By Paul Thein
President & CEO
Greater Naples YMCA
The YMCA campus on Pine Ridge Road is home to nearly 6,000 members, but the Y is casting a much wider net to help reach the community.
The YMCA’s mission centers on strengthening the Collier County community by welcoming everyone and providing services and programs designed to meet the needs of families and children, regardless of membership. Project Graduation, the Learn to Swim Drowning Prevention program and the weekly connections we provide for autistic families and children are clear examples of collaborations.
At the Y, we often partner with other agencies to greater reach the community. At other times, you’ll see the Y take on a full-fledged leadership role blazing the trail, often hoping others will follow.
The role the YMCA plays depends on the initiative and the intended outcome.
In May, Collier County Public Schools called upon child care providers to submit their qualifications to potentially serve our children at local school sites. For me, there was only one choice to respond to the call.
The first step in preparing a proposal from the Y was to find out what programs and services would best serve the kids and parents. Being new to the area and only on the job 45 days, I reached out to Lucinda “Cindy” Love, the CEO of the Marco YMCA. The Marco and Naples YMCAs are considered two separate entities, but through our conversation we felt we could best provide services for Collier County students if we worked as one YMCA.
A Marco and Naples YMCA partnership translates to an army of dedicated employees. Together we are extremely well-versed in wellness programming and reading literacy programs. Responding separately potentially weakens our ability to best serve the children. Our proposal was submitted and our YMCA teams jointly completed a presentation, along with a handful of other providers.
In the end, we were selected by five area schools. The schools we will be working with are all considered Title I schools. The majority of the families are of economic need, with many of the children speaking other languages besides English in their home.
With little over a month until the beginning of the school year, we are working diligently to prepare for what we feel will be the best programming possible. We are seeking partners to help with funding the program targeted to low-income families, and we are busy writing grants to help pay for the additional services needed. We hope to bring in partners, such as other nonprofits, to help serve the children.
The Y is also working to develop programs to help strengthen the community by focusing on its core values: youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. The Y also has recently introduced a new after school partnership program.
Additionally, both the Marco and Naples YMCAs are hosting on-site programs where children are bused into the nearest Y facility from their schools.
To find out how you can help support this community effort, please contact the Greater Naples YMCA at 239-597-3148 or visit www.greaternaplesymca.org.