I was recently reminded of lessons I took away from my 23 years in the military, 10 of which were spent in persistent conflict serving multiple tours to Iraq and Afghanistan. In these nations, it was easy to see how people lose hope and trust in their society. My purpose in reflecting on these lessons was to address concerns I’ve come to see in communities (including Helena) across our nation. Our communities are divided in ways never before seen, including in areas of political differences, economic disparity, racial biases, drug and alcohol abuse and others. To overcome these challenges, we must each do our best to restore hope, civility, trust and community.
That’s why I am part of the Helena Family YMCA. I see hope being restored every day at the YMCA. Each morning, a diverse group of adults connect at the YMCA as they share in fitness classes and gather after to connect, exchange stories and vegetables grown in each other’s gardens, serve one another fresh baked cookies, and build a sense of belonging.
The YMCA takes pride in building bridges rather than creating divides. We bridge economics by allowing all kids the opportunity to take advantage of sports and programs regardless of ability to pay. We bridge politics by creating teams where people work together. We bridge education with innovative after-school programs for youth and we replace isolation and dangerous behavior with a sense of belonging through sports, outdoors and fitness.
It is those bridges we want to keep building, and many more. But we need your support. As a nonprofit in our community, the YMCA has always relied on the support and generosity of the community to keep our doors open and our programs affordable. That hasn’t changed; in fact, the need has increased. In 2018 we provided $240,000 in scholarships and financial aid. 2019 will be similar. As we increase the quality of our programming and offer additional needed innovations like new afterschool programs, increased scholarships, and expanded opportunities for swim lessons, the need grows.
The YMCA is at a critical inflection point. Many of you have noticed our expanded services and updates to staff, programming and facilities. We’ve added a family changing room, put in new equipment, expanded our communication as well as improved and increased our programming. The YMCA is rising to fulfill the needs of the community, but we need your support. It’s not enough that we have increased our earned income. We rely on community philanthropy for everything from scholarships to operational needs, sports and fitness equipment, referees, program improvements, and other expenses that go along with having thousands of fulfilled youth and adults come in and out of our doors every week.
We are in the midst of our Annual YMCA Philanthropic Campaign during a critical juncture in the life of this organization. The financial goal we have set is central to our ability to rebuild and deliver impact to the community as we have done in the past and will continue to do. Although we are making great progress toward a future vision for the YMCA, your support is needed now to keep our programs running today. Whether you can give $50 or $50,000, your act of generosity will have a profound impact on our community and our collective futures.
With your support, the YMCA is uniquely positioned to restore hope, civility, trust and community for all who come through our doors. Join us in making a difference for our collective future by donating to the YMCA.