West Cook YMCA to host open house and Day of Recognition in Oak Park

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By Community Editor

Courtesy West Cook YMCA

Focused around the rally cry, "We're the West Cook YMCA—and we're here to stay!" the nonprofit charitable organization that serves 10 west suburban communities, will kick off its year-long 110th anniversary with an Open House, Saturday, Jan. 26.

Donors and community members will view $260,000 in recent renovations throughout the Y's 60-year-old building. Contributors will be feted in a recognition event as part of the day.

"Families, single adults, seniors, teens and youth of all ages are invited to tour the West Cook YMCA at 255 South Marion Street Oak Park from 9:45 a.m. to 2 p.m.

"However, our real invitation is to residents of the communities we serve to experience what we mean when we say that today we're all about youth development, healthy living and social responsibility," said Jan Pate, president and CEO.

As an added incentive to join the YMCA family now, the normal joiner's fee for all levels of membership is waived through January 31, 2013, she explained.

"After plans for a move to Forest Park were not realized in 2009, the West Cook YMCA board spent several years reflecting on how best to live its mission and focused on what it does best—serving its communities with a full schedule of programs built around healthy living for families, single adults, seniors and young people of all ages. Our goals are to help our members relieve stress, reduce obesity and its consequences and foster community bonding and relationships for the common good," explained Phil Gordon, board chair.

Open House Details

The Open House will begin at 9:45 a.m. with opportunities to take a Beginner level fitness class; take part in youth and family gaming demonstrations in the recently remodeled Y-BOX; visit Preschool classrooms; join a cycling or other fitness classes; listen to a motivational speaker and participate in a drill during a Youth Basketball League break.

The afternoon will conclude with an open swim in the YMCA's pool beginning at 1:30 p.m.

A full schedule of demonstrations and classes is posted on the West Cook YMCA's website www.westcookymca.org

New exercise equipment, remodeled wellness areas, a newly fitted youth Y-BOX and the total renovation of the Y's adult wet areas—showers, toilets, steam rooms and sauna in the men's and women's spas—will be ready for inspection. A new family changing area to serve seniors and parents of young children has been added to the swimming pool deck

The project was partially funded by a bequest from the estate of the late James T. Kazda, of Berwyn, who lived in the West Cook YMCA's single room occupancy section during the 1970s.

Members of the Kazda family, along with other donors to the West Cook YMCA, will be honored at a special Recognition reception during the Open House, said Pate.

West Cook YMCA Focus on Youth Development, Healthy Living, Social Responsibility

"As we begin our 110th year, we remain focused on helping to create healthy communities by continuing to teach children and adults the Y's traditional core values of caring, honesty, respect and responsibility.

"Today's YMCA is so much more than brick and mortar to house athletic and fitness facilities. Month in and month out, we collaborate with scores of other organizations—schools, park districts, senior facilities, health care providers, faith based institutions, government agencies and others in an effort to impact the communities we serve," said Pate.

"In our focus on youth development, we're dedicated to positioning young people for success. Whether through an all-day Preschool program which provides our youngest Y members for success in kindergarten, in our learning-centered before-and-after school programs for elementary and middle-school youth, or a teen leadership program which introduces young adults to the wider world through global Y partnerships, we're providing the next generation with the skills it needs to learn, grow and thrive in a richly diverse and inclusive environment," Pate said.

"The Y's focus on healthy living means that we'll continue our emphasis on chronic disease prevention by supporting individuals who struggle with diabetes, obesity, hypertension, stress and other conditions as well as members who wish to stay in shape.

"Social Responsibility is also a major focus at the Y, and we're proud of our collaboration with PADS, Hephzibah, Oak Leyden Township, Opportunity Knocks and other community partners. The West Cook YMCA is an important safety net to prevent homelessness through its Single Resident Occupancy housing facilities. And, we operate a Community Learning Center to provide seniors and resident members with access to technology," Pate said.
West Cook YMCA Background

In 1903, the YMCA opened on North Oak Park Avenue just east of Scoville Park in a building that is a condominium today. Like many other YMCAs, the focus was on athletics, adult
education and bible study.

The present Marion Street building opened in 1953, where programs mushroomed and over the decades have evolved to meet the changing needs of the day. For example, Pate said, caring for young people was added in the 1970s and is now being expanded this month to a full- day Preschool to help prepare young children for kindergarten.

Annually, the West Cook YMCA touches the lives of more than 12,000 residents of Oak Park, River Forest, Forest Park, Bellwood, Elmwood Park, Franklin Park, Maywood, Melrose Park, River Grove and Stone Park. More than 100 weekly programs and classes are conducted either in the Marion Street building or in outreach at facilities throughout the west suburban communities served by the West Cook YMCA.

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