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 to our community’s needs was quick and focused. The Y adapted and pivoted to new ways to help the most vulnerable. With childcare businesses closed, the Y obtained a pandemic childcare 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.
We created our Scholastic Support Program in response to local schools changing classrooms to virtual or a hybrid of in-person and virtual learning. We transformed our spaces into virtual learning classrooms. Our program provides a safe space and academic support for virtual learning that includes tutor support, school materials, lunch, and fun games and activities.
The Y reopened in June committed to the health and safety of our members and staff. We implemented cleaning and safety protocols, mask policies and provided information designed to keep everyone safe.
Central Y provided socially and physically engaging activities to youth in our community who had been inactive since March. A safe space where kids can express themselves, make friends, and learn in an environment where they thrive provided youths an opportunity to learn new skills and make lasting friendships. We are thankful for our collaborations with YMHA, the Envision Center, Dre Day Foundation, and the Mahoning County Job and Family Services to support our youth.
Even though or 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 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 non-profit organization, we work towards 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 2021 is to expand our reach into the communities as we look to bring 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 other non-profits and businesses to increase our impact. Our 2021 goal is to serve more youth, seniors, and families through community engagement, healthy living activities, and purpose-driven programs.
By Tom Gacse
CEO, YMCA of Youngstown