"Find Something You Are a Part Of:" Cecil's Story

We’re on the cusp of the holiday season. That time of year when we all get sucked into the hustle and bustle. Get ready, because you know it’s coming. As we prepare to greet November and dive into the season of blessings and giving, now is a great time to remind ourselves that blessings aren’t just thanks for what we are given, but also a time of imparting intangible blessings onto OTHERS.

There are stories all around us. We all have one. The question is whether or not we choose to share it. Cecil Williams is among our Downtown Family YMCA wellness staff. From the outside, one might see an individual with physical challenges, but his story is one of great strength and an inspiration to us all.

Cecil joined the Downtown Family YMCA staff in 2018. A longtime member of the Y and an active participant in Silver Sneakers, aquatics, Pilates, and cycle, Cecil recalls the moment he decided to pursue employment with the Y.

“I said to myself, ‘Cecil, you can either stay home or you can come and do something. Why not work here?’”

Cecil has been classified as disabled since 2010 due to cerebellar ataxia, a disorder that occurs when the cerebellum, which is responsible for controlling gait and muscle coordination, becomes inflamed or damaged.  Cecil’s disorder progressed slowly from braces, to a cane, to a walker.

Currently, Cecil works 19 hours per week for the YMCA and drives himself to work.

“I love what I do,” he says. “It’s a community of friends. And it gives me more of a purpose.”

Not only does Cecil show up, but he brings with him a spirit of drive and inspiration that he hopes to share with others. 

“We all have a story to tell. Whether it’s a large or small, we can always be an inspiration. I have always been an optimist against all odds. I always prefer to see the best in the world and most importantly, in people. I feel that God has given me a gift for touching people’s lives, encouraging others to be great, and not focusing on my physical condition.

May 9, 2003 is the day my life changed forever. I was involved in a head-on collision. I escaped the wreck with only a fractured wrist and a fractured finger. As the months passed on, my wrist pain continued, hence I was diagnosed with Peripheral Neuropathy.  I will never forget what the receptionist told me as I was signing out of the Outpatient Clinic: “You got more than you bargained for.” I didn’t pay it any mind in the beginning as I started on my research to find out the cause; but I still wasn’t experiencing any symptoms. 

As the years passed, I noticed progressive physical changes in my body. My nerves and muscles are weaker, pain and numbness in lower extremities and hands, and unpredictable gait flares (loss of balance). To this very day, the doctors still don’t know how to treat me or even find the cause of this disease.

In 2008, I became unemployed due to my health. With that crushing blow, there was no denying that my health was showing drastic changes in my work performance. More challenges followed on through the years, to the point that doing physical labor was out of the question. I currently use a walker to help keep my balance more stable.

All in all, I don’t know how this aliment originated, but I have, and will continue to battle through all the setbacks. Encouraging others builds my strength. My faith in God remains strong, and I know that I need Him and can do nothing without Him. God gives me the peace and strength I need to continue my journey, as he helps me to inspire others.

In my mind, I just want to be a positive voice and continue being a blessing to others. It’s not all about me, and I believe that I have an inspiring story that will continue to motivate and inspire others.  God is not done with me yet. I am willing to go and do His will, and He gets the glory for all that I do and all that I am.”
— - Cecil Williams

According to Cecil, he now has the best of “both worlds” – he’s found something to live for and something he loves to do. Today, in addition to working the wellness floor, Cecil has also volunteered for the Ironman for the past 2 years, and currently has a trainer to stay active.

 “By being more active here, I can be more active outside the Y,” he said.

We all have seasons of setbacks. Whether yours are seen or unseen, physical or emotional, or short term or long term, we ALL have the opportunity to use what might be seen as a weakness as a strength instead. When we do that… and share it with others, we not only grow as individuals, but we strengthen our community by letting others know that we’re all in this think called life together. And THAT builds a better us. A stronger us.

 Cecil’s advice to others? 

“Find something you are a part of,” he says.

 “I’m encouraged by others who come with challenges. I want them to know that they aren’t alone.”

Back To School Eve... Are You Ready?

