ADVOCACY

Is it spring yet? As we gear up for the next storm, stay safe out there!

Last week while in Washington, D. C., I had the honor of visiting with Senator Hoeven, Senator Cramer, and Congressman Armstrong’s offices regarding the work of the YMCA in North Dakota and around the country. The YMCA brings leaders together annually to meet regarding key issues facing YMCAs and ways for the federal government to work with us to strengthen our communities.

First of all, thank you to all three leaders for their service to our communities. No matter what side of the aisle you are on, all of our representatives are working to advance the government on behalf of the communities that we serve.

There were many issues discussed during our three day visit to the capital but two have stood out to me regarding the work of the YMCA of Cass and Clay Counties. The first is our work with 21st Century Schools. This important program allows children to access programming and child care every morning and afternoon for greatly reduced costs. Parents are able to work knowing that their children are being cared for while earning a livable wage. The funds provided to the community through 21st Century Schools are vital to making sure that more children are able to access our services. Each afternoon, children are receiving homework help, wellness programming, and other key care issues that you would associate with child care. Often, these children are receiving experiences that they would not otherwise be able to afford. A strong funding model from the federal government makes 21st Century Programs possible.

The second program that our local Y does is feed children. In many cases, childrens’ primary access to meals is directly tied to their involvement in schools. We, at the Y, are committed to making sure that children will not go hungry during the summer months. Last summer alone, 167,000 meals were served to children who qualified for free and reduced lunch during the school year. While this number is impressive, two key facts stand out to me. First, the overall need in our community is staggering. Second, the number of children served is a drop in the bucket compared to the children in need in the community, somewhere around 10%. We believe that increased access and funding will help make sure that children don’t go hungry and our federal government helps make this possible. 

Why does advocacy matter? If we believe in stronger communities, we need to stand and talk about their needs. The two items listed are just a couple. We could add an increase of support around mental health, decrease in the opioid crisis, increase of support around preventable disease control, and…..

The Y is here to make a difference and make change on a community wide level.  Will you help us?

See you at the Y!

Steve Smith, President