With the start of a new year, the YMCA of San Benito County is focusing its programs on health and wellness. From the classes offered for active adults to preschool sports to after school programs, the annual community support campaign makes the offerings accessible to more people in the community.
Visit the YMCA open house Thursday
The YMCA of San Benito County is opening its doors to the public for a free day of fun and fitness Feb. 21, from 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Stop by any time of the day, join or observe group fitness classes like Zumba, Yoga or Tai Chi and use the cardio/weight equipment. San Benito County residents who sign up for the wellness program on the day of the open house will have their annual program participant fee waived. For the open house fitness class schedule, go to centralcoastymca.org.
The YMCA of San Benito County is conducting its community support campaign through the end of February, with more than 30 volunteers taking stories of the Y to potential donors in San Benito County. The money raised through the campaign stays in San Benito County, where a large portion of it goes toward financial assistance. Rochelle Callis, the regional vice president for the Central Coast YMCA, said about 30 percent of members receive some financial aid, up to 50 percent of program costs.
“A mother who came to our kick off shared how thankful she was the Y is here for her,” Callis said, of the launch of the five-week campaign. “She was in a shelter with her two kids and with program assistance she has been able to get back to work while the kids are in a safe place.”
The goal this year for the YMCA is to raise $100,000 and as of Feb. 8, they were nearly half way to the goal, with two weeks to go.
Callis said while the YMCA has been focusing on health and wellness programs for adults in recent years, this year the focus will be turned to the after school programs.
“We want to encourage kids to make healthy choices in what they are eating and get moving more,” she said.
Instead of juice, the after school programs began offering water to students. They are also participating in the Harvest of the Month program, in which they receive a delivery of produce with curriculum to teach students about the new foods.
She said the teachers heard back from one parent whose child pointed out Asian pears in the grocery store and asked to get some after trying them with the program.
The students also participate in 60 minutes of exercise each day they attend the after school program, either as group exercise or as a sport.
“It teaches sportsmanship and teambuilding,” Callis said.
The YMCA continued its partnership with middle school sports, offering basketball to 13 girls who had never played before this winter.
In 2012, the local branch of the Y gave out more than $40,000 in financial aid. Financial aid is available to families or individuals who meet the California poverty guidelines and can cover up to 50 percent of program fees. The money raised during the community support campaign also covers the cost of subsidizing some of the programs. For instance, the kids who participate in middle school sports pay a fee to play but the charge does not cover the full cost to run the programs.
Callis said the number of families seeking financial assistance to participate in programs has remained steady, but they are seeing more families seek help because of a lost job or being out of work for a while.
To join the YMCA, individuals pay a $35 registration fee or $60 per family, with each program charged a different fee. A health and wellness program is available for $35 per month, which includes access to cardio and weight equipment.
She said several of the volunteers who are raising money in the community have shared their own story about the YMCA – from a man who grew up boxing at a YMCA club to a woman who stayed in YMCA housing in the city during World War II.
“It amazes me how many people have a story about the Y,” Callis said.
To donate to the community support campaign, visit http://ymca.net, click on the “Give” button, and enter a zip code to find the nearest YMCA branch. For more on local YMCA programs, visit www.centralcoastymca.org