Anna Murphy, President of United Way of Southwest Michigan, recently sat down with Mark Weber, President of the YMCA of Southwest Michigan, to talk about the impact the YMCA is making in our communities, and the long-standing partnership with United Way.
You recently went through an exciting year, merging the St. Joseph/Benton Harbor YMCA with the Niles/Buchanan YMCA. How will the new organization (YMCA of Southwest Michigan) better serve the communities?
By merging to become one organization, the YMCA of Southwest Michigan is able to pool resources from both branches to better serve all our communities.
For example, we have added more diverse fitness classes at the Y and in the community at locations such as Riverview Park in Niles, Jean Klock Park in Benton Harbor, and multiple senior facilities throughout Southwest Michigan.
We also increased our collaboration with local schools to help young people develop leadership qualities, self-esteem, and character values; increased our participation with Be Healthy Berrien, Berrien County Health Department, and Lakeland Health in supporting healthy living in our communities, specifically addressing obesity and chronic disease. Through partnerships with Boys and Girls Club, Benton Harbor Community Schools, Cassopolis Public Schools, and Marcellus Community Schools we have been able to provide increased water safety programs.
The YMCA is most definitely a game-changer in Southwest Michigan. What community issues are important to your organization?
The YMCA of Southwest Michigan is committed to building the foundations and strengthening our communities, through nurturing the potential of every child and adult, and improving Southwest Michigan’s health and well-being.
We are committed to collaborating with other community partners that have similar interest around three areas of focus:
Youth Development – Nurturing the potential of every youth and teen in our community.
Healthy Living – Improving our communities health and well being
Social Responsibility – Giving back and providing support to our neighbors
United Way provides funding for 4 programs at the YMCA facilities (Healthy U, Learning Tree Preschool, Summer My Way, Y Club Afterschool Program) – how important to you is the relationship between our organizations?
United Way of Southwest Michigan is more than just a funding partner. With the help of UWSM we are able to connect with other organizations to work together and make a greater impact in communities across Southwest Michigan. Summer My Way®, Healthy U, and Y Club Afterschool Programs are only a few examples of programs that would not be possible without the support of United Way.
The YMCA’s employee campaign for UWSM this year was incredible and saw a large increase in employee contributions. Why do you believe it is so important for your team to support United Way and what were some of the things you did to engage your team?
United Way is a major funder for many critical programs in Southwest Michigan. Our team lives in the communities UWSM serves and many benefit from the programs provided by United Way funded partners. We educate our team on the importance and impact of United Way at our all staff meetings.
Anything exciting on the horizon for the YMCA in 2018?
There are a lot of exciting things happening at the YMCA.
We have made a commitment to promote and preserve health, combat chronic disease, and ultimately reduce individual and community health care cost by providing programs that include Diabetes Prevention, Blood Pressure Self-Monitoring, LIVESTRONG® at the YMCA, and Enhance Fitness for Seniors.
Over the next three years, we will increase the impact on youth in our communities by focusing on out-of-school programs centered on fitness, nutrition, academic support and social skills. We currently provide out of school programs in 5 school districts and are working with school superintendents to expand our impact.
We will be opening our first community Early Childhood Care and Education Center in 2019. With the help of the community and business partners, we plan to provide regional based safe, fun and enrichment day care centers to help children develop to their fullest potential.
Lastly, we are in the midst of the Building the Foundation of Community capital expansion. This expansion will provide an additional 30,000 square feet to the Niles-Buchanan YMCA branch with a focus on a Community Teen and Youth Center in addition to healthy living space.