Originally published 11:00pm on June 15th, 2018
by Dave McClure


To the casual observer a YMCA may look like another fitness facility. A roomful of treadmills and stationary bikes, gyms, a swimming pool, all used by paying members to keep in shape.

But there is more to the Y than meets the eye. Consider the story of a single mom.

“When I first came to town I was a young single mother with four boys. I worked, and made use of the Y after-school program. It was a blessing for me. The bus picked my boys up at the school and dropped them off at the Y door. They loved it there.

“Trouble was they wanted to be there all the time, on Saturdays, to go there with their friends, but we couldn’t afford it. I thought ‘how am I going to do this?’

“And then some Y staff members said, ‘haven’t you heard about the scholarships?’ It was another blessing.”

Maybe you’ve not heard about the scholarships either. YMCA’s use donated dollars to make membership a reality for those who can’t afford it. No one is turned away for inability to pay. With the help of other nonprofits and private donors the YMCA’s give thousands in reduced memberships and programming to hundreds of individuals and families every year.

The mom goes on to detail the benefits of the Y’s scholarship program to her family.

“My oldest son was always at the Y. He is now a minister. I think he got his positive leadership skills through his time at the YMCA. My second son was always in the Y gym, and is now in college on a basketball scholarship. He also got his first job at the Y. His little brothers are also playing basketball, one on the varsity team at high school and another here at the Y. They learned not only how to dribble and shoot but how to get along with kids at the Y.

“On top of that, my kids had a place to go that was safe. I knew they weren’t going to get into trouble at the Y. It was such a help to me as a mother. I knew if I needed something, I could turn to them. The Y became like our family. I feel so blessed to be part of it.”

There is more to the Y than meets the eye. Supporting families is just one way your hometown YMCA stands out.

DAVE MCCLURE is a retired nonprofit agency director, now a board member of the Ottawa YMCA and other local organizations. He also writes from a shack in his backyard.