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Twas the night before school started
when all through the town
the parents were cheering
it was a riotous sound.

By eight the kids were washed
and tucked into bed
when memories of homework
filled them with dread.

New pencils, new folders, new notebooks too,
new teachers, new friends, the anxiety grew.
The parents just giggled when they heard of this fright
and shouted upstairs-GO TO BED-IT’S A SCHOOL NIGHT!
— Author: Unknown

Where did Summer 2018 go? In the blink of an eye, here we are on what is for many, the eve of the first day of school.  If you're like many parents, the beginning of school is met with mixed feelings. It is sad to see the summer go (And most of us are not at all ready to see Christmas trees already up in stores!), but looking ahead to a new school year holds its own excitement too! 

As you count the required #2 pencils, crayons and composition books; bag up the glue sticks; label the backpacks and get all of the ducks in a row, we argue that amidst the chaos, back to school season offers a new opportunity to do something different this school year.

It could be a positive change in your evening schedule, an enhancement to family time, taking advantage of a new extracurricular activity for your child, just to name a few. Don't let the overwhelming pile of school supplies, back to school clothes, schedule demands, or entrance into this busy season get the better of you. Check out these tips and find at least one way you can enhance both your child's back to school experience and yours. 

1. Populate your calendar. For alot of us, this isn't our first back to school rodeo, but still somehow, year after year, things have a way of sneaking up on us, don't they? Most schools offer a list of important days to remember – conferences, concerts, professional development days. Plug it all into your calendar or cell phone now so you'll be prepared.

2. Streamline school lunches. If your child plans to take a lunch to school, pull together all the plastic containers and thermoses. Having your kids' favorite fruits and snacks on hand could get them more excited to pack their own lunchboxes.

3. Set up for homework success. Whether it's in their bedroom or a corner of the kitchen, set up a spot that's dedicated to homework. Make sure it's well lit and away from distractions like the TV, tablet or cell phones.

4. Organize your entryway. It all collects right by the door, right? Cubbies and wall hooks can simplify rushed mornings.

5. Pack it up. Pencils? Check. Ruler? Check. What about extra shoelaces, band-aids or hand sanitizer? Pack a life's-little-emergencies kit in a zippered plastic bag that can live alongside the textbooks and gym shorts. 

6. Wind down the bedtime. Help kids ease back into school-year sleep schedules with a consistent evening routine to wind them down at night.

7. Make time for fun -- for your child and YOU. Now is a great time to register your child for Fall Youth Sports at the YMCA. And remember, financial assistance is available to those who need it (call or visit your local Y for more on financial assistance). As for you, Parent's Night Out at the Y can be the perfect way to de-stress and chill. Check out this program and when to find it at your area branch. 

8. Back to health. Get your mind back in gear and return to healthy habits like colorful meals, planning time for exercise (whether you need a trainer, want to exercise on your own, or participate in one of 350+ group land or water exercise classes offered association-wide). 

9.  Listen to your kids. Anxiety and nerves can take over, so provide a safe environment at home and in the classroom. Talk to kids about bullying and what to do if they encounter it.

10. Relax. Whether it's adding in exercise time into your day, stepping out of the office and grabbing fresh air, reading a book, meditating, or a host of others, remember to relax. Mind. Body. Spirit. The health of one is directly tied to the health of the others. 

In closing, remember the Y is here as a resource for you, your children, and your family unit as a whole. On behalf of all of us here at the Y, we wish you and your families a Merry Back to School morning! 

YMCA for Best of the Best Non-Profit - But WHY?

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It's the title every Chattanooga area organization and business wants to achieve... Best of the Best in their category.  It's a status of excelling; of being THE very best; and of setting oneself apart from others - not to mention the bragging rights make for great marketing, right? 

Thanks to our members and supporters, the YMCA of Metropolitan Chattanooga has been a front-runner for a couple years now for Best of the Best in the Health Club category. While we very much appreciate the votes, and will continue to strive to be THE best in our offerings to members regarding fitness and healthy living, we want to ask you to vote a different way this year... and in the years to come.

