Written by Alyssa Wilson ~ University of Lynchburg Bonner Intern
The YMCA of Central Virginia is known to some as the place where members of the community can go to swim or use the gym, but the YMCA is more than just a gym.
The Y is a cause-driven organization of a dedicated community of men, women and children with a shared commitment and mission to nurture the potential of kids, promote healthy living and foster a sense of social responsibility.
“Your membership dollars keep our lights on and your donor money keeps our doors open to all,” says Misty Vinson-Spitzer, Association Director for Community Engagement and Communications.
Membership dollars and donor dollars kept completely separate from one another. Member dollars assist with things like operations and staffing, whereas donor assistance is the reason that outreach programs, like the Power Scholars Academy exist.
Power Scholars Academy
This summer, the YMCA held its seventh year of the Power Scholars Academy, a five-week summer learning loss prevention program. Students lose two to three months of academic gain during the summer, this is why at most schools they spend the first six weeks reviewing old materials.
With the Power Scholars Program, students are going back to school two to three and a half months ahead of their peers.
Seven years ago the program was launched with 20 students at R.S. Payne Elementary School. This summer, the YMCA partnered with Amherst County Schools and Lynchburg City Schools and brought 858 pre-K through eighth graders into the program and ended with a 94% graduation rate from the program.
The YMCA continues their community outreach efforts through partner programs like ‘Give Back, Do Good’ and ‘Partners with a Purpose’.
They partner with different organizations every month and ask how the YMCA and its members can help those nonprofits, they typically highlight organizations with less reach like the Rivermont Area Emergency Food Pantry and Isaiah 117 House, which have been recipients over the past year.
A box is placed in the lobby of the YMCA and members fill the box with what the current need is. For example, the YMCA collected around a thousand coats for Lynchburg City Schools and the Salvation Army last winter.
Another program that they are hoping to fully launch by Jan. 1, 2023 is their ‘Partners with a Purpose’ program.
Community partners must apply to be a Partner with a Purpose to make sure that their mission aligns with the mission of YMCA. They have three pillars, healthy living, social responsibility and youth development. Partners must fall into one or more of these pillars in order to be considered to be a part of the program.
“The nonprofit world can be so disjointed sometimes that we can work against each other,” says Vinson-Spitzer.
Oftentimes nonprofits in the community will hold similar campaigns or events that make it difficult for people to decide what to give to or what events to attend. ‘Partners with a Purpose’ hopes to mitigate that problem within the sector.
Other Initiatives and Events
The YMCA is launching a new campaign initiative called ‘Rise Up’. This initiative will work with 8th to 12th grade young men of color to help give them the resources they need in order to succeed.
Leaders from Iron Lives and other organizations will team up to help propel the program forward.
Young men in the program will be given a YMCA membership, access to tutoring after school, and even cooking lessons.
Vinson-Spitzer says, “We want to make sure they have a safe space where they can be themselves and reach their potential.”
The YMCA also has their first Trunk-or-Treat event coming up at the Jamerson location on Oct. 28 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.. There is an all-call for nonprofit organizations to decorate a trunk. There is no fee, but partners must sign up here in order to participate.
The YMCA is constantly working towards more community outreach programs and learning more ways they can assist those in need within the community. Learn more about the YMCA and their current outreach efforts by visiting their SHARE Greater Lynchburg profile here.