We’ve seen a lot of growth already in 2016 – new members, new partnerships, and new ways for the YMCA to help strengthen the local communities we are a part of. Our impact and presence are not only growing locally across the state, but we are also delivering our cause on a national level. At this year’s YMCA of the USA’s National Advocacy Days, Texas YMCAs received recognition and multiple awards for the work they are doing in local communities through YMCA signature programs like the YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program. We heard from government agency officials as they applauded the work YMCAs are doing each day to strengthen communities in our three focus areas: youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility.
It’s inspiring to hear about the history and growth of the Y’s service initiatives and see people from all backgrounds and walks of life come together to volunteer and help our communities become stronger through the work of the YMCA. For over 35 years, the YMCA of El Paso has been making a practical difference in their community by providing multilingual income tax preparation assistance to individuals at no-charge. There’s no act of service that is too big or small when it comes to making an impact in the lives of our neighbors. In San Antonio, they are celebrating 140 years of service in 2016! Founded in 1876, the YMCA was the first service organization in San Antonio and today serves more than 54,000 San Antonians at their facilities. Although the programs provided today are different than those from its founding, one goal remains the same: to build healthy spirit, mind and body for all.
As you read through the stories in our first newsletter of 2016, I hope it gives you the same excitement that it gives me as I think about what’s to come as we progress throughout the year. For example, our teams are already gearing up for our summer camps where we promote interactive learning experiences that connect children to physical activity and nutrition. Across the state, the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program is expanding into new service arenas within Ys and within communities in order to serve more Texans who are at risk for type 2 diabetes. YMCAs are working to remove obstacles for children when it comes to drowning prevention and water safety by sending mobile aquatics teams into neighborhoods to ensure that children have the opportunity to learn water skills no matter where they live. We are passionate about the communities we serve and are thankful for the opportunities to fulfill our mission across the state of Texas. We hope you’ll partner with us as we continue to work for a better us and a better Texas.
James P. Finck, Chair
Texas State Alliance of YMCAs
Diane was diagnosed with Glaucoma in 2001 and today her vision is mostly shadows and light. Diane’s husband Michael, who is also visually impaired, came to the Park Cities Y looking for a place to swim and workout. After finding a warm and caring environment at the Park Cities YMCA, Michael then decided to bring Diane. She came to the YMCA on a regular basis and became quite good at mastering her own workouts. Then Diane met Dinah, a recreational therapist at the Dallas Y. Diane shared with Dinah the time she spent at the Criss Cole Center for the Visually Impaired in Austin and the nice little running trail she enjoyed while there. Diane spoke of the solitude, the confidence, and the “freeing” of spirit when she ran. Dinah encouraged Diane to take up running again, with Dinah as the guide. With her help, Diane began to wake up in the morning and remember what it was like to breathe, to enjoy, to live – to run again. Bound together by an elastic tube, each one with a handle staying within a foot of each other, down the Katy Trail they went.
In November, Diane completed her first 5k! She completed her first race ever with tears in her eyes as she crossed the finish line. Diane said she could not truly explain what it’s like crossing the finish line when she feared she would never run again. She had never entrusted herself to another person like that before. Diane and Dinah stood there, overcome with joy, crying and shaking, together. Now, with her first 5k behind her, Diane is confident this is only the beginning.
Diane’s story is just one example of many individuals who found overwhelming support and a welcoming environment at their local YMCA. Whether it’s achieving a personal goal, finding a support group, or learning a new skill, there’s a place at the YMCA for people of all abilities to build a healthy spirit, mind and body.
In February, Texas leadership and volunteers attended Y-USA’s National Advocacy Days. The Texas delegation met with fifteen Congressional offices to ask for their support of the Y’s national advocacy initiatives within the focus areas of youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. In addition to Texas YMCA CEOs and board members were youth advocates. Representing the Lone Star state during National Advocacy Days were John McGrath and Asha Christenson. These youth participated in various workshops and met with Congressional members and staff to share their stories as young civically engaged leaders.
Shavon Arline-Bradley, Director of External Engagement at the Office of the Surgeon General, praised YMCAs for furthering partnerships between the public and nonprofit sectors by responding to the U.S. Surgeon General’s Call to Action around creating walkable communities. In addition, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell, who served as a keynote speaker during National Advocacy Day, recognized the importance of the work YMCAs are doing in communities all across the country, specifically in Houston.
Texas YMCAs received four awards. Jonathan Lever, Executive Vice President, Chief Membership and Programs Officer at Y-USA, honored the Arlington-Mansfield Area YMCA, the YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas and the YMCA of Metropolitan Fort Worth for their work delivering the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program to Medicare beneficiaries through a grant received by Y-USA from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI). These Y associations were three of seventeen Ys that achieved this honor across the nation. The Texas State Alliance of YMCAs was also awarded the 2016 State Alliance Award of Excellence in Communication. Also, the YMCA of Greater Houston, in conjunction with Y-USA, named Congressman Kevin Brady (TX-8) as a 2016 Congressional Champion.