Your vote in the Non-Profit category, however, helps the Y be recognized as a community leader and a community changer- not for bragging rights, but because we want to empower people to be strong not just individually and physically, but strong collectively in spirit and in mission. Quite simply, we believe doing good works is just the right thing to do. 

It's challenging to paint a picture of EVERYTHING the Y does for members and the community on a daily/monthly/yearly basis. Yes, our focus is very much Healthy Living by way of our programs inside our facility walls, but it's also equally Youth Development... and equally Social Responsibility. You see, our endeavors reflect all three. 

Every day while thousands of members are using our facilities, engaged in our programs, swimming in our pools, utilizing camps, Parents Night Out, etc., the Y is strengthening the community in so many ways that may go unnoticed. 

Did you know: 

  • We are on track to pack 800,000 HEALTHY meals this year at countless feeding sites across Chattanooga and surrounding areas
     
  • While other businesses turn away individuals and families because of inability to pay for services, the Y says, "You are welcome here," and offers financial assistance
     
  • Our Backpack Blessings program out of our North Georgia Community YMCA packs thousands of meals that are delivered to area schools and then into the small hands of school-aged children who may not have access to healthy meals over the weekend. 
     
  • YMCA Y-CAP is growing by leaps and bounds and making lasting and positive change in the lives of so many youth who are at risk of going down a different path... until they reach the Y. 
     
  • We aren't just providing these outreach programs on our own in a silo... we're partnering with other community non-profits who share our desire for a better community. A better future. And a better us. 
     
  • The Y's Restore Ministries Program is giving individuals a support system for a variety of life's struggles

For these and so many other reasons, we ask you to show your support for the YMCA by voting us Best of the Best Non-Profit... because after all, that is what we are. 

Now through July 5, you can show your support by acknowledging the work we do is so far outside the scope of physical "health." You can place your vote by following the instructions below. Your vote matters and the Y thanks you in advance for your support. 

 1. Go to www.bestofchatt.com
2.  Click on "Vote Now" and then click "People"
3. Scroll to find the "Non-Profit" category and vote "YMCA Metropolitan Chattanooga." 

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Through the Eyes of a YMCA Lifeguard

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Special thanks to Kristy Snider, Cleveland Family YMCA Aquatics Director and other Cleveland Family YMCA contributing lifeguards for offering unique perspective in our May Blog. 

Today, the YMCA of Metropolitan Chattanooga wraps up Safety Around Water Week, a FREE outreach program that teaches kids the basics of water safety.  Between the hustle and bustle of kids in our pools this week and the warm weather, this week truly felt like Summer was really just around the corner! As you prepare plans for your summer, remember to register your child for Summer Day Camp at your local Y. Not only will they be engaged in crafts, outdoor play, healthy eating, a break from cell phones and iPad, socialization with other children, field trips and more, but they will get DAILY SWIM TIME! 

As we shift gears to a Summer mentality, most of us have dancing thoughts of family vacations, pools, beaches, lakes and relaxing bodies of water -- all accompanied by the sweet sound of our children laughing and splashing about. But it only takes seconds for things to go horribly wrong... Check out below from the perspective of our own lifeguards what they've seen, what goes into their training and what they wish you knew about their crucial roles in protecting children and adults alike.  

30 seconds... It's the amount of time it should take for a lifeguard to recognize and reach a person who needs assistance in the water.

Summertime is fast approaching. That means planning for vacations, enjoying time away from school or work, and preparing for the fun family times to come. We can easily prepare for fun, but do we prepare for potential dangers? 

As a society, we don’t view water safety with the importance it deserves. The people who truly understand water safety to be of vital importance and view water competency as a life skill are lifeguards. They are seen at pools, beaches, lakes, water parks, and more.  Lifeguards are actively pursuing the spread of water safety to the entire community because they know that this knowledge could save a life in the future. They wish that everyone had access to water safety knowledge and for those who do, they wish for them to take full advantage of their knowledge and put it into practice, which could save a life.

