Summer is one of the busiest times for not only YMCAs, but also for Texas families. Whether it means summer camps, family pool days, or simply taking the time to enjoy the extra hours of daylight, the YMCA wants to serve as a resource for you. Drowning prevention and aquatics safety has and always will be a priority for the YMCA. As part of our commitment to drowning prevention, Texas YMCAs provide over 90,000 swim lessons and train nearly 2,000 lifeguards each year. We constantly aim to improve by finding innovative program delivery methods and continually seek out collaborations with other organizations in order to expand access and increase the availability of resources. For our communities, that means mobile swim lessons at apartment complexes, workforce development by training high school students as lifeguards through school partnerships, and encouraging advocacy around water safety. Being safe in and around water is not a luxury, but a necessary survival skill.
Combatting child hunger is also important to the YMCA, especially during the summer. The Y is committed to ensuring youth receive the nutrition they need to be healthy, active and successful. Did you know that one in four Texas children does not know where his or her next meal is coming from? During the summer months, the need is often amplified. To tackle hunger, Texas YMCAs provide over 1 million meals and snacks each year and we’re already working to increase that number. Whether it means partnering with our local food banks to serve as a community meal site or sending home weekend food kits for families, we are unwavering in our pledge to strengthen families & communities.
As you read through our newsletter, I hope you see the resiliency and strength Texans display on a daily basis. I feel honored to be able to witness stories just like those shared below each day as we work to deliver our cause and live out our mission of building healthy spirit, mind, and body for all.
Tony Shuman, Chair
Texas State Alliance of YMCAs
Sarena & her son Matthew are a part of the Whitehouse YMCA family in Tyler, Texas. Matthew loves attending the childcare program and often asks his mom to pick him up a little later so he has more time to play with his friends.
“Mrs. Barbra, who works at the Whitehouse YMCA, has been a blessing to my family and I don’t have to worry about Matthew while he is in the care of the YMCA.”
Since enrolling her son in the Y’s childcare program, Sarena has been diagnosed with invasive breast cancer and will be in treatment for the next five years. Her medical costs have gone up tremendously since her diagnosis. YMCA leadership & staff stepped in to help by providing her family with a childcare scholarship for Matthew’s care.
“Due to having this scholarship, I can now concentrate on my health without the stress of paying for childcare, working and receiving my breast cancer treatments. The YMCA was a huge blessing to our family during the immediate and aftermath of my diagnosis.”
During National Drowning Prevention Month in May, Congressman Roger Williams (TX-25) took to the House floor to recognize the Austin YMCA’s commitment to drowning prevention and aquatics safety. He praised the community partnerships the YMCA is championing as well as the Safety Around Water curriculum implemented at Ys across the nation. James Finck and Tony Shuman, the CEOs at the Austin YMCA and the YMCA of Metropolitan Fort Worth, had the opportunity to visit with the Congressman’s office during YMCA National Advocacy Days in February.
“We’re thankful for Congressman Williams’ support of the YMCA and his commitment to raising awareness around this critical issue that impacts Texas and the country as a whole,” said James Finck, CEO of the Austin YMCA.
To watch Congressman Williams’ remarks, click here.
Odessa Family YMCA Learning Center Recognized as a Quality Child-Care Provider by Texas Workforce Commission
The Joe Rutledge YMCA Learning Center, a part of the Odessa Family YMCA, recently received certification through the Texas Rising Star program. The Texas Rising Star program is a voluntary, quality-based child-care rating system of child-care providers participating in the Texas Workforce Commission’s subsidized child-care program. The center earned the distinction by providing enrichment to equip children with social skills, language development and cognitive development.
“This recognition is important because it shows not only do we meet minimum requirements set out by the state but we are exceeding them,” Odessa Family YMCA Executive Director Ed Moreno said in a press release. “This recognition puts us alongside the top-tier of childcare providers in the entire state. It shows that what we are doing for the kids in our learning centers is making a difference.”
The cornerstones of this award are benchmarks achieved in preparation for kindergarten. Statistics show that those milestones early on leave children ahead of the pack, an advantage that enrollment in the Odessa Family YMCA Learning Centers can provide.
“If children are prepared for kindergarten they are more confident and they will have a head start over other children,” Learning Centers Administrative Director Chere Ramirez said. “They will most likely stay in school and will have a higher chance to continue on to higher education.”
Only three other childcare facilities have the Rising Star recognition in Odessa. The distinction shows the Odessa Family YMCA exceeds expectations in its staff qualifications, curriculum, nutrition and activities as well as parent involvement – all focused on the early development of children.
“This recognition shows our community that the YMCA is all about what's best for the child and supports high quality childcare,” Ramirez said.
The YMCA of Metropolitan Fort Worth held its first Water Safety Week to kick off the summer swim season, beginning Monday, May 22nd through Memorial Day. During this week, the Y posted water safety messages each day on social media and displays were set up in branches to call attention to members prior to the busy holiday weekend. In some cases, the displays featured lifejackets in a small pool representing each child who died from drowning within the three counties the Y serves. During the week, Y staff spoke with several media outlets about water safety, emphasizing safety tips ahead of the holiday weekend. On Memorial Day, Water Safety Week concluded with the Y opening all swimming pools to the public from 12-5 p.m. At 2 pm at each pool, a free water safety demonstration was held. This is the third year the YMCA of Metropolitan Fort Worth has opened pools to the public at no cost on Memorial Day as a way to encourage families to enjoy the holiday in a safe way around water.
