For Social Responsibility

The third leg of our stool to strengthen the community is through Social Responsibility. This leg, along with Youth Development and Healthy Living, is an important facet of the work of the YMCA. It can also be one of the hardest to define. For me, I hang my hat on working on Social Responsibility FOR ALL.

The YMCA has a long history of being socially responsible. The organization actually started as a way to combat negative social influences for young men who were moving from the countryside to the city to work in factories during the Industrial Revolution in London, England. We started the concept of night schools, the precursor to community colleges, and English as a second language programs for new immigrants. We helped found the USO and served service members on the front lines during World War I. That continues today through the Armed Services YMCA spread through different bases and countries. A young girl in Spokane, Washington started Father’s Day to honor her single father in 1910 at the YMCA. As we know, the holiday continues to this day.

So how are we socially responsible today?

One area that stands out to me is the individuals, families and youth that we provide financial assistance for in order to be involved in the YMCA. Out of the 2,500 children participating in our child care programs, 25% receive support through our Partner of Youth Annual Campaign, various grants, partnerships with United Way and the school districts. Additionally, 20% of our membership base receives financial assistance to belong to the YMCA. The same percentage of the 1,200 children that participate in Camp Cormorant are there through financial assistance, as well. The best part is that no one knows who is on financial assistance because you are just a member, a child in our programs, or a participant at camp.

But social responsibility is more than donations and scholarships. It is through advocacy work that the YMCA impacts healthy lifestyles. Coming up June 11 – 15 the YMCA will be partnering with the Fargo Park District, Courts Plus, and Family Wellness to run ‘Fargo On The Move’, helping get families and individuals to be active at our facilities and our parks, all summer long. The more we move, the happier we will be. That sounds socially responsible.

How about volunteerism? Over 600 people volunteered on behalf of the YMCA last year. This included our board members, members of our fundraising teams, basketball coaches, youth mentors, and many more. Studies show that when you volunteer you experience less stress, look at the world from a different perspective, and have faith in your fellow man. Social Responsibility at its finest.

Over my 30+ year career with this organization, different parts of our mission statement of putting Christian principles into practice through programs that build a healthy spirit, mind, and body for all have spoken to me. As I have been a CEO of a YMCA, “For All” speaks to me today. Social Responsibility calls me and the YMCA to figure out how we make sure “For All” is true.

Social responsibility = For All = A Stronger Community!

See you at the Y!

Steve Smith, President