What is the perspective YOU have on a lifeguard’s duties? Do you have some misconceptions? What is something that you would want to see in your local lifeguard -- at the YMCA or elsewhere?

The lifeguards we put in our stands understand and train for the REALITY OF THEIR JOBS. They train for the “what-if” scenarios.  
  • Are they someone who watches your child for you, or someone who searches every individual’s face in their zone to make sure they are alright? 
  • Do you see a professional who put in hours of training or a young adult who found an easy summer job? 
  • Someone who is held to a high number of qualifications or someone who has only sought out the bare minimum?

The lifeguards we put in our stands understand and train for the REALITY OF THEIR JOBS. They train for the "what-if" scenarios.  

Some of our lifeguards have experienced tragedy firsthand. It is heartbreaking to be helpless in knowing there was nothing you could do or worrying that you didn’t do enough. 

Drowning is the second leading cause of preventable death for children under the age of 15 and the number three cause of preventable death in adults. They could have to save a life, and many have. Unfortunately, there are situations where a lifeguard isn’t able to save someone.  But sweeping tragedies under the rug only amplifies the problem. Some of our lifeguards have experienced tragedy firsthand. It is heartbreaking to be helpless in knowing there was nothing you could do or worrying that you didn’t do enough.  Most who have had to implement the skills they diligently practice use those experiences and tragedies to become better lifeguards.  They use their experiences as examples and knowledge to help them prepare other lifeguards for the realities of the job.

Looking from the outside in, you don’t always see the details of the job of a lifeguard. We are there to scan the pool thoroughly and respond to any emergencies, but our job is also largely focused on preventing any emergencies from ever occurring in the first place. We reinforce rules and take extra precautions to make sure everyone entering our water stays as safe as possible, but unfortunately we can’t be everywhere.  Most of those preventable drownings happen at pools that don’t use a lifeguard, including home pools. 

Prevention is key in keeping our kids and families safe. Empower yourself and your family by seeking out water safety and learn to swim programs for your children. Be part of the solution.  

Remember, it takes less than thirty seconds for something to change, and it could lead to something we can’t undo.

In addition to offering Safety Around Water each Spring, the Y offers swim lessons YEAR ROUND. You have invaluable tools and resources through our pools, lifeguards and aquatics programs to equip your children to be in and near bodies of water safely.  Call your local branch, download our new Chattanooga YMCA app or visit our website to learn more about Y programs available to you.

An Exercise in Soul-Tending

This month's blog is guest-authored by our YMCA Chaplain, Janice Keebler. 

On April 1, Easter Sunday, I will celebrate my first anniversary as the YMCA of Metropolitan Chattanooga Chaplain. This year has been one of the most spiritually fulfilling of my pastoral ministry. I want to thank the YMCA for taking a chance on a retired preacher! And I am so grateful to God for caring about the spiritual wellness of everyone who comes through a YMCA door.

How do we know when our spirits are well? The old gospel song “It Is Well with My Soul” speaks of peace like a river flowing through our lives. When the river swells, our souls fill up with joy, and we join the chorus: “It is well, it is well, with my soul!”

But how often do we actually pause and assess our spiritual health? When do we express our gratitude to God for an overflowing year? When do we acknowledge to ourselves and our loved ones that the river is dried up? Not often enough.

We assess our physical fitness well. I know my body mass index, weight, cholesterol level, resting heart rate, blood pressure, and bone density. I can track my daily steps, caloric intake, planking time, balance, and flexibility. Many of you track many more physical variables!

We do a pretty good job with assessing our mental abilities too. Most adults know their I.Q., and many can cite their SAT or ACT scores from high school, however long ago. Many kids can rattle off their math and reading percentiles!

So friends, I want to ratchet up our spiritual well-being assessment skill set. As we prepare for Easter and the celebration of new life, I invite you to examine your soul.  If you can say “Yes” to every question in the spiritual assessment below, then join the gospel chorus! But where you have a question mark, or even a “No,” I encourage you to pause and do a little soul tending:

How Well Is Your Soul?

