Building Community Through Social Responsibility

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By West Cook YMCA

At the West Cook YMCA, the focus is on developing the spirit, mind and body of members through quality leadership, programs and services. That development isn't limited by the four walls of the Y's Marion Street headquarters in Oak Park.

Through new programs that impact the community and with improvements to traditional programs, the West Cook YMCA and its members are having a great impact on the community at large.

In September, the new Togetherhood program, which began in April, will launch. This is a grass roots effort in which members will work together on community projects outside of the YMCA. The member-initiated projects will not only provide opportunities for members to work and organize together but will also affect positive change in the 10 west suburban communities served by the Y.

Member Engagement Director Kyle Hartje says of the program, "Whether our members see a need for us to clean up a community park or serve meals to seniors, the Togetherhood program provides an opportunity to really go well beyond the walls of our building. We'll expand our reach to the community and help others beyond just touching our members' lives."

Hartje is also excited about a new program that will benefit resident members of the West Cook YMCA.  "We're launching a series of new Life Skills Workshops for our residents. At the Y, we focus on the holistic health of all of our members. With the Life Skills Workshops, we will be identifying some of the needs specific to our residents, whether it is computer skills training or financial literacy classes."

Favorite traditional programs, from fundraising to holiday celebrations, continue to build on community as well.

Thanksgiving at the Y is a free community event hosted every year for residents, members and local partners. Hartje notes that this annual event is a key part of the holidays for many. "We partner with Food for Friends to provide a delicious traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Through food and fellowship, we're able to provide a memorable holiday experience for those who don't have that opportunity," Hartje said.

The West Cook YMCA's annual Christmas tree sale, now in its 44th year, is another community favorite that also supports the mission of the Y. The Y makes purchasing a Christmas tree a fun family event, that this year will include an offer of a YMCA signature coffee blend plus a holiday goody bag for children with the purchase of each tree. Proceeds of the sale support bringing Y membership to those who would not be able to afford the Y's services.

Likewise, Tara Lenardi, Financial Development Director, notes that the West Cook YMCA's Annual Gala, set for Saturday, November 12 at the Oak Park Country Club, will raise funds to support the Y's mission and allow the Y to serve those who would not be able to afford membership on their own. "We never turn anyone away for their inability to pay. Every dollar donated during our Annual Support Campaign and at our Annual Gala stays within our community. When you give, you're actually supporting your own neighbors," Lenardi says.

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