More Than Just a Place
Obesity is on the rise; 97 percent of Americans don’t exercise regularly, and 10 percent of adults in Central Florida are diagnosed with diabetes. Though this sets the country and region up for a great challenge, the YMCA of Central Florida is determined to help people in the community create healthy habits and live healthy lifestyles – not only in the body, but also in the home.
“It’s much more enjoyable to spend time swimming, playing sports, working out, taking exercise classes with friends, or just hanging out in our family center than spending time and money at a doctor’s office,” said Billy Specht, executive director at the Titusville YMCA.
The Orlando YMCA was established in 1885 “to help booster young men to improve or develop into a higher type of citizen.” Throughout the decades, social challenges have changed dramatically and YMCA programs have evolved to reflect them. Today, the lifestyle, health and obesity crisis coupled with the constant depletion of family time that results from parents who both must work to survive are most prevalent.
The purpose of the organization is to improve the lives of all in Central Florida by connecting individuals, families and communities with opportunities based on Christian values that strengthen spirit, mind, and body, with the presence and partnerships to not just promise, but deliver positive change.
“Every day, we work side-by-side with our neighbors to make sure that everyone, regardless of age, income or background, has the opportunity to learn, grow and thrive,” said Specht.
There are 27 unique YMCA locations across Central Florida that serve six counties and over 100 communities, with each facility reflecting the needs of its individual community with various programs. A sample of programs includes: summer camps, school programs, group exercise, diabetes prevention programs, swim lessons, sports and recreation, health and wellness events, Safe Start swimming for infants, and more.
This year, the YMCA of Central Florida has invested millions of dollars in over 20 Central Florida locations. At the Titusville location, built by RUSH Construction, over $275,000 has been invested in improvements, such as a revitalized wellness floor with new, state-of-the-art exercise equipment and fitness offerings.
RUSH Construction has partnered with the YMCA of Central Florida on 10 different projects since 2001. Major projects have included the Titusville, Cocoa, South Orlando, Dr. Phillips, Wayne Densch, and Avalon Park Family Centers. In addition, RUSH has been a major contributor to the organization including the annual Scholarship Fund primarily by way of its Title Sponsorship in the Titusville YMCA Golf Tournament, held every year in November. For nine straight years RUSH was the title sponsor of this event and has continued to maintain a sponsorship since.
RUSH President William Chivers also has maintained a seat on the Titusville YMCA Family Center’s Board, as well as their Executive Board, for the past 13 years, serving as the Board Chair from 2009 to 2012. The board’s mission is to raise money for scholarship funds to help families with low income or special needs who want to go to YMCA, and it awards full and discounted scholarships. All money raised goes strictly to families in Titusville, and in 2013, the Titusville YMCA helped improve over 1,000 lives by giving back around $200,000 in the form of financial assistance.
While the YMCA of Central Florida gives back to the community, the community gives right back to the organization, too. There are three ways to get involved: join, volunteer and give. Memberships are available for everyone at every income level, including students, seniors, families, and youth. The YMCA is powered by volunteers who coach youth sports, serve on committees and direct staff through boards. The YMCA is a 501c3 organization and, as previously mentioned, funds raised are reinvested 100 percent back into the community in the form of financial aid.
As the busy summer comes and YMCA camps begin to rev up, the YMCA of Central Florida continues to see potential where others may not. Specht explained, “Our history has been marked by undeniable accomplishments in face of the challenges of changing times, but more than anything, what marks our history is our commitment to helping people. We will continue to grow our mission throughout the Central Florida region. The YMCA is not a place; it is a cause.”