1.     Do I wake up feeling that each day is a gift of time?

2.     Am I a friend to at least one person who knows that I am there for them, thick or thin?

3.     Does my work connect to something that makes a positive difference in someone’s life?

4.     Am I able to name the blessings in my life, no matter how insignificant?

5.     Are there people in my life who know my innermost secrets and love me anyway?

6.     When I am in pain, do I allow myself to be consoled?

7.     If I turn to God for help, do I experience a peace that is hard to describe?

8.     When I am feeling strong and happy, do I share my gladness?

9.     Do I see the world, and everything in it, as interconnected and interdependent?

10.  Am I willing to sacrifice my personal goals and priorities for the sake of someone who needs me?

Blessings,

Pastor Janice

 

You/We Are Here For Good...

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It's no surprise that last night was the Super Bowl. Whether you tuned in for every minute of the game, or maybe just watched the beginning and/or half-time show or commercials - it's certain millions of eyes were on the TV last night. Of all the takeaways or favorite moments of the night, the one that caught my eye honestly has nothing to do with football and everything to do with character, service and community - ironically much like the mission of the Y. Stay with me here...

In an interview with ESPN, Philadelphia Eagles player Mychal Kendricks said: 

"You look at the outside world and where some of us have come from and where our family and friends are or what we’re able to do with the sport that we love, with helping people, being in a position to hold platforms that helps others or enlighten others, or just make someone’s day. There is some weight to it... When you’re passionate about something and you can feel it in your heart and your soul, that energy radiates outwards..."

Very well said. This week, our YMCA association and all of its branches will kick off our Community Support Campaign time period -- a few short weeks that make it possible for us to continue to serve our communities and use our "platform" for good. 

What you may not know is that in addition to serving our members with countless healthy living and youth development programs, we hold every bit as high SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY to our character. 

when you’re passionate about something, that energy radiates outward...

Each year the Y gives in excess of $1 million dollars back to the Chattanooga and surrounding areas. Every year we make strides like the following: 

  • Providing over 350,000 meals to school-aged children in 2017 (our eyes are set even higher for 2018)
  • In less than 5 years, we've gone from 4 feeding sites to now 85.
  • Offering 90+ programs to our members and community. We're adding more and more not for the sake of quantity, but because there's a real NEED. 
  • Serving more than 60,000 members association-wide and WE NEVER TURN AWAY SOMEONE FOR INABILITY TO PAY.  Countless scholarships are awarded each year to individuals and families who need it most. 
  • Providing Safety Around Water to our members and community - a week of FREE programming all geared around making kids safer around water. 
  • Partnerships throughout the community to revitalize the sense of "community" through projects like Bingo's Market or Early Learning Readiness, a program is designed to help close the achievement gap for at-risk children ages birth-4 years old.  
  • Continuing the success of our YMCA Y-CAP program for kids ages 10-14 who have been referred to us either through the juvenile court system or the school system. Each child and his/her family has a personalized treatment plan which addresses their spiritual, physical, mental and social needs.
  • Restore Ministries, which provides those suffering from addictions a network of support and guidance. 

Literally, the list could go on and on. WHY IN THE WORLD DO WE DO ALL OF THIS? Aren't we primarily just a "swim and gym?" Absolutely not and a resounding NO. 

While we get no money from the city or county, we aren't slowing down. We fund and grow so many of our outreach efforts through our Community Support Campaign and the giving hearts who believe in our cause and know that We're Here for Good.  

Just as Mychal Kendricks noted that with HIS platform comes an incredible opportunity to change lives in big and small ways, we completely agree. We hold ourselves accountable to changing communities and lives... to empowering others and leaving communities stronger than when we found them. Kendricks said "when you're passionate about something, that energy radiates outward..." We want to continue to radiate outward into our communities. 

The bottom line is that we serve so many outside the walls of our facilities. It's a huge undertaking. Also in our character is a desire to do the good work and not boast. But there are appropriate times of the year when we have many stories to tell... stories that will warm your hearts and make you glad you are a part of something good. Something that in a world of politics, conflict and negativity is just GOOD. 

