The Y isn’t a place – it’s the people. It’s the staff, members, and those who visit our buildings or take part in our programs.
That was the message that both Y board members and leadership staff shared during our Annual Member Meeting on Thursday, July 13. During the hourlong meeting, we shared updates from our three areas of impact (Youth Development, Healthy Living, and Social Impact) and some exciting plans on the horizon for our Y.
Here's what was covered:
Providing care for Skagit youth is central to the work of the Y, and the need for quality childcare in our county is higher than ever. Between our Early Learning Centers, School-Age Sites, and blended-preschool site, the Y has provided childcare for almost 350 youth in the past year.
Quality care starts with hiring and training staff that embody the values of the Y and act as positive role models for the children they teach.
During the shortened Fourth of July week, staff came together for professional development training. Early Learning and School-Age staff took part in several workshop sessions, including going through behavior management training and mandated reporting training. In addition to these learning opportunities, staff had the opportunity to meet and network with their peers who work at sites different than their own. Last but not least, staff also had time during the week to complete some much-needed deep cleaning and reorganizing at our sites, including doing some landscaping and cleaning of our playgrounds.
Tammie Young, Senior ELC Director, also shared information about her recent trip to Olympia with Board Chair Pete Vander Meulen and Executive Director of Social Impact Kat Lohman for an advocacy day at the state capitol. The three met with legislators and shared our Y story, as well as hopes and dreams for state funding that legislators can make happen. It was a great opportunity to network and advocate for state funding to support our programs!
At last year’s meeting, CEO Dean Snider introduced Kat as the new Executive Director of Social Impact. In the year since, Kat and her team have been busy defining what Social Impact means for our Y and aligning our programs. Needless to say, there are lots of exciting updates!
A big part of the past year has been bringing all our social service programs under the umbrella of Social Impact. There are four primary programs that the Y either runs or supports:
- MV HOPE (a community collaboration working to implement opioid and other drug prevention)
- Anchor Community Initiative (a statewide imitative with the goal of eliminating youth homeless; the Y is the lead agency in Skagit County and partners with local public health agencies, tribes, and other homeless support groups)
- Oasis Teen Shelter (an overnight shelter for teens ages 13-17 with home-cooked meals, therapeutic support, or case management services available)
- Outreach (includes both the Sedro-Woolley Rec Center and street outreach services for youth/young people facing housing insecurity)
The Sedro-Woolley Rec Center has been a giant success since reopening in late December last year. Since then, there have been almost 3,000 visits to the space, with a record of 67 youth visiting the space in one day. Oasis has also been busy – the shelter is tracking to surpass the number of teens served in 2022.
In an exciting announcement, Kat shared details about state investments in Oasis – over $4 million!
- Capital Funds: The Y will receive $2.7 million to rebuild Oasis to better serve the next generation of youth in our community.
- Design has begun on the new building, which could have as many as 20 beds, private rooms, ADA-compliant spaces, and more.
- Program Funds: The Y will receive $1.4 million in multi-year funding from the Office of Homeless Youth to better sustain the program.
Additional details about the new Oasis building and where the temporary shelter will be located will be shared once those details become finalized.
These are exciting times at our Hoag Road facility, and busy times, too! For reference, between August 2021 and July 2022, there were just over 145,000 visits to the Y. Between August 2022 and July 2023, however, we had nearly 250,000 visits – over 100,000 more!
In addition to a busier building, we’re also filling up many of our programs, such as Youth Sports and Swim Lessons. In the last year, nearly 2,000 kids have taken swim lessons – we couldn’t be more pleased that this many Skagit youth have learned the lifesaving skills that swim lessons teach. Beyond our youth programs, we’ve also had nearly 2700 participants in our AOA classes and hundreds of youths are playing soccer, football, volleyball, or basketball.
One of the exciting moments from the meeting was Executive Director of Hoag Operations Justin Davies’s announcement of our newly refurbished Teen Center! For those of you who remember the ping-pong table and couple of couches that used to occupy the space, get ready to use the space in a brand-new way! The space is now home to six pieces of “exergaming” equipment that combineexercise and video games into one experience. Examples of the games in the space include the iWall (a motion-based system like the Xbox Kinect), the T-Wall (a colorful hand-eye coordination board), a dance game, a heavy-ball game, an exercise bike-powered Xbox, and a floor game. While the space is open to all generations, we’re especially excited to have a place where pre-teen and teenage kids can be in the building. A big thank you to the generous donors whose gifts helped make this new game system a reality!
