by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster
“Kids are overweight. We need to help them get into shape, ” said Jennifer Keener, Finance Director at the YMCA here in Ashtabula. She and everyone I talked to this morning while I was there for my Yoga class agrees our children have needs which must be met, weight control is only one of these.
The conversation ranged on to the mission and goals for which the YMCA was founded in 1844 by George Williams, a twenty-two-year-old farmer-turned-department store worker. Disturbed by what he saw happening to young men from the country when they encountered the city, with 11 friends he founded the YMCA to be an escape and resource for young men new to the hazards of London. The mission was solving problems and remains so today.
At the Ashtabula Y seeing problems and searching for solutions is part of the legacy, and the job. YMCA s did not begin to build gymnasiums until 1869.
Athletics remains a core mission for the YMCA. The term, “Body Building” originated with YMCA staffer Robert J. Roberts in 1881. The YMCA was responsible for originating basketball, volleyball and racquetball.
Programs for children, which help kids improve their health and self image, are only part of what happens there.
Trevor Sprague, CEO, is also making plans to extend the Y's reach. “The big thing that we are in the process of doing right now is reaching outside the walls of the building. We want to partner with other organizations and extend our services to make sure we are making the biggest possible impact in our community.”
Continuing, Trevor cited the organizations newly forming Teen Leaders Club, which will have its first meeting at the YMCA on Oct 28th 7pm. Participants will set their own agenda, deciding what projects to take up with the assistance of adult counselors. Teens will learn about problems our community faces and be encouraged to help find, and provide solutions.
Learning leadership and skills cannot be accomplished without this, commented Trevor. Teens will be encouraged to extend their activism into Ashtabula and make a difference.
Each aspect, Trevor said, should help the individual grow in spirit, mind and body.
The original Y, founded by George Williams extended their mission into its community. One of their accomplishments was altering the rigid lines separating English social classes.
Today, the Y in Ashtabula sees a need to build lines of cooperation here.