NORWICH – Every year the Norwich YMCA supports hundreds of families caught under economic strain and sponsors several events involving an untold number of local organizations.
This week kicks off the fourth annual YMCA Annual Support Campaign, Reach Out to Your Community.
Until 2005, the YMCA solely contributed more than $35,000 each year to its Open Doors Scholarship Program, which offers reductions or free memberships to individuals caught in poor economic circumstance. However, when the Y moved into its new facility and there was a sudden boom in participation, that made absorbing the yearly costs a challenge.
YMCA Executive Director James Mullen explained that the cost of handing out the scholarships went from about $35,000 in 2002 to about $80,000 in 2003 – and then to $90,000 in 2004. Today, the YMCA supports over 650 scholarships and still annually contributes more than $30,000 into the program. Last year’s support campaign raised $60,000, more than ever before, but the cost of supporting the scholarships remained at about $90,000, meaning the YMCA contributed the difference.
Mullen said he doesn’t mind the costs associated with the program, in fact he explained it’s the most important reason the YMCA exists.
“If you look at all the programs we offer and accounted for all the people participating in this program or all the money earned by that program, I’d still say our priority is the Open Door Scholarships. When we first saw a rise in the level of need, we knew we’d be giving out more than we’d be receiving. We don’t want to turn people away; it’s not what we do here,” said Mullen.
Roughly half of all YMCA members are currently under the age of 22 and an even higher percentage are awarded the Open Door scholarships, allowing youths to participate in a countless number of socially safe and physically healthy activities.