Justin also shared a few exciting updates related to Health and Wellness at the Y. We recently hired a new Group Fitness Manager, Elizabeth Goldsmith, to help improve our health and fitness programming for members. Elizabeth brings years of experience to the role, including at other YMCAs and fitness agencies. We’re excited to see what changes she brings! Also announced is our new app, which can now be found in both the Apple App Store andGoogle/Android Play Store. The app is a great tool for those wishing to track their fitness journey, as it connects with our Precor machines, allows you to log workouts, participate in challenges we push out, and stay up to date with news from the Y.
We aim to be a destination employer in Skagit County: not just a place that employees pass through, but a place where people stick around and build a career. The biggest asset to the Y is our staff, so HR Director Shana Whitelock and the Executive Team have made several changes to better reward the hardworking staff who make the Y the place that it is.
In the past year, Y staff have received higher wages, improved benefits (ex. bilingual speaker pay bump, family memberships for all staff – entire household can use the Y for free), holiday increases for part time employees, and modernized vacation tiers that encourage work/life balance.
Our CFOO, Sarah Weems, shared an update on the Y’s finances by going through the 990 form that we submit every year as part of being a non-profit. In 2022, our association employed 283 staff, had 12 board members, and had 64 volunteers. Our expenses went up in comparison to 2021, thanks in large part to having a bigger number of staff on payroll, providing a 6.5% Cost of Living Adjustment increase to staff wages, and increasing our paid time off.
A common question we get asked is how membership fees or program dues support the Y. Thanks to the 990 form, we’re able to share that for every dollar we spend:
- $0.84 goes to programs services (i.e. the programs we offer to the community, such as member-focused programs (swim lessons/fitness/youth sports), Childcare services (early learning and school age) and Social Impact programs (teen shelter, outreach, etc.)
- $0.13 goes to management and general
- $0.03 goes to fundraising
Additions to our Board of Directors
Because the meeting ran a little long, we didn’t have a chance to introduce our two newest members of the board:
- Liz Theaker (Director of Development at Camp Korey)
- Audra Ramerman (CFO for EDASC)
Current board member Elizabeth Neidzwski has been named Board Chair Elect will serve on the executive committee and begin her term as chair, replacing current chair Pete Vander Meulen, in July 2024.
Answering your questions
Here are responses to questions that were raised before and during the meeting. (Note: some questions have been modified slightly for clarity and to encompass multiple questions at once)
Our mission is to “create positive community change for ALL”. We are an inclusive and welcoming space for a diverse array of people: everyone in our Skagit community regardless of ability, age, cultural background, ethnicity, faith, gender expression, identity, or sexual orientation is welcome at our Y! As such, we take steps like putting up Pride materials around our building to ensure that our friends in the LGBTQ+ community feel welcomed here and know that our building is a safe space where they are accepted and loved, which is not always clear in every part of our community. Supporting marginalized communities is a central ethos of our organization.
Bringing diverse people together is what makes the Y a special movement which calls us to open our arms widely to welcome all. In doing so, we learn more about everyone’s experience, enriching our lives. Strengthening our community includes breaking down barriers and discovering the common ground we all share as human beings.
We recognize that our role is not to judge others, but rather, to show love and kindness to everyone who enters our doors!
Silver Sneakers and Prime Fitness memberships were discontinued at the end of 2021. Each year, YMCAs across the state negotiate rates with the insurance program operators. Leading up to 2022, Silver Sneakers and Prime Fitness program operators did not engage our Y at all in negotiations. This is not unique to our community – only 3 of 16 Ys in Washington still partner with Silver Sneakers programs.
We still offer the Active & Fit, Silver & Fit, and Renew Active insurance membership types and are working with these insurance options as a Washington State Alliance of YMCAs to sustain and expand these offerings in the future, as we recognize the great benefit they are to our seniors.
We launched Y for All in late January of this year as a new process for offering financial assistance to our community. The new process takes into consideration WA Poverty Guidelines, household size, childcare expenses, housing costs, and income. Unlike our previous version of financial assistance, Y for All Discounts can be applied to any Y program. For example, if a family applies and is awarded a 50% Y for All Discount, it can be applied to a Family Membership, swim lesson fees for any kids in the family, and childcare fees at one of our ELCs or School-Age sites.
Currently, we have over 330 membership units or over 1,000 individuals who are part of our Y community thanks to Y for All.
We wouldn’t be able to run Y for All without the support of our donors and business sponsors. In fact, we’re looking for additional businesses to join and support our efforts to make the Y accessible to all. If you’re interested in supporting Y for All, consider making a gift on our Give page and selecting Y for All as your designation or visiting our Community Partners page to learn more about sponsorship.
We launched our Member Appreciation Sundays as a way to give our members exclusive access to the Y, and it will continue to be a day when only members can use the building. Presently, hours are from 12-4pm, and while we don’t have any immediate plans to extend the building hours, we will share that information if we ever do!