The far-reaching Y

On Jan. 1, the Marco Island YMCA officially became the Greater Marco YMCA.

Because the Y’s programs are increasingly utilized not only by Marco residents, but also by off-island residents who work on the Island, the Y is reaching out to other communities to increase its membership base. This will allow the Y to serve a greater population, explains Cindy Love, CEO and executive director of the Y for 16 years.

But, to achieve that goal, the Y’s board of directors realized the facility needs updating. Specifically, it needs more meeting space, program facilities, a full-size gymnasium and more room for seminars and educational programs. These needs spurred the start of a capital campaign, the largest fundraising program ever undertaken by the Y, designed to meet identified community needs.

“Marco needs a bigger Y,” says Love.

Starting the Y

In the 1970s, as Marco Island began to evolve into an Island community, drawing people from around the world to live, work and play, the Deltona Corporation set aside a portion of land for recreational use, and the Y began with a portable building and two tennis courts. In January 1985, the Y became independent, with the goal of serving the needs of the Marco Island community.

Love describes her vision of the Y as a community asset, partnering and collaborating with other facilities, encouraging children, families and adults to “recreate together.”

Because one out of every three Americans is involved with a Y at some time in their lives, Love describes the Y’s membership as running the gamut of age groups and having a wide variety of economic and ethnic backgrounds.

“We have become a hub for social services,” she says, “and we provide outlets for families to grow and develop together and individually. The membership is strong,” she continues, “and our programs are mission driven. Our mission is to fill the needs of the community and to provide an environment that fosters character development and values, so that everyone can reach his or her full potential.”

Because the Y is independent, it pays dues only to the national organization, in exchange for social, legal, financial and programming resources. The national dues are based on 2 percent of the membership fees collected. Donations to the Y are exempt from national assessment and belong to the Marco Y. All contributions to the capital campaign fund are applied directly to the new development.

The capital campaign

Since the capital campaign began several years ago, it has moved through various stages. The first phase was a feasibility study and included resident participation to identify what the community wanted and what needs should be addressed. The goal of the first phase was to redevelop the south end of the property and the children’s areas.

Part of that phase was building the Airnasium, including a new basketball court and adding large equipment storage areas, as well as all the site preparation and development, which has been completed, with the exception of the final building site.

The second phase addressed issues of drainage, swales and parking and was completed during summer 2007.

The third phase is the construction of an expanded building that will include larger fitness areas, more preschool space and a Senior Center, to be fully staffed, with new programs added. The site preparation for the building’s foundation will soon be completed.

Phases one and two were completely paid for when the renovations were finished.

The Y is hopes to raise the $4 million dollars needed to complete the third phase before construction of the building begins.

“We don’t want any debt after the building is completed,” she explains. The board of directors, comprised of dedicated volunteers, has an enormous financial responsibility just to keep the Y financially stable. “Our normal overhead is tremendous,” explains Love.

Y programs

The program was established and developed through grant funding, literacy, sports and specialty programs and summer camps, as well as programs both on- and off-site that affect area schools and children.

“Many East Naples children attend Marco Island schools,” Love says, “and all of these programs enhance the opportunities available to the entire Marco Island educational community.”

There are many new programs this season at the Y. As always, the emphasis on fitness and health is strong.

The new cycling classes are nearly filled to capacity. Yoga, Tai Chi and other deep relaxation programs are well-received, too. But the most popular classes are the Light and Lively exercise groups that aren’t easy, but not hard core, either.

Jennifer Bristow, health and fitness coordinator, is enthusiastic about the turnout she gets. “To see 25 to 30 people in a 9 a.m. aerobics class is really amazing!” she enthuses. “The facilities here and the equipment are great. We just need more space.”

She would love to establish an aerobics studio, a quiet studio for yoga and a place to host a luncheon speaker series, where relevant topics on health and fitness are discussed. Plus, members need a place just to socialize. Bristow would also like to start a triathlon training program.

“I’d like to make a difference with my work here,” she says.

Connie Kormanyos has been the bulwark of the tennis program at the Y for a long time. She recalls that when she came to Marco from the Naples Y, there were only four people playing tennis.

“My hardest work was going out into the community and bringing in people to play tennis. There were four hard courts back then,” she says. Within three years, there were more than 300 people playing on those four courts. Today, the Y has clay courts.

Kormanyos says that she has always had a large number of seniors and beginning students. “I teach all ages,” she says, but teaches women most. “I find that today, my students have more playing experience and more class experience, and they are much more aggressive about what they want from a teacher.”

With kids, as well as adults, Kormanyos says she emphasizes respect and court etiquette.

Aquatics Specialist Dottie Weiner doesn’t see much difference between the programs she taught years ago and those she teaches now. There are many more children now, she notes, with students from Tommie Barfield, Manatee and Lely Elementary participating in her Learn to Swim classes, as well as her annual Waterwise water safety programs.

“The children have always been attentive and well-behaved,” says Weiner.

Not only has “Miss Dottie” been the backbone of the Y’s aquatics program, but she continues to be one of the foremost advocates for the Y in the community. As a member of the community development committee, she raises money, solicits members, chairs and participates in fundraising events, as well as representing the Y in many local, county, state and national organizations.

“They call me ‘The 50/50 queen,’” she laughs, referring to her successful 50/50 raffles.

Why the Y?

Love says the most frequent comment she hears is, “I joined this Y because of the people here.”

Steve Reynolds, member services supervisor, describes the membership as supportive and caring. He praises the staff members and says that each one is a reflection of the Y in the community. “The good response we get from the membership testifies to the good relationships between staff and members.”

The Y partners with many area organizations to provide facilities and develop programs based on mutually identified community needs. The capital campaign fundraising efforts will ensure that those needs are met.

© 2009 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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