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The YMCA is much more than a place to exercise

December 18, 2018

Did you know that the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) has been around for well over 160 years and is one of the largest nonprofits in the USA? (Surprised?)

According to Forbes Magazine, in 2018 the Y was the 10th largest charity behind other well-known 501(c)(3)s such as the Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity and United Way.

The YMCA is in more than 10,000 neighborhoods across the U.S. with after-school care, feeding programs for youth hunger, youth sports, swim lessons, summer camp and so much more.

Across the U.S., there are approximately 2,700 Ys, with 20,000 full-time staff and around 600,000 volunteers. Our reach is amazing.

Locally, we have been established in our Anniston locale since 1952. In order to serve a broader area in our county, the Oxford Y was established in 2008.

We are also represented in eight local schools, providing after-school care for hardworking parents. These sites include Saks, Cobb, White Plains, Wellborn, Alexandria, Pleasant Valley, 10th Street and Golden Springs. At these sites we offer homework help as well as reading and writing help, with a little play thrown in.

We also operate Y Camp Hamilton, which is an 80-acre property donated to the YMCA in 1966. Here, we offer summer day camp for hundreds of kids that get to canoe, swim, do crafts, play tetherball, hike and play several types of games in our large outdoor air-nasium, including basketball.

The national YMCA has had a long and involved history. According to the Y-USA website, the Y began in 1844 in London, where George Williams and 11 friends founded the very first Y as a place for prayer and study of the Bible.

The first student Y was started in Lebanon, Tenn., in 1856, devoted to developing leadership qualities in college students.

In 1853 in Washington, D.C., the first YMCA for African-Americans was started by Anthony Bowen, a freed slave.

Y housing came shortly after in the 1860s for young guys moving from farms to the city. At one point, between 1922 and 1940, Y dorms grew to house more 100,000 people, which was more than the hotels of that era.

The YMCA has been there to help in wars, as well as with rebuilding and volunteering in tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes and more.

More well known is the Y’s rich sports background. In 1881, a Boston YMCA staff member created the term “body building” and started exercise classes there.

In 1891, at the International YMCA Training School in Massachusetts, a PE teacher named James Naismith got creative and hung a peach basket under the overhead track and created basketball.

In 1896 along came volleyball, which was invented at the same Y training school in Massachusetts.

But that’s not all, because in 1909 a man named George Corsan came up with a plan to teach the first group swim lessons. His goal was to teach “every man and boy in North America to swim.” So, at the Detroit YMCA, he started the first group swim lessons.

In addition to all that, in 1950 racquetball was invented at a Connecticut YMCA.

Kevin Washington, the CEO of Y-USA, has said, “For more than 160 years, the Y has delivered lasting personal and social change by listening to communities and providing innovative, effective solutions to community needs.” The main point in this statement is that we are all about community, OUR community.

Our deep and rich history is one of the many things that make us more than a gym. But even more than that, being a charity is what drives our focus. At the YMCA, no one is turned away due to inability to pay.

The three areas we focus on are youth development, social responsibility and healthy living. While most workout facilities are making a profit to pay themselves, we are reaching out to those who may not be able to afford a Y membership, or swim lessons (which we offer year-round), after school, summer camp and sports camps plus much more.

Our members pay monthly dues to keep the power on, water running, pool running, treadmills working and spin bikes spinning. In order to reach out to those who cannot afford our services and programs, we run an annual campaign starting around the first of the year to raise money to support the yearlong effort to help defer some program and membership costs for those in need. We consider this a very worthwhile investment in our community.

We live in a very giving community that allows this to happen. Just to give you an idea of how generous our community is, here are a few recent stats for the YMCA of Calhoun County. (All this money was raised by volunteers.)

• In 2015 we awarded 2,042 scholarships equaling $174,400.

• In 2016 we awarded 2,163 scholarships totaling $218,077.

• In 2017 we awarded 2,832 scholarships totaling $204,419.

Our mission is to put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all, and the “for all” part really resonates with us. We want all of our community — regardless of income, age or background — to have a chance to learn to swim, to get healthy, to have access to child care, etc.

We want parents to be able to go to work and know their kids are being mentored by nurturing adults, building confident and secure kids to lead into the next generation.

You can help make a difference in our community by considering a donation to your local Y. Large or small, it all adds up to making our community strong. Or you can make a difference by volunteering.

Either way, we invite you to be a part of our YMCA community. Our Y family is strong, and together we not only take better care of our personal health but the health of our community.

For a list of FAQs about our annual campaign, visit our website, YMCACalhoun.org.

