Downtown Blacksburg, Inc. is proud to present our Non-Profit Member of the Month for June 2016-YMCA at VT
The YMCA at VT has been serving Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, and the surrounding community for over 140 years. Its mission is to build community through learning, leadership, and service; and to promote youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility.
We do this through various means:
Afterschool Programs at Margaret Beeks and Prices Fork
YMCA Youth Programs exist to empower at-risk youth in the New River Valley to reach their full academic and social potential through positive mentoring relationships with Virginia Tech student leaders. Last year, more than 60 volunteers contributed over 1,000 hours of service in these programs, impacting the lives of 41 students.
The YMCA has partnered with Margaret Beeks and Prices Ford to provide an afterschool program that builds community through learning, leadership, and service; creating a safe environment for students to receive homework help and enjoy recreational activities. The VT Chem Club regularly visits Margaret Beeks to provide science enrichment, and other student leaders use kidzmath and kidzlit to provide math and reading enrichment.
“[The afterschool program] can be at times both a challenging and motivating environment to work in. The Virginia Tech students that have worked with our YMCA program have performed not only successfully but stupendously. At times I forget that the students are undergraduates because they perform at a level so exceptional.” –Bill Sembello, Counselor, Margaret Beeks Elementary School
The annual Book Fair creates affordable opportunities to increase literacy awareness and access to books in the NRV community, enhances volunteerism, promotes the YMCA at VT, and raises funds to sustain the YMCA. Last year, over 10,000 books were sold. Over 70 volunteers serve hundreds of hours to make it happen!
“I wish more people were aware of how important the Book Fair is as an ongoing source of books for our children. Local schools purchase stacks of books for their libraries at the Fair. Families visit every year to purchase books they would be unable to buy at retail price. The Y Book Fair is a shining example of ‘reduce, reuse, repurpose, recycle, respect.’” -Ellen Graf, volunteer
The Y Gardening Program has been operating since the 1980’s when there were several shared garden spaces in backyards around town. In 2010, Blacksburg resident Arlean Hale Lambert generously partnered with the YMCA, and is allowing 15 acres of her family property to be used as a Hale YMCA Community Garden. It hosts over 70 garden plots, the Roper Solar Greenhouse, a picnic shelter, outdoor stove, herb garden, bee hives, and much more. The gardens provide growing space for community members, host monthly potlucks and educational programs, and provide hundreds of hours of civic engagement and service learning through partnerships with the Civic Agriculture and Community Food Systems minor as well as several class and service organizations at Virginia Tech.
“The economic boon (of the Hale YMCA Community Garden) is evident. More importantly, access to space to grow nutritious food is hard to calculate in [dollars]. We know that nutrition declines the longer it takes produce to go from farm to table. Many gardeners are inspired to eat more vegetables because they grew it themselves.” -Matt Nottington
An annual tradition in its 47th year, the Craft Fair provides a three-day opportunity for over 80 artisans to sell quality handmade items to a diverse regional customer base. This year it will be held November 11-13 in the Squires Student Center Commonwealth Ballroom at Virginia Tech.
“The fair provides financial support for our various community programs, especially the YMCA student programs. At the Fair, student volunteers can see a little slice of what the New River Valley and the surrounding areas have to offer. It brings the community to the students.” -Ayla, Y Student Programs Coordinator
“I look forward to the Y Crafts Fair every year. I’ve gotten to know so many artisans who consider this show a must do every year, and we have so much fun being together, it feels almost like a family reunion!” -David Coffman, artisan
Healthy Kids Day
As part of the Y’s national initiative to improve the health and well-being of kids, Healthy Kids Day is a free “summer kick-off” event comprised of live music, fitness games, inflatables, healthy snacks, crafts, and educational activities for families. Local organizations promote various summer programs and activities perfect for kids, so they can remain active throughout the summer. This year, over 500 people attended and over 100 people volunteered, including 14 Virginia Tech student groups and 21 local organizations.
“Thank you for a great event! I took my grandchildren, ages 10, 8, and 5 and they had a blast! The boys loved the [various sporting events], while my granddaughter enjoyed [doing arts and crafts] and meeting Elsa from “Frozen.” Thanks to the student volunteers, organizers, vendors and everyone involved. I hope you do it again!” -Rita, Blacksburg resident
The Y International Women’s Morning, operating since the 1980’s, is a weekly gathering to bring International and American women together for conversation, crafts, support, and friendship. They meet every Tuesday from 9:30-11:30am during the spring and fall VT semesters.
This past school year, an average of 20 women met each week. Sixteen countries were represented: Bangladesh, Bosnia, Canada, China, Egypt, Hong Kong, India, Iran, Japan, Palestine, Peru, Serbia, Spain, South Korea, Thailand, and USA.
The Y International Program also has a Monday and a Wednesday free weekly conversation class led by community volunteers.