Nearly 1.5 million Texans are engaged members at a local Y; with over 492,000 program members participating in Y signature programs just like the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program. Collectively, Texas YMCAs are in 200 communities across the state and provide more than $25 million in scholarships to individuals and families. Texas YMCAs are proud to play a part in building a healthy mind, body, and spirit for all Texans.
The Midland YMCA was founded in 1953, with former President George H.W. Bush as Board Chairman and has a rich history of providing services that help build a healthy mind, body, and spirit for all. In February, U.S. Congressman Mike Conaway (TX-11) had an opportunity to visit with members of the Midland YMCA to see firsthand the SilverSneakers® program, which is offered through Medicare Advantage. SilverSneakers®, a fitness program for active older adults, provides a fitness membership with free access to all basic YMCA amenities including SilverSneakers® classes and assistance from a designated staff member. While there, the Congressman participated in the warm-up and stretching exercises alongside class participants.
To find out if your Medicare health plan offers the program, visit www.silversneakers.com or call your local YMCA for more information.
The year 2016 has a special meaning to the YMCA of Greater San Antonio. With a legacy beginning 140 years ago, the YMCA began their journey of building a stronger and healthier San Antonio.
The YMCA was the first service organization in San Antonio. It was founded in 1876 by a group of volunteers who wanted to serve cowboys, railroad employees, young men and boys who had moved from the suburbs into the city to find employment. Without owning a building, volunteers began providing food, lodging, reading rooms and activities in borrowed facilities around town. It wasn’t until 1907, that the first YMCA facility was built in San Antonio. The facility allowed young men to participate in bible study, physical activity and education classes.
Today, the YMCA of Greater San Antonio has ten full facilities and one program center, the Y Living Center, and helps over 54,000 San Antonians live healthier lives through membership to their facilities every year.
This fall, they will open their eleventh facility in San Antonio in partnership with the San Antonio Public Library. The organizations will share over 58,000 square feet of space and offer exercise classrooms, a family adventure zone, an indoor swimming pool, a multi-generational center, a teaching kitchen and more. What will be known as the Mays Family YMCA at Potranco is expected to serve 8,000 community members.
Plans for the YMCA of Greater San Antonio’s twelfth location are already in the works as well. In April, they will break ground on the Mission Family YMCA.
As we Y-goers know, the growth of youth development and healthy living programs that are accessible to all, are some of the Y’s top priorities. In partnership with the Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City Independent School District and the City of Schertz, the Y is building a natatorium to be enjoyed by not only Schertz Family YMCA members, but all members of the Schertz community.
Last year, the Schertz Family YMCA provided swim lessons to over 500 youth, but an indoor pool will allow for many more youth to learn how to swim and stay safe in and around water. The natatorium will also provide an opportunity for more seniors to participate in water aerobics, improving symptoms of arthritis and helping to prevent chronic disease. The natatorium is set to open this October and will feature a large competition swimming pool with bleacher seating, a smaller leisure pool, men’s and women’s locker rooms and a changing room designed for families.
Seniors at the Schertz Family YMCA are a part of an exciting 2016 as well. The facility took over an existing senior center in Schertz, Texas this past December to provide more health and wellness opportunities for senior members of the Y and of the Schertz community. Through a partnership with WellMed and the City of Schertz, seniors who access the Center also receive a daily lunch.
The YMCA of Greater San Antonio will celebrate all of the above milestones, along with 140 years of service, with their volunteers, donors and staff at their Annual Celebration on June 10, 2016.
Here’s to another 140 years!
It happens the same time every year: income tax season, when millions of Americans prepare their income tax returns. Everybody has the same nagging fears: Have I filled it out correctly? Have I included all my deductions and credits? Am I paying too much or, worse yet, not getting my full refund?
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program utilizes its volunteers to help the community by preparing tax returns at no charge. The free tax preparation is available to families, individuals, young adults, single parents and retirees. If you make less than $52,000 per year, you’re eligible. VITA volunteers also check to make sure clients are filing under the right status – married, joint, head of household or single – to make sure they’re claiming the appropriate deductions and checking their W-2 for accuracy.
Thanks to a partnership between the IRS, the El Paso Coalition for Family Economic Progress and other community groups, free income tax preparation assistance is available to low- and middle-income El Pasoans. The YMCA of El Paso has been assisting in tax preparation for over 35 years. The Bowling Family YMCA has been the city’s largest site for the past 8 years. Bill Coon, President/CEO of the YMCA of El Paso, states,” The location of Bowling Family YMCA in our Northeast community and close to the New Mexico State line helps families and individuals in both Texas and New Mexico.” Gerry Fleharty has been volunteering for over 30 years and leads the site. He and 11 other volunteers work from February 1 – April 15 to make sure west Texas and Southern New Mexico have their taxes prepared on time and correctly.
“VITA volunteers are IRS-certified to prepare income tax returns,” Bill Coon said. “But we do more than prepare, we educate our clients, too. We want to make sure they’re knowledgeable about filing options available to them. More often than not, they aren’t aware of the options to increase their refund.”
