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Y strives to help create a healthy community

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By Tom Wilmoth

    From the young to the elderly, the Bedford Area Family YMCA is helping area residents embrace healthier lifestyles. The hidden secret is the local Y is much, much more than a gymnasium—in who it touches, in what it offers to the community—it’s a cause.

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    And May 14, the Y kicks off its campaign to raise funds so it can provide services to those who otherwise couldn’t afford them.
    
The Y—So Much More
    This year’s community campaign raises the banner, “The Y—So Much More,” as   part   of   its   six-week   fundraising effort with a goal to raise $40,000. All of the money raised, according to Executive Director Mary Jo Boone, will go directly to support those who need help to pay to use the Y’s services. From child care to after-school programs, memberships to camp scholarships, the funds will provide access to those who need it most.
    Giving begins at home and that’s why 100 percent of the full-time workers at the Y give to the campaign. The YMCA board members all participate as well. The hope is the community will also do its part to support the effort as opportunities for healthier lifestyles are provided through the Y’s facilities, classes and programs.
    That might mean supporting a family where a parent has lost a job and the children attend one of the Y’s afterschool programs located at schools throughout the county. Without the funds raised in the campaign, that student might not be able to afford to attend that program—with it, some normalcy is kept in the midst of a difficult situation.
    The funds might be used to support an elderly resident being helped through one of the classes offered or to provide a Y membership for a family. “We don’t just strengthen individuals, we strengthen our community,” the annual campaign brochure states.
    “There are a variety of reasons why people need assistance,” Boone stated. “If they qualify, they’ll get it.”
    The Y will provide close to $75,000 in assistance to area residents this year.

More than a handout
    Those who receive assistance commit to utilizing the facilities and take advantage of the gift they are being offered, Boone said. “It’s not a typical handout,” she said. “It’s helping others to invest in their well-being and in their child-care needs. Every single penny raised goes towards this.”
    And all the money raised stays right here in Bedford.
    “We take very seriously the gifts that people give to this campaign,” Boone said. “We want to be good stewards of the gifts.”
    The Y provides childcare, a preschool program for children ages 3-5 and afterschool care for hundreds of children ages 5-13 in elementary schools throughout the county. The Y also provides summer camps that run throughout the summer.
    The Bedford Area Y’s reach continues to grow.

Meant to stay
    Boone came to the Bedford Y from Chicago and, at the time, didn’t expect to stay.
    But she found what many others do when they come here—a beautiful area with quality people supporting the community.
    Once Boone met the staff and volunteers she would be working with, she realized the opportunity she had.
    It’s a team that has been together for years, and continues to stay together. Some have served for more than 20 years, all longer than six. “It’s more than a job,” Boone says of working for the Y. “It’s really a passion. It’s rewarding.”
    And the staff all have their own strengths. “We all certainly embrace a healthy lifestyle,” she said. “To have a healthy lifestyle involves so much more than physical fitness.”
    And its membership is as diverse as the community it serves—in ethnicity, age and socio-economic situations. “We don’t exist in our own little Y world here,” Boone said. Case in point: A fitness class might include a 95-year-old resident working out next to a 16-year-old student.
    ‘The Bedford community faces new challenges that create a greater need for the work we do,” the campaign letter states. “Fortunately, where some see obstacles, we see opportunities for our members, volunteers, staff and generous donors to make a difference. No other organization can impact as many people as powerfully as we do every day.”
    Currently the Bedford Area YMCA has about 3,000 members and serves another 350 children daily in its childcare programs. Members learn to swim, can work out, take classes, participate in numerous outdoor activities provided on the more than 36-acre campus, enjoy the ropes course or play disc golf. The Y runs a soccer program and provides opportunities for groups to learn team building skills.
    Yes, the Y does have a gym—a 12,000 square foot facility for basketball, volleyball, indoor soccer and high-ropes climbing. And the Y has an indoor pool.
    But it’s so much more. And by launching the fundraising campaign, the board and staff hope that more people will be served. “Every gift makes a difference,” this year’s campaign literature states. “Everyone has a role to play. Together we can achieve so much more.”
    Want to give or know more? Visit the YMCA website at www.bedfordymca.org or call (540) 586-3483.