Did you know that the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) has been around for well over 160 years and is one of the largest nonprofits in the USA? (Surprised?)

According to Forbes Magazine, in 2018 the Y was the 10th largest charity behind other well-known 501(c)(3)s such as the Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity and United Way.

The YMCA is in more than 10,000 neighborhoods across the U.S. with after-school care, feeding programs for youth hunger, youth sports, swim lessons, summer camp and so much more.

Across the U.S., there are approximately 2,700 Ys, with 20,000 full-time staff and around 600,000 volunteers. Our reach is amazing.

Locally, we have been established in our Anniston locale since 1952. In order to serve a broader area in our county, the Oxford Y was established in 2008.

We are also represented in eight local schools, providing after-school care for hardworking parents. These sites include Saks, Cobb, White Plains, Wellborn, Alexandria, Pleasant Valley, 10th Street and Golden Springs. At these sites we offer homework help as well as reading and writing help, with a little play thrown in.

We also operate Y Camp Hamilton, which is an 80-acre property donated to the YMCA in 1966. Here, we offer summer day camp for hundreds of kids that get to canoe, swim, do crafts, play tetherball, hike and play several types of games in our large outdoor air-nasium, including basketball.

The national YMCA has had a long and involved history. According to the Y-USA website, the Y began in 1844 in London, where George Williams and 11 friends founded the very first Y as a place for prayer and study of the Bible.

The first student Y was started in Lebanon, Tenn., in 1856, devoted to developing leadership qualities in college students.

In 1853 in Washington, D.C., the first YMCA for African-Americans was started by Anthony Bowen, a freed slave.

Y housing came shortly after in the 1860s for young guys moving from farms to the city. At one point, between 1922 and 1940, Y dorms grew to house more 100,000 people, which was more than the hotels of that era.

The YMCA has been there to help in wars, as well as with rebuilding and volunteering in tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes and more.

More well known is the Y’s rich sports background. In 1881, a Boston YMCA staff member created the term “body building” and started exercise classes there.

In 1891, at the International YMCA Training School in Massachusetts, a PE teacher named James Naismith got creative and hung a peach basket under the overhead track and created basketball.

In 1896 along came volleyball, which was invented at the same Y training school in Massachusetts.

But that’s not all, because in 1909 a man named George Corsan came up with a plan to teach the first group swim lessons. His goal was to teach “every man and boy in North America to swim.” So, at the Detroit YMCA, he started the first group swim lessons.

In addition to all that, in 1950 racquetball was invented at a Connecticut YMCA.

Kevin Washington, the CEO of Y-USA, has said, “For more than 160 years, the Y has delivered lasting personal and social change by listening to communities and providing innovative, effective solutions to community needs.” The main point in this statement is that we are all about community, OUR community.

Our deep and rich history is one of the many things that make us more than a gym. But even more than that, being a charity is what drives our focus. At the YMCA, no one is turned away due to inability to pay.

The three areas we focus on are youth development, social responsibility and healthy living. While most workout facilities are making a profit to pay themselves, we are reaching out to those who may not be able to afford a Y membership, or swim lessons (which we offer year-round), after school, summer camp and sports camps plus much more.

Our members pay monthly dues to keep the power on, water running, pool running, treadmills working and spin bikes spinning. In order to reach out to those who cannot afford our services and programs, we run an annual campaign starting around the first of the year to raise money to support the yearlong effort to help defer some program and membership costs for those in need. We consider this a very worthwhile investment in our community.

We live in a very giving community that allows this to happen. Just to give you an idea of how generous our community is, here are a few recent stats for the YMCA of Calhoun County. (All this money was raised by volunteers.)

• In 2015 we awarded 2,042 scholarships equaling $174,400.

• In 2016 we awarded 2,163 scholarships totaling $218,077.

• In 2017 we awarded 2,832 scholarships totaling $204,419.

Our mission is to put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all, and the “for all” part really resonates with us. We want all of our community — regardless of income, age or background — to have a chance to learn to swim, to get healthy, to have access to child care, etc.

We want parents to be able to go to work and know their kids are being mentored by nurturing adults, building confident and secure kids to lead into the next generation.

You can help make a difference in our community by considering a donation to your local Y. Large or small, it all adds up to making our community strong. Or you can make a difference by volunteering.

Either way, we invite you to be a part of our YMCA community. Our Y family is strong, and together we not only take better care of our personal health but the health of our community.

For a list of FAQs about our annual campaign, visit our website, YMCACalhoun.org.

Ann Angell is a certified instructor and personal trainer and manager of the Oxford YMCA. Her fitness column appears the third Sunday of each month.

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