Last year Bowling Family YMCA volunteers prepared 1,351 tax returns and brought over $2,000,000 back into the community.
Monica, 4 years old, has been a YMCA member since August 2014. She is a very outgoing, caring and loveable little girl. Monica loves attending childcare at the YMCA because of all the fun and different activities she gets to do. Her parents have noticed a big improvement in her vocabulary and she knows her alphabets, colors and can count to 20.
Monica is a little miracle. Monica was born by emergency cesarean on December 6, 2011 due to no fetal heart tone for 6 minutes prior to cesarean. She was admitted to Children’s Medical Center Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for head cooling after perinatal asphyxia and was hospitalized for almost a month. Monica is part of a study called Late Hypothermia for HIE. She was diagnosed with Acute Kidney Failure, Liver Failure and Developmental Delay. It was a terrifying experience to say the least, but her family is thankful that Monica has made full recovery. Now, every 6 months Monica has to have a follow-up with her nephrologists at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas.
When the YMCA childcare was at risk of closing due to financial reasons, Monica and her parents were devastated. Monica loved her teachers and friends. Every day after school, Monica would tell her parents about her day and the new things she learned; to this day she continues to do so. After being notified by the YMCA about the possibility of closing, Monica transitioned to a different daycare in order to allow time to adjust to the new daycare and teachers. The transition was extremely difficult and disappointing for the entire family. It was heartbreaking for her parents to see Monica cry every morning when they would drop her off.
It was then that Monica and her parents received word that the YMCA childcare was staying open and they did not hesitate to move her back immediately. Monica was very excited to be back with her teachers and friends at the YMCA. Her parents are thankful that the YMCA cares so much for their daughter and provides a nurturing, educational environment for Monica to thrive in.
In 2015, the YMCA of Tyler Texas served over 2300 children and provided more than $55,000 in financial assistance to the Tyler community. For more information on the YMCA of Tyler Texas and available programs, visit www.tylerymca.org.
The YMCA is the nation’s leading nonprofit committed to strengthening community. The organization is dedicated to building healthy, confident, connected and secure adults and families. Their impact is felt every day when an individual makes a healthy choice, when a mentor inspires a child and when neighbors come together for the common good. Big Brothers Big Sisters operates under the belief that inherent in every child has the ability to succeed and thrive in life. As the nation’s largest mentoring network, Big Brothers Big Sisters makes meaningful, monitored matches between adult volunteers (“Bigs”) and children (“Littles”), ages 6 through 18.
The YMCA of Abilene understands the value of providing a safe environment where adults, teens and children can spend time together engaging in physical activity and building mentoring relationships.
Effective now, the YMCA of Abilene is offering a one year membership at no charge to Bigs and Littles who use the facilities together. They can participate in group exercise activities, swim, play court sports and more! In addition, BBBS “Littles” can apply for team sports and camp scholarships. The YMCA will also support the BBBS mission by informing their families of the benefits of mentoring through hosting BBBS interest meetings, presentations, and tables at YMCA events.
YMCA Executive Director Brandi Underwood explains, “The YMCA of Abilene is always looking for new opportunities to serve our community through programs and services that focus on youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. There was so much excitement at the Y when the opportunity for a partnership with Big Brothers and Big Sisters was brought up. It makes a lot of sense to work together because we already have so much in common, and we have the unique ability to enhance their already successful program through our programs and services.”
Wichita Falls YMCA is now a provider of the nationally recognized LIVESTRONG at the YMCA program thanks to an implementation grant from YMCA of the USA (Y-USA) and partnership with the LIVESTRONG® Foundation. The 12-week physical activity and well-being initiative helps people affected by cancer reach their holistic health goals. Additionally, programs like LIVESTRONG at the YMCA are part of the Y’s overall commitment to help cancer survivors recover in a safe and supportive environment.
The pilot classes started at the end of February with 12 participants. The Wichita Falls YMCA is one of twenty-one Ys in the U.S. to receive a 2015 LIVESTRONG at the YMCA Implementation Grant from Y-USA in partnership with the LIVESTRONG® Foundation, which helps with the initial program training and implementation.
Fitness instructor Jennifer Hoepfner is excited work with such a unique population. “I think it will be very impactful to work with familiar faces that belong to our community. Our current group is so full of spunk! They’re so motivated and they have already begun to bond and connect. It really is amazing to help facilitate that.”
Donisha Reed, Health & Wellness Director, is honored to finally be able to bring the program to the Wichita Falls area. “We’ve been working very hard to bring this to our community and now our Y has been given the chance to enhance participants’ survivorship journey, to assist in rebuilding some of the strength and functionality that may have been altered or lost during the treatment process. We know that this will only be a stepping stone for them to continue to enjoy physical activity.”
LIVESTRONG at the YMCA is an evidence-based program based on best practices for cancer survivor exercise. The goals of the program are to empower adult cancer survivors to improve functional capacity and to increase their quality of life through an organized program of fitness and strength offered in a supportive, small-group setting.
For more information, please contact Donisha Reed at firstname.lastname@example.org.