“Moving Forward Together” was the theme when the Southeastern Indiana YMCA Board of Directors celebrated its 20th anniversary May 7 at Walhill Farm.
About 120 were there to honor “what we would like to think is the best YMCA in the state,” said executive director Angie Johnson.
She reported, “More people are coming into our facility every month. In the last four months, we’ve had over 2,000 extra card swipes. Growth is good.”
It means as part of the Y’s strategic plan, for the past six months, board directors have considered capital development “so we can meet our community ... and members’ needs.” At the end of June, focus groups of members, nonmembers and community leaders will discuss how the nonprofit “can best impact and strengthen our community.”
Johnson emphasized, “We are very financially stable. We don’t have debt ... We have lots of people who need us.” If another expansion is the answer, additional funding will be sought.
Chief volunteer officer Tim Dietz spoke about the Y’s history. In the early 1990s, “Dan Hillenbrand had an idea. The community needed someplace to come together to gather.”
Sharing that vision were George Brinkmoeller and many other initial volunteers who got the project off the ground. He recalled, “In the first year we had 1,200 memberships.”
By 1996, programs had grown so much that space on downtown’s George Street had to be rented for martial arts, gymnastics and dance classes. According to Dietz, “In 1999 we were excited because we were given the opportunity to again make an addition to the facility” that contained a second gym, new exercise room, pool and more community rooms. “Once again, the (John A. Hillenbrand) Foundation stepped up.”
In 2001, the YMCA Learning Center received accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children. He recalled, “It was the first child care facility in a 10-county area to achieve a Level 4. We have a child care facility that is second to none.”
In 2006 the Silver Sneakers gentle exercise program for mature area residents was added. “At that time, we had 100 members; today over 500.”
“One of the ideas was to make this available to everybody” so in 2007 income-based memberships began to be offered. The Daniel Hillenbrand Strong Kids Campaign helps support that initiative. The campaign continues to grow with over $139,000 collected in 2012 to aid those in need. For instance, some children at Safe Passage, Batesville, and the Youth Encouragement Services Home, Manchester, and who belong to Big Brothers, Big Sisters play at the Y free.
First executive director Jerry Lanning retired in 2011. According to Dietz, “Jerry made many, many contributions ... he really brought us to this point in time. There are a lot of thank-yous to Jerry.”
Later former chairman Tom Tepe noted, “Jerry Lanning left us a YMCA that was well run, well funded and well staffed.” Deflecting attention from himself, Lanning said that whenever the center had successes, “it was always people who made them happen.”
Dietz pointed out, “We don’t want to sit on our laurels.” When Johnson was hired as the new director, “we changed things again” by painting the building and replacing the boiler and chiller using “generous donations, grants and other contributions. We were able to do this and not really deplete our rainy day fund.”
Y leaders have established relationships with schools, Margaret Mary Health, Safe Passage and other entities. “We just keep reaching out to become part of the community. We continue to grow and we’ll continue to get better at what we do,” he pledged.
Tepe recalled joining a Dayton, Ohio, YMCA years ago and being “connected with a lot of good people ... who had healthy outlooks on life. I found a tribe ... and stayed connected with the YMCA ever since.”
In 2010 the SIY Heritage Club was launched “as a way for members and friends of the YMCA to remember the Y in their estates and trusts.” Large gifts, such as stocks, also can be given. To become a member, Tepe made provisions in his will. “I feel very comfortable recommending that everybody else do that, too.”
The director praised employees who go above and beyond and gave four examples. Ellen Rauch teaches Learning Center tykes about character development. Jim Bruns instructs special needs youth about tae kwon do.
A year ago, education coordinator Donna Dykes transported a child from Milan to the Y so she could experience summer camp. Assistant child care director Dawn Denny is “so inspirational to the staff and she’s so fantastic with the kids.” Denny got a license to drive the Y’s new bus and “motivates others to have pride in themselves on the route to wellness.”
Senior program director David Hoover said, “Generosity is the core of our existence. Volunteers take an active role to make a difference at the Y. Every hour spent as a Y volunteer translates into the attention a child needs” to grow into a caring adult. Volunteer tasks range from greeting visitors and providing goodies for bake sales to helping at the office and serving as committee members.
Hoover presented one plaque to special volunteer Lucas Garvey, 14, Sunman, the home-schooled son of Mike and Kimberly Garvey. The two-year assistant tae kwon do instructor teaches skills and character values. The teen also helps at Batesville and Penntown food pantries and New Horizons activities. “Lucas truly is an example for the youth in our community.”
Underscored by the tune “Carry On” by the band fun., a fast-motion video called “One Day at the Y” closed the evening. The five-minute local documentary created by Grant Johnson showed seniors arriving at the crack of dawn, kids playing, members of all ages exercising and toddlers grinning.
“One Day at the Y” simply demonstrated what a positive impact a center dedicated to health, friendships and Christian values can make in a rural area.
LEADING THE WAY
• In addition to Dietz, board directors include assistant chief volunteer officer Lea Ann King, treasurer Andy Jaisle, Geralyn Litzinger, Clarence “Bud” McGowan, Tom Tepe, Chris Lowery and Dennis Murphy. New board members beginning three-year terms are Ric Hertel and Chris Lehman.
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