eastern
Gateway Community College. Two job fairs also were held. At these events, Express Employment Agency and Schwebel’s offered advice on creating resumes, completing applications and handling interviews.
In early summer, we knew that our youth were looking for opportunities to get outside and enjoy physical activity after a difficult academic year. We teamed up with the Mahoning Valley Youth Basketball League and the Covelli Center for an outdoor basketball league. The Y held a two-day outdoor skill development clinic for 200 kids ages 5-14 to enhance their on-court skills. The all-star game was held at the Central YMCA. Everything was provided at no cost to the participants
In August, the Y held a “Back to School Bash” for students, ages 12-18, which was fun, but also taught the importance of leadership in their schools and community. While staying overnight at the Central Y, the students participated in sports, workshops, video game tournaments, swimming and giveaways – all at no cost.
We continued our Scholastic Support Program in response to local schools changing to virtual or a hybrid of in-person and virtual learning. We transformed our spaces into virtual learning classrooms. Our program provided a safe space and academic support that included tutor support, school materials, lunch, fun games and activities.
Kids needed Camp Fitch YMCA more than ever in 2021. Our staff served more than 5,000 children and another 2,000 family members while increasing the percentage of scholarships given.
For over 100 years, Camp Fitch has connected children with nature and each other through proximity and friendship, achievement-based programs that build perseverance, and that deep sense of belonging to something bigger than themselves.
The Y remains 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.
The outlook for 2022 is to further expand our connections into the communities and our in-house offerings. We look forward to partnering with other nonprofits and businesses to increase our impact.
Our 2022 goal is to serve more youth, seniors and families through community engagement, healthy living activities, and purpose-driven programs.