The YMCA has long been known as a place that brings neighbors and communities together, and that is especially true on Houston’s Northside.
Marie Arcos served as the Executive Director of the M.D. Anderson Family YMCA, where she has worked since 2001.
Arcos grew up on the Northside and as one of seven children she learned how important it was to do her part to help not only her family but her community at large.
"My parents volunteered at the YMCA before I even got involved and that's how I started as a face-painter,” Arcos recalled.
Her ambitious spirit and knack for drawing people to various causes was apparent at an early age. While she was in high school, Arcos helped raise money to offer a free prom to her fellow students and she didn’t stop there.
"Even as a teen and a young adult we helped raise money for our local park because we didn't have lights. So the city said, 'Raise the money, you can have the lights.' So we raised the money and we got the lights."
Since she began her career at the M.D. Anderson Family YMCA, Marie has dedicated countless hours to applying for grants to improve the facilities and grounds and to create new programs for children to learn about art and apply to colleges.
"It's a place where people can come together and make the opportunities we have for them come alive,” Arcos said. “It’s important that they have people here that care about them, and will listen to them."
People like Marie Arcos have made the Y feel like a second home for parents like Jennifer and her son Justin.
“To me, she cares,” Jennifer said. “She cares about the community, she cares about the children and she cares about the families. And in return, we care about her."
Jennifer’s son Justin learned to ride his bicycle at the Y and is now training to compete in a triathlon.
Most of the Executive Directors at the YMCA of Greater Houston rotate among 36 locations, but Arcos has remained at the same location in the neighborhood where she grew up -- a source of pride for her and for the families who grew up around her.
"It's a beacon for a safe area in the near Northside. It is home. The YMCA allowed for my children to touch people that were successful, to see people and understand that when you're in this neighborhood, there is an opportunity to be successful,” said Melody, whose two children have been attending the Y for the past 15 years.
Arcos has welcomed nearly 9,000 children into her YMCA since she began working there and has seen many of them grow up and go on to attend college. She has recently transitioned to a new role coordinating community development efforts on the Association level.
Twenty Dallas-area high school seniors received a total of $43,000 in academic scholarships from the YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas Foundation at its 36th Annual Y Scholars Dinner. These scholarships are renewable over four years for a total of $172,000. Outside the dinner, the YMCA awarded an additional $126,000 to 70 continuing college students who re-qualified for prior scholarships based on academic achievement. Funds for the scholarships are made possible through the F.W. and Bessie A. Dye Foundation. These funds were given to the Dallas Y’s Foundation to provide post-secondary scholarships for local youth subject to certain items and conditions. YMCA Scholarships and Dye Scholarships funded by the Dye Foundation are distributed to students who demonstrate the desire to attend and complete college. Since 1981, the YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas Foundation had awarded nearly $4 million in educational scholarship to high school seniors.
The San Angelo YMCA is pleased to announce that A.J. Moore has been hired as the organization's new CEO effective May 12th. Moore, who has been serving as associate director, has replaced CEO Pete Thiry, who retired after more than 35 years with the YMCA.
"A.J.'s passion for the YMCA and his dedication to our mission are unparalleled," said Board President Vance Jones. "During the interview process he impressed us with his vision for the YMCA's programming, its facilities, its staffing structure and its fundraising. There's no doubt he's ready to take up the mantle of the Y's top job and lead us into an exciting future."
"I'm ready for this challenge," Moore said. "I care deeply about the YMCA, its mission and the people we serve."
Moore began his career at the Y in 1991 and served two years as program director, coordinating the organization's youth sports and aquatics programs. He served as the head track/cross country coach at Texas A&M University-Kingsville from 1993-2000. He returned to San Angelo to serve as assistant track coach at Angelo State University, then rejoined the Y in 2004 as the physical program executive before being promoted to associate executive director in 2014.
Thiry retires after 36 years with the Y. He served 11 years as the CEO at the Y in Big Spring after positions with the organization in Abilene and El Paso. He has served as CEO in San Angelo for the past eight years.
Jones praised Thiry for his service and leadership, which included overseeing the San Angelo Y's 2012 renovation and expansion project.
YMCAs in Texas recognize the opportunity to strengthen our cause and impact more lives and that’s why we’ve launched membership reciprocity. With our new membership reciprocity agreement, Y members can simply present their active YMCA membership card and photo ID at any participating Texas YMCA to enjoy free access. This opportunity enhances the value of a Y membership and allows Texas Ys to collaboratively impact more lives and strengthen community. Stop by your local Y or click here for more information.
Are you passionate about healthy kids? Preventing chronic disease? Reducing health disparities? If so, we need you! Advocates are the backbone of any cause-driven organization. We know that when engaged advocates connect to a cause, they have the potential to inspire and spark change! Please join the YMCA's advocacy network by TAKING ACTION here! Together, we can fight childhood obesity and make Texas a healthier place for our kids to live!