If you feel led to assist us in our cause, please contact your local branch. If you have a story to tell, we want to hear it! Call us or message us on Facebook.  Together, WE CAN ALL BE HERE FOR GOOD. 

No More Slippery New Year's Resolutions: Make This One STICK!

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Another New Year means another chance for many of us to set (or break) resolutions... whether it's to lose weight, eat healthy, volunteer more, schedule more time for self and/or family, start a new hobby, save money, etc. Whether you are the type of person to go all in with resolutions or just contemplate small changes, does it ever feel like over time New Year's resolutions become a bit of a joke (In fact, many of us may have already broken our resolutions!)?  With more than half of resolutions failing, where are we going wrong? See if any of these reasons fit your situation... 

  • We want big results without big efforts. 
  • We set our eyes on unrealistic goals.
  • We are creatures of habit... and we like it that way. We are hesitant to change. 
  • It just got hard, so I thought; 'What's the point?'

What if you changed your strategy and prepared for THIS year's resolution to stick. Check out these tips. 

Pick the right resolution

And make it be one that REALLY matters to you.  A resolution may could be wrong for YOU if: 

  • It's something you tell yourself you need to do based on what someone else (or the world) tells you to change. 
  • It's too general (Is it really realistic that you'll NEVER eat anything in a box or bag and you'll lose 80 pounds in 4 weeks?  Or would it be better to be more specific with a goal... "For 30 days, I won't eat _____..." OR "My goal is to eat more green veggies..." OR "I will begin moderate exercise for 20 minutes 4 days a week...").
  • You aren't prepared and there's no plan to execute your goal (Great, so you are going to save for a new car or a better vacation. Have you done your homework and prepared a budget? Or researched what you may have to give up in order to reach that goal?)

Be prepared to stumble. 

Starting any new thing can be a challenge. We want to be successful, but after falling off the band wagon a time or two, sometimes we just toss the towel in and give up! We are harder on ourselves than on others! NO ONE is perfect, and neither will our journey to achieve our goal(s) be. 

  • Small progress is still progress! It doesn't have to be all or nothing. 
  • Allow yourself to stumble. Then love yourself and get back up.
  • Yes, be positive, but also realistic. We fail in life all the time. Mistakes happen. This is realistic. expect it to happen, keep a positive frame of mind when it does, and then get back in the game.
  • Life gets in the way. How many times have we all started some endeavor (New Year or not) with the greatest of intentions, but life just gets in the way. Kids, work, stress, sleep, co-workers, money... the list could go on. Be FLEXIBLE when life gets in the way. 

Identify those who support you. 

  • We tend to be on better behavior when we know someone is watching and will hold us accountable! In this case, lean on your friends, family or co-workers who want to see you succeed and will hold you accountable for the goal(s) you set. 

Finally, chances are, if you've set a goal for health, diet, exercise, more family time, money management, or even to set some new spiritual goals -- the Y can help you with those efforts! Furthermore, we want to be the community that supports you to become a better YOU - because in doing that, we become a better US. When in doubt, visit your branch and share your goal or resolution and ask what resources are available to you. You might just be surprised... 

Did the Wise Men Really Invent Gifting? What We Can All Learn From Them

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What if there were only three gifts under your Christmas tree this year?  What if only one of them were tangible and could be unwrapped?

Stay with us here. We're not suggesting you literally only put three gifts under your tree, but rather, challenge us all to remember how gift-giving came to be and how we can keep the spirit of the Christmas story and the three wise men alive in modern day. 

While we don't really know where the wise men came from or how long they traveled on their journey to see Jesus, we can make educated guesses, but it doesn't really matter. It's the gifts they brought to give to Jesus that we do know.

The Bible (in the book of Matthew) tells us that the wise men brought three gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh. All three of these gifts were costly and valuable. Gold, the first gift; was a gift given to a king. Frankincense, the second gift; a fragrance used in the making of incense, was a gift given to a priest. Myrrh, the third gift; was used as an embalming agent on a dead body; it was gift for someone who was going to die. 

