A new year, and a new view of YMCA of Marquette County

 by Leslie Bek

The start of the new year in our country is synonymous with New Year’s Resolutions.
logo_ymcaI don’t think I need a post-doctoral degree to make that statement. However, it is appropriate to look to the field of academia for research-based evidence on the topic if I plan to say any more.
According to a University of Scranton survey published in theJournal of Clinical Psychology, forty-seven percent of Americans make New Year’s Resolutions.
Eighty-five percent of all resolutions are related to self-improvement, staying fit and healthy, education or weight-related.
The success rate of people in their twenties who achieve their resolution each year is thirty-nine for people over fifty the rate is fourteen percent
An expanded view of the top New Year’s Resolutions from 2014 include: spend less, save more; help others with their dreams; spend more time with family; enjoy life to the fullest and learn something exciting.
Prescriptions can be difficult to write for most resolutions and aren’t likely to be filled at a local pharmacy.
Changing lifestyles and sustaining new behaviors is not synonymous with easy.
What has gotten easier is the opportunity to access programs, facilities, events, mentors, and knowledge to kick your resolution in gear.
They all are available through opening one very big door spanning all communities and the scope of resolutions, hopes and dreams — the YMCA of Marquette County.
The beginning of a new year is time to proclaim “out with the old and in with the new;” for that, too, I suggest a look at your perception of the YMCA of Marquette County.
According to CEO Lisa Coombs-Gerou, “The Y is so much more than a place to work out — it is a cause that gives children, adults, and families the opportunity to learn and grow, while making the community healthier and stronger.”

The YMCA Journey
The National YMCA asks the trivia question,”What do basketball, Father’s Day and Jazzercise have in common?” They were all started at a YMCA.
The YMCA began as the Young Men’s Christian Association, founded in London (England) on June 6, 1844, in response to unhealthy social conditions arising in the big cities at the end of the Industrial Revolution.
This sense of awareness of social conditions and a need to respond would follow the evolution of the YMCA for decades across the globe.
The YMCA of the U.S.A. formally adopted its five Core Values in the early 1990s: Caring, Honesty, Respect, Responsibility and Faith. These values were developed to help teach youth right from wrong.
In 2010, the national YMCA revitalized its brand and began officially referring to itself by its most familiar name—the Y—for the first time. This also was a time to restate its focus.
According to national YMCA resources, the basis is the belief that to bring about meaningful change in individuals and communities, the Y must be focused and accountable.
The national YMCA further explains it measures the success of its cause by how well it engages communities in its three areas of focus:
• Youth Development —nurturing the potential of very child and teen.
• Healthy Living — improving the nation’s health and well-being.
•  Social Responsibility — giving back and providing support to our neighbors.
It is the YMCA’s belief that a strong community can only be realized when we invest in our kids, our health and our neighbors.

Putting Vision to Action
With the national YMCA focus as its guidepost, the YMCA of Marquette County and community partners have undertaken a strategic planning and assessment process, which included the logic model.
The process looked across the continuum of ages, employment, poverty, overall health components, chronic disease, wellness and educational indicators, asking questions such as: What do people need and want to be healthy? What are barriers to access? What are gaps in programs or services? What are our strengths and opportunities? How can we together make sustainable change and achieve youth development, healthy living and social responsibility?
Once this data was gathered, shared and reviewed, partnerships for implementation bloomed, ideas and opportunities blossomed and expectations snowballed.
Creditability followed the process, and soon the information was a body of powerful knowledge.
The message was: we know our community, we know our strengths and where we can grow to be a healthier community for all persons. Will you invest your resources with ours and help us make the change?
Many of those queries transformed into pilot programming. This level of community awareness and structure for implementation drew the respect and investment from funding sources such as the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Department of Education and Department of Justice.
By now, I hope our reader has begun to see the YMCA vision, realized our goal with this piece and will take a page from the YMCA literature: “The Y is so much more than a place to work out, it is a cause that gives children, adults and families the opportunity to learn and grow, while making the community healthier and stronger.”
Evidence-based is a phrase that turns heads in multiple fields of study as a component of accountability.
This accountability can be for any and all stakeholders associated with programming, such as participants, community partners, policy makers and financial supporters.
Put directly, “What evidence do you have that your actions did in fact make the intended difference?”
At the Marquette County YMCA, evidence-based programming is utilized throughout its focus areas.
The Y serves as a catalyst with community partners, and implementation abounds in more than 153 programs that promote youth development, healthy living and social responsibility.
Examples of partners, programs and services include: Marquette County Community Foundation, Great Lakes Center for Youth Development, City of Marquette, UP Health Systems, NMU, Ishpeming, Negaunee, Gwinn and Marquette school districts, Lake Superior Village and Marquette Housing Commission.
Programs include Reach and Rise Mentoring, before and after school programs, Early Learning Readiness, Summer Food Program, youth sports, personal wellness training, prenatal yoga, swimming, diabetes prevention, Freedom from Smoking, Livestrong, Live Wise, enhanced fitness, child care and a dietitian and medical director.
The Y never turns anyone away; one in five served receive financial assistance through its annual campaign. Wow. Perhaps you never knew this side of your Y.
Looking ahead, the Marquette County Y will continue to be on the move, developing community programs. It can be found in facilities in Marquette, Marquette Township, Negaunee and Gwinn.
The Marquette site has begun an expansion to improve community health and wellness, provide a safe place for youth to be after school and during the summer, help members of all ages improve their health and offer even more evidence-based programs.
Consider this option — write down your own prescription for your New Year’s Resolution(s), and head to your nearest YMCA of Marquette facility or program, or click on their website, www.ymcamqt.org
Was learning something new on your New Year’s Resolution list? YMCA of Marquette County offers youth development, healthy living and social responsibility . . . Check.
According to Coombs-Gerou, the Y, with its supportive board of directors and community partners, is making a difference — one person at a time.
— Leslie Bek

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