“Mornings program is a program where I meet good friends through many of the fun activities we do together. It is also a program enriches and colors my life in Blacksburg. Can’t say enough thanks to all the people who keep this program going on.” -C. W. (Taiwan)
Since the early 1980s, Open University has provided affordable and accessible classes which promote continuous learning, healthy living, and artistic expression. We offer courses year-round that are mentally, creatively, and physically nourishing to all those who wish to attend.
This spring, 133 students participated in 28 classes, some of which were Art Journaling, Comtemplative Crochet, Wheel Thrown Pottery, Learning Turkish, Build Your Own Website, Sustainable Gardening, Backpacking Skills, Line Dancing, Break Dancing, Temple Style Tai Chi, Tap Dance Rhythm and Groove.
“I remain intrigued how it (The Presence Process) is impacting my life on a daily basis. I found our group to be such a satisfying way to explore, question, and debate the words and ideas put in front of us and the large questions of body, mind, and spirit that they raise.” -Lisa McCrickard, Open U Instructor
The pottery studio offers arts education through ceramics to grow one’s aesthetic awareness, reassure creative confidence, and stimulate personal entrepreneurship. The studio offers 12 wheels, 2 kilns, a glaze room with 16 color choices, and many hand building tools. There are six sessions of classes with about 120 to 150 students per year coming through, and an on-going continuing artist’s rental space for up to 30 people.
It is a great resource for potters wanting to continue their practice without the expense of their own private studio. Also, Virginia Tech students who cannot take pottery as an elective at school can learn wheel thrown pottery at the Y Studio.
“The Y pottery studio provides a relaxed atmosphere for exploring clay and a place to practice art and understand the process of making pottery. The affordable classes are very informative.” -Anonymous
The YMCA Senior Connections program connects Virginia Tech students with the senior citizens who meet one-on-one to develop intergenerational, cross-cultural relationships for mutual learning and friendship. The volunteer retention is high, with some relationships lasting upward of two years, with a third planned. Together, program participants spent almost 300 hours with their paired senior citizens last year.
“The Senior Connections volunteers play an important part in the lives here at [my retirement community]. I have a wonderful relationship with my companion. For three semesters, our meetings have been the highlight of my week. We participate in [community] events and activities, take walks together, and encourage each other in our faith. I’m proud to call her my support and special friend.” -Barbara
Sustainability Initiative Program
The Sustainability Initiative Program is a partnership between Sustainable Blacksburg, the Town of Blacksburg, Montgomery Regional Solid Waste Authority (MRSWA), and the YMCA. The focus is on promoting a green community through the recycling of metal, electronics, textiles, and batteries to name a few.
The YMCA at VT provides a place for community members to recycle those items in order to cut down on the volume of recyclables put into landfills and the waste stream.
Last year, we recycled 49.25 tons of electronics, 1.96 tons of batteries, 140.21 tons of textiles, 13.51 tons of cardboard, 15.46 tons of metal, and 89.62 tons of waste.
“I believe that our local YMCA is the most important independent Blacksburg organization for promoting recycling in our community, and the YMCA accomplishes their many beneficial activities at no cost to our citizens. We must continue to strongly support their efforts on our behalf” -G. WIlliam Claus
The Y Thrift Stop’s mission is to recycle clothes and other donated items to sell at low cost to individuals in the community; to assist those in need; to minimize waist; and to provide a unique place to shop. The proceeds of the thrift store remain local and help support leadership development and community programs.
The Thrift Shop assists local families in need by donating needed items, and provides opportunities for the completion of court mandated community service hours, class based service hours, and any other community members who wish to volunteer at the Y.
“I shop here because I love everybody here. I have two granddaughters; one is 8 and the other 17. I can buy for both of them at the thrift store; the little one loves to dress up so I buy her clothes from here and when she is tired of them, I just bring them back. The bag sale is a great program as well, and I love being able to buy clothes and toys to donate to the Christmas Store.” –Anonymous
YToss is Virginia Tech’s largest sustainability initiative: as Virginia Tech residents moved out of their dorms, YMCA members and volunteers collected the students’ gently used items that were destined for the landfill. The Y will store the items over the summer, to be available for resale during the students’ move-in come August. This year, over 135 volunteers contributed 400 hours of service and collected 9,000 pounds of donated items. Since YToss’ inception in 2006, over 100 tons of gently used items have been diverted from the waste-stream.
YToss is based on social responsibility: reusing items, reducing waste on the Virginia Tech campus and in Blacksburg, and providing students with low-cost alternatives of their dorm needs in the fall.
“Ytoss is a highly visible education and conservation program that directly contributes to [Virginia Tech’s] annual recycling rate and the goals of the VT Climate Action Plan. It brings people together to support a cause that is very worthwhile. It truly is a win-win service program, and it clearly enriches the spirit and life of our community.” -Denny Cochrane, Program Manager, Virginia Tech Office of Sustainability.