Many members of our community are navigating obstacles and challenges in their every day lives, and the Cedar Rapids Metro YMCA gives them an amazing space to navigate it all and be successful.
The realty is – many families need assistance with essentials like housing and food. When it’s challenging to gain the necessities, recreational opportunities seem too far out of reach. But through the YMCA’s scholarship program, families can participate and reach their full fitness and healthy life style potential. “This is one of the single most important things that we do for the community,” said Bob Carlson, president and CEO. “It is our mission in action because ‘for all’ are the key words of our mission statement. We don’t deny access to anyone, families or kids, based on their inability to pay the whole fees. We work hard to make sure that everyone is able to be a part of the Y.” How does it work? “If someone comes in and says they’re interested in getting a membership or being a part of a program but can’t afford the fees, we review their financial situation to see what they can afford on a sliding scale for membership,” said Elizabeth Olson, member engagement director. “The program director will work on that same sliding scale, but it is a little more fluid in what they can offer in terms of a bigger discount.” The Y’s helping hands give out more than small change. In fact, the organization typically offers more than $1 million annually in scholarships, which equates to 20% of its annual expenses. “Most people don’t realize we give that much back to the community in terms of scholarships. We try to raise dollars during our annual support campaign and our special events. In order to do that, we depend on outside help because it’s hard to raise that kind of money every year. We’re always looking for ways for people to support us,” Carlson said. These contributions pay back big dividends in terms of personal success stories, Lynn Saddoris, associate branch executive and sports assistant said. “We had a family where the father had been incarcerated so the mom was running the household. The father got out of prison and to get back into the community, he brought his kids to the Y in the evening to work out and have some family time. During the winter we were having swim teams and the younger son got interested. He had never been a competitive swimmer. We gave them a scholarship so the son could join the swim team and he ended up setting records. Then he and his father decided to start doing triathlons together. So you can see the progression of kids getting interested, and we helped them and made a positive change in their family.” Carlson agreed. “I’ve had people come up to me and say I am who I am today because of the Y. It set me on the right path. Stories upon stories that warm your heart. The Y offers a safe place where they know people are going to take care of them and they thrive. They become great members of the community and they come back and thank us for helping them along the way.” You can make someone realize a rewarding reality. If you know a family in need, you can refer them, sponsor them or donate to the annual campaign by contacting the YMCA. Paying it forward pays amazing dividends in our community.