Scholars have varying opinions on the significance of the three gifts. Many believe their significance lies in the honor they represent, the implied status in the value of the gifts, and that the gifts were chosen for their special SPIRITUAL SYMBOLISM about Jesus himself—gold representing his kingship, frankincense a symbol of his priestly role, and myrrh a foreshadowing of his death and embalming. Still other scholars have suggested that the gifts of the wise men were a bit more practical and very customary gifts for kings and rulers in those times. Regardless, it's fairly certain that they didn't rush to Target on Black Friday with their lists. It was thought out. And it meant enough to them to travel at length, placing their faith in a star. 

Fast forward to 2018...During the Christmas season, we have a tendency to center our attention on gift giving and receiving. We like to give gifts we know the other person will like or can use, and we ourselves enjoy getting gifts for the same reason. In a society where Christmas decorations and sales begin practically before Halloween, its very easy to get caught up in rushing around getting every item crossed off our lists just so we can move on to the next item on our list. At times, it can be just too methodical, right?

Christmas comes with a message of peace for the home, the nation and the world as Jesus Christ taught the humanity about giving peace and happiness to others.

The tradition of gifting is the best way to celebrate the festive season and it makes moments memorable, right?  Looking beyond the gifts, though, Christmas comes with a message of peace for the home, the nation and the world as Jesus Christ taught the humanity about giving peace and happiness to others. The mood of Christmas just gets an added zest with the exchange of gifts, but it shouldn't be the focus. What if we shifted our GIVING frame of mind this way: 

1. GOLD = Something you need or want. 

2. FRANKINCENSE = Something to share. A well thought-out gift, gesture or even time devoted to another person. 

3. MYRRH = Something spiritual or personally significant. Something that betters your spirit or outlook. Perhaps a new goal or project? Maybe join a small group or set aside time either for yourself to reflect, meditate or pray OR time set aside with family, friends or others. 

We should all think about our gift giving this year. Is it about the gifts, the lists, the method or about being with those we love? Or embodying the spirit of Christmas all year long by showing peace to those we interact with. Regardless of our individual religious affiliations, we can share the "zest" of Christmas by gifting love and peace... all year long.

From all of us at the YMCA, we hope this Christmas season brings a deep and richer meaning to you and your family. 

Find a Thankful Spirit in a Challenging Society

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As a society, we automatically associate the month of November with THANKS and Thanksgiving. Out with the pumpkins, and in with Thanksgiving preparations, Black Friday, Christmas trees, and holiday lists. But just because we associate a theme or word with a given month, doesn’t mean we are really taking the time to reflect and experience ‘thankfulness.’

Let’s be honest, there are seasons of life when we dwell more on what’s wrong in our society, instead of what is right. Increasingly, it's hard to find a positive story that takes the spotlight on the news or social media. Dwelling in this state makes it difficult to see that there are still things to be thankful for.  

We live in a day and age with growing boundaries around healthcare, increasingly loud political noise, differing views, natural disasters, financial worry, health troubles and more. Not to mention that if we could just slow down the rat race and turn off the phones… well, there’d be a world of possibilities, wouldn’t there?

There is much to be thankful for – individually and collectively. Not only that, but the month of Thanksgiving presents an opportunity to not just be thankful, but to share a GIVING sprit and spread peace and love, which SHOULD last 12 months out of the year.

Find a Thankful spirit… and then share peace.

As an organization, the Y is thankful for many things. Some include:

  • Members – We love our members and it brings us joy to see you engage with each other in our facility and in the community. Whether your goal is healthy living or social engagement, we’re thankful you’ve chosen the YMCA.
     
  • Changed Lives – Whether by our feeding programs, YMCA Y-CAP, scholarship individuals, or any other of the countless programs we offer; the Y is thankful to have the opportunity to further its mission in the community. Because we see individuals, families, and communities changed through our programs, we know that no matter what boundaries society places on people, hope and change are possible.
     
  • Our Youth – The development of children entrusted in our care is at the core of what we do. And we are thankful to be an engaged part of their lives – through child watch, day camp, YMCA Camp Ocoee, Teen Programs, YMCA-YCAP, Parent’s Night Out, and more, we want to prepare our youth to conquer the world and be the best they can be.

