West Cook YMCA

December 2014 Message from Phillip Jimenez

Published 12.05.14


December 2014 message from Phillip Jimenez

https://asoft8192.accrisoft.com/westcookymca/clientuploads/_photos/CEOMessage.jpg“Above the fold,” is the prime position that journalists and advertisers alike salivate over to see their stories and ads published in newspapers.

In today’s digital world, however, there are no folds. Just pixels and lots of opportunities to scroll quickly through today’s front page news. 

But wait!

On the first Thursday in December, the front page print edition of the Oak Leaves, now part of the newly established Tribune Publishing Company, carried a wonderful compelling holiday story, illustrated with a large photo, about the West Cook YMCA’s 42nd annual Christmas Tree Sale. “YMCA Annual Christmas Tree Sale Comes With Perks, Helps Poor.”

That story really set the stage for me for the holiday season here on South Marion Street because a wonderful local family was quoted that, “the reason they came to our sale was to help those in need.” And isn’t that just what this holiday season is all about?

Yes, 100 percent of the Christmas Tree Sale proceeds help provide financial assistance to qualifying families and individuals who want to participate in any of our more than 100 weekly programs to strengthen their spirit, mind and body.

This past year, we donated more than $ 100,000 in scholarship assistance programs and the annual Christmas Tree Sale is one of our principal fund raisers.

Also, purchasers can benefit as well. All who buy a tree this year can enjoy a waiver of Joiners fees ranging from $ 60 for youth 17 and younger up to $165 for families. And, in an effort to stimulate a jump start on New Year’s resolutions, this year we’re waiving the Joiners fee for all categories of memberships initiated during January, 2015. 

 This year, we have so many blessings to reflect on here at the West Cook YMCA.

I consider myself so very blessed to have received such a warm welcome from the entire Y community—the board of directors who take their responsibilities to the community so very seriously; a staff of dedicated and talented workers; generous volunteers who share their time, talent and treasure in so many ways; our residents who pitch in to help in any way they can, and our many, many friends and neighbors in the ten communities we serve.

To this litany I would add members of the Council of Churches, Oak Park /River Forest Chamber of Commerce, Rotary and other community organizations who have been most welcoming.

Since my arrival in May at the West Cook Y, where as a youngster who lived just four blocks away, I played sports, learned crafts and felt the nurturing environment of the Y with its core values of caring, respect for others and responsibility for one’s actions, I feel that I’m “home.” And that’s a very good feeling. 

Here are some of the other many blessings the West Cook Y has received this year.

First, we shared the tremendous spirit of camaraderie with the entire Y family who came together to brighten and burnish this 60-year-old building with a deep cleaning during our infamous two-week Summer Recess. More than 110 volunteers from all walks of life joined with staff, board members, residents and contractors to work side-by-side to clear the decks from top to bottom throughout virtually every nook and cranny of our building.

All who participated in this exercise gained much from the experience and our historic structure is now ready to serve future decades of members 

Second, we’ve been blessed to have a positive response from our members and others in the community who joined the Y during a major new Membership initiative.

Third, we’ve been the recipient of some wonderful gifts and grants from private foundations and government agencies—some $ 230, 000 since May 1 -- that will permit us to strengthen our programs, launch new ones and improve our facilities. 

Among these funds has been a new three-year grant of $ 479,000 from the Westlake Health Foundation to link Westlake Hospital in Melrose Park, one of the 10 communities we serve, with the West Cook YMCA in a Healthy Communities Initiative.

This new program, now underway provides Proviso Township residents with free health screenings for the early detection of life-threatening chronic and preventable diseases; health and wellness programs to help residents understand and manage prevalent and preventable disease and fitness and exercise programs to encourage more active and healthy lives.

Another wonderful example of the West Cook Y’s outreach to the community is the Teen REACH program focused on students enrolled in the 3rd through 5th grades of three Maywood elementary schools this past summer. Funded by a $ 52,250 grant from the Illinois Department of Human Services, the REACH program offered classes in math, science, literacy, global education, service learning and health and fitness.

Most welcome were two grants of $ 5,000 each from the Manaaki Foundation and the Oak Park/River Forest Community Foundation to benefit our Single Residency Program, the only such offering in the Chicago metropolitan area outside of the city.

With the assistance of these grants we’re moving our SRO program toward a new optional Case Management model that will help our 127 residents transition to employment and self-sufficiency.

The Russell and Josephine Kott Memorial Charitable Trust made a $ 15,910 grant to assist our Senior Activities program so a new series of field trips and a wide range of arts and culture programs, which have proven health benefits for older adults, can be introduced here at the Y.

A $2,000 grant came to us from the YMCA of the USA to assist us with our Early Childhood and After School programs. Both are important, for they serve to help stretch the minds and spirit of youth, from pre-school through 6th grade, about the world around them through age appropriate programs focused on language and culture, visual and performing arts, technology, science, sports and games as well as creative writing and dance. 

As we look forward to a new day, a new year in 2015, we anticipate that there will be more opportunities to demonstrate the spirit and strength of the 103-year-old West Cook YMCA as a partner with so many others in the community who are focused on our same objectives of fostering youth development, encouraging health living and urging all to adopt a greater level of social responsibility.

To do that, we need the continued interest and support of the entire community, through YMCA memberships, active participation in our programs and donations to our Annual Appeal and special campaigns. For a not-for-profit like the West Cook YMCA depends on a constant blend of membership income and freewill donations to be able to provide the broad scope of programs, some 100 each week, for the more than 10,000 residents of ten west suburban communities we serve. 

Happy Holidays and Blessings to all for the New Year. 

Phillip Jiménez
President and CEO


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