YMCA of Youngstown Strengthens Community

By Tom Gacse
CEO, YMCA of Youngstown

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – In 2022, the YMCA of Youngstown celebrated 138 years of service and impact to our communities.

As an organization, we built bridges, served all, acted as servant leaders and functioned in alignment with our mission and strategic imperatives – to be an employer, charity of choice and community partner in the Mahoning Valley and on the shores of Lake Erie.

At the Y, strengthening community is our cause. We believe that positive, lasting personal and social change can only come about when we all work together to invest in our kids, our health and our neighbors. And together, we built a stronger and safer community for all.

The YMCA reinforced its commitment to child abuse prevention and was awarded accreditation by Praesidium, the leader in abuse risk management. This publicly demonstrates the Y has worked to achieve the highest standards in abuse prevention.

The Y hosted a water safety series that was free and open to the community. Youth learned safety tips for public pools, backyard pools, beach and boating. Swim lessons were provided at no charge to kids ages 6-12 and their parents/caregivers.

The YMCA has been providing swim lessons to second-grade students in the Youngstown City Schools for over 20 years. This was interrupted by the pandemic. We were blessed to resume this wonderful tradition in 2022 and partnered with the United Way.

Youth sports came back strong and more than 1,000 youth were involved in our basketball leagues, clinics and camps.

In the second year of the Respect Basketball League, an initiative with a mission to reduce violence among young adults, more than 120 young adults, ages 18-24, were impacted by this program. The YMCA, the city of Youngstown, the Youngstown Police Department, Community Initiative to Reduce Violence and My Brother’s Keeper provided programs that included athletics, educational opportunities, mentoring and leadership skills. Workshops were held by The Academy for Urban Scholars, Flying High and Eastern Gateway Community College. Other cities contacted the Y for help in starting Respect Leagues in their communities.

Thanks to grant funding, two new buses were purchased to provide transportation for the Y on the Fly program where the Y brings our programs and staff to the community.

The Y partnered with Youngstown Parks and Rec and delivered Y programs and staff to the city parks throughout the summer. The Y used its buses to help Santa deliver Christmas gifts of toys, clothing, and food to 135 less fortunate families.

For over 100 years, Camp Fitch  on Lake Erie 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. Our mission – Make Kids Better, Forever – is stronger than ever.

Summer camp averaged 330 campers per week, the second-largest ever.

Outdoor education at Camp Fitch partnered with 64 schools in Ohio and Pennsylvania, the most ever, and served 2,000 more kids than in 2021.

We continue our mission that cost will not be the reason a child is unable to attend Camp Fitch. We increased the percentage of kids and families receiving scholarships in all programs and provided a record number of camp scholarships.

The Y’s annual campaign raised over $720,000 to offer financial assistance to children, families and individuals. As a result, over 3,000 lives were impacted by the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of a YMCA membership.

Our momentum continues to build in 2023. We are inspired to reach even higher in service to the community, by bringing people together from all backgrounds and circumstances to create connections that transform lives and community.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.