This Thanksgiving, we encourage you to find a Thankful spirit… and then share peace. As we enter this season of giving and thanks, find a way to enrich your own life by giving to another. Whether that’s through a food drive, a church organization, Giving Tuesday, angel tree, Operation Christmas Child, or a host of other opportunities (many of which we’ll be telling you about or you’ll see in our branches).

By doing this, you might be surprised that the changed life could also be your own…and you will be making the Y and our community stronger.

Non-Y Members: This one's for you! (and members too)

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What’s In It For Me (A must read)?

As Fall Break comes to a close, many of you are returning back to town after a week of fun… or maybe some of you have been scrambling trying to work or get things done while also tending to the kids who are out of school.

Twice this week, I’ve been asked around town, ‘Where are your kids this week?” Twice I’ve responded that my children are at Fall Break Camp at the YMCA and ironically, both times the response was, “We aren’t members of the Y, so that’s not an option for my kids.”

Keep reading…

Last month, I attended a birthday party at one of our YMCA branches. I overheard one mom say, “This is such a great party idea, but we aren’t members, so we have to think of other birthday party ideas.”

Of course in all three instances, I replied (with more excitement than they probably expected), “Yes you can!” These services and other services are for members and non-members.

You see, the YMCA is FOR ALL – not just those who are our members, but for everyone. Whereas, at most membership-driven places, if you are a member, you’re in and can sit at the “cool table,” but if you’re not… well, it’s just too bad. But you might be surprised the programs at your disposal through the Y even if you aren’t a member (which of course, you should be!).

  •  School Break Camps – As mentioned above, we just finished a packed house of Fall Break Camp at each of our branches. But it doesn’t stop there. We offer camps to members and non-members throughout the year when school systems are closed (Fall Break, Thanksgiving Break, Christmas Break, Spring Break, etc.). Curious what our kids have been doing? Daily swimming, reading, physical activity, playground time, crafts, and more. Did I mention swimming? Even better, included in the cost is a provided healthy lunch.
     
  • Summer Break Camp – Just like School Break Camps, we offer Summer Day Camp to members and non-members. Packed with all of the above activities like School Break Camp (and lunch offering), summer camp kids also have planned field trip days. Unlike 99% of all other summer camps, the YMCA also offers early drop-off and late pick-ups for working parents.
     
  • Birthday Parties – Nope, you don’t have to be a member to book a party at a YMCA branch. Parties can vary from just swim parties, to a la cart rentals (like inflatable swim slides at North River), to the Adventure Center (at Hamilton). Set up and clean-up is included. Who wants to book a party where the kids are occupied, you don’t have to set up, and there’s zero clean up? Pretty sure that’s all of us.
     
  • Swim Lessons – You guessed it. Offered to members and non-members YEAR ROUND.
     
  • Youth Sports – Ok, so you might have known about this one, but share with your friends! Youth Sports at the Y is for everyone!
     
  • Some a la cart specialty programs – Like the elite program, Bridge City Strength & Performance Downtown, or Pedaling for Parkinson’s at several of our branches; Rock Steady Boxing (for Parkinson’s patients), LIVESTRONG at the YMCA (our program for cancer patients), and several others. Call your local branch and ask about healthy living programs available to you.
     
  • Downtown YMCA Preschool – Yes, there’s a preschool and get this: if you enroll your child in our top-notch preschool, you get a membership automatically. Pretty cool, huh?
     
  • Parents’ Night Out – Date night, anyone? No membership required. This one is a no-brainer.
     
  • YMCA Camp Ocoee/Adventure Guides/Adventure Princesses – We feel redundant… you get the picture.

In summary, yes we are biased and believe there’s IMMEASURABLE value in joining the Y as a member –you join us in a cause that betters the community, but if, for whatever reason, you aren’t a member, the Y still exists to serve you and strengthen you and your families.

Call any one of our branches to seize these (and other) opportunities.