Commentary

YMCA making Orange, Chatham counties a better place

September 24, 2013 

Dabney Grinnan

I wanted to share the good work the Chapel Hill Carrboro YMCA is doing here in our community and the plans the staff, board and volunteers have developed during the past several months. This has been a busy year for us. I’m proud of the way we serve our communities and I’m excited about what our future holds.

Two years ago, the YMCA Board of Directors developed a strategic plan to guide us for the next five years. The purpose of the strategic plan was to determine and then employ the best practices for community programs and services, YMCA governance and board leadership.

Our YMCA is part of the larger, nationally licensed charitable organization Y-USA. As a part of the YMCA movement, we embrace the Mission and Cause accepted by YMCAs across the country. This mission is “To put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all.” The Chapel Hill Carrboro YMCA has embraced and implemented that mission for many years and in many, diverse ways.

Y-USA challenges all YMCAs to extend service to and meet critical needs of the greater community. Y-USA tasks every Y, including ours, to be more than a place to swim or work out. Our community, like much of the Y communities in the country, hasn’t seen the Y as a cause-driven organization. We are working to change this. We agree with as Y-USA. That’s why we’re determined to be an external facing organization – to reach beyond our walls to serve people in the community who have interests and needs beyond existing YMCA buildings.

When we were chartered by Y-USA in 1968, we were given the responsibility for Orange and Chatham counties. From a national perspective, we are the Orange and Chatham Counties YMCA.

We are dedicated to serving all of the two counties, both those people who live here today and those who come in the future. Our work in recent years reflects our desire to serve our entire service area. Today, 15 percent of our work is concentrated in Chatham County. Twenty five percent of our work is in Youth and Day Camp at Camp Clearwater or Meadowmont. Thirty percent of our work is focused on membership activities at the Chapel Hill Branch. Sports, Swim Team, Y Guides, Teens and Boomerang, make up most of the rest. Each service group has a passionate and loyal constituency.

Three significant steps

Each group has real needs for space, staff and support. Our board and staff works to meet the needs of all of those constituents. We also plan for extended service and growth in our service area. This year, we have taken three significant steps in that direction.

1. We have a renewed commitment to our Annual We Build People Campaign. This effort raises support for children and families who cannot afford the Y. Today, nearly 100 volunteers are involved in this effort. We’ve never engaged so many volunteers outside of the board, and I’m excited to see them share the story of the Y’s impact on lives in our community. They are charged with raising $250,000. Every dollar raised will serve the people in our community.

2. We have organized a Facilities Task Force to revisit earlier plans for building renovations. The Board heard the racquetball users and engaged 20 members to reconsider the original plans. That group has been thinking for the past three months and has come up with an innovative plan, which we expect to present to our community in October.

3. We have drafted new by-laws, which will involve broader volunteer participation from all constituent groups that will lead to better decisions and effective outcomes for the Chapel Hill Carrboro YMCA. The goals of the new by-laws are:

• Clarify language to represent who we are to our community (for example: Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Chatham County changed to Orange and Chatham County)

• Clarify the committee structure, board structure and officer positions for the organization, and the formation/election of each.

• Clarify the differences between the board’s legal responsibilities and members’ desire to be involved.

• Enhance the board election process to have a strong slate of candidates as well as member representation.

• Ensure broad involvement by Y members and the community through committees, task forces and other volunteer opportunities.

We continue to reach out and listen to our neighbors in our service area. We have recently held several meetings where we’ve solicited input from our membership and from the community. We will hold more outreach events during the next several months.

In 2012, we awarded more than $300,000 in scholarships to kids and families in our communities. Through these scholarships, we served more than 400 kids in after-school care, summer camp, swim lessons and youth sports. To date, in partnership with Darkness to Light, our Y has trained more than 5,000 people to recognize and prevent child sexual abuse. And since its inception, Boomerang, our partnership with the Chapel Hill Carrboro City Schools, has provided more than 500 middle and high school students with academic and post graduation help.

I am proud of our dedicated staff and board. Every day, they work toward making community a better place.

Dabney Grinnan is the chairwoman of the Chapel Hill Carrboro YMCA.

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