NORWICH — The Norwich Family YMCA's annual Open Doors Campaign is in full swing just in time for the season of giving.
The campaign raises money to help provide free memberships and services to those unable to afford them.
"We started the campaign several years ago in an attempt to raise additional funds to support scholarships that we were giving out to individuals and families that would like to use the YMCA, but might be in a tough financial pinch," said Norwich Family YMCA Executive Director Jamey Mullen. "It could be based upon their annual income, it could be because of financial challenges with relocating, financial challenges due to bankruptcy, financial challenges due to medical or attending doctor's appointments, and things of that nature."
This year's campaign is co-chaired by Jim and Bonnie Currie, longtime Norwich residents and YMCA members.
"Jim and Bonnie Currie, who are retired husband and wife in town here. Jim was with Frontier for many years, and Bonnie was with Chenango County, and Jim is a past board member and both him and his wife are active users of the YMCA," said Mullen. "They just had a nice unique story of when they moved to Norwich as a young professional with several kids."
He explained that the Curries once utilized the scholarship program, and have been involved in the YMCA in various ways through the years, including serving on the board, donating, volunteering, and more. Their full story can be found on the Norwich Family YMCA Facebook page.
As co-chairs, Jim and Bonnie Currie will assist with spreading the word about the program, sharing their story to show others the impact the YMCA can have, and acknowledging the donations received in the year-end report.
"Our campaign usually starts in the fall. The majority of our donations come in toward year's end," Mullen explained. "We will continue our campaign all the way through Summer of 2022, and at that time when we finally close it out, we'll do a year-end report of all the donors, and how much we've raised, and things of that nature."
Mullen said on average the campaign raises around $70,000 to $100,000 a year. The 2020-2021 campaign raised $99,065 through the generosity of 218 donors. Should the Open Doors Campaign raise more money than is needed for the scholarship program, the additional funds are used to help pay for operations in the facility, according to Mullen.
"A couple years ago our campaign was very, very successful, in which we maybe had raised some additional funds more than what was given out that year. So what we were able to do with those excess funds, and we stated on our pledge card, is that we will use those funds to assist still with the operations in effect, to keep our membership rates and our program rates down and affordable each year as well. So that's helped us as well," he explained.
According to the YMCA Financial Assistance Program application packet, the scholarships can cover the cost of youth, adult, senior, or family memberships; childcare costs, including after school programs, nursery school, and babysitting; day camp and teen camp; youth sports and fitness programs; and special events.
Assistance applications are accepted year-round, and they are available at the Norwich Family YMCA, and on the YMCA website, norwichymca.com, according to Mullen.
"Most people would come in, grab it, they take it back, fill it out. There are a couple things that we ask for, for validation. It might be a copy of financial records, or a pay stub, or food stamps, or something of that nature just to confirm," he said. "We use a chart and a grid based upon the number of people in the household, what their household income is. But sometimes there's some extenuating circumstances that we will listen, and meet with the family or the individual and talk about that."
"The scholarship application is year-round," he added. "Once an individual or family receives it, then that scholarship allocation is good for a whole year. And it's good for membership, it's good for programs, and sports, and swim lessons. So it's an allocation that will support the family or the individual for the whole year."
All information is kept confidential, and is only reviewed by Mullen and processed through the YMCA's Finance Office. The application packet states that it can take up to two weeks for applications to be processed, and applicants will be notified of their eligibility through a decision letter.
For those wishing to support the program, donations can be made in person at the YMCA facility, online at norwichymca.wixsite.com/opendoors, or on Venmo, @NorwichYMCA.
"We do have pledge cards here at the Y. Individuals can just mail it in to my attention, and I'd be glad to work with them on coordinating that donation," said Mullen. "If folks donate online, usually there's a processing fee or something like that, that they may deduct from their donation."
He added that donations are often made in memory of a loved one, or in honor of a family member or friend to recognize an accomplishment or relationship.
"One of the popular things folks have done over the years too with their donations, they have made their donation in memory or in honor as well, and so we acknowledge that in our year end report," said Mullen.
While the campaign will run from the fall of 2021 to the summer of 2022, Mullen said donations are accepted at any time, and can be specifically allotted to go toward the scholarship program.
"We are always willing to accept a donation, and we can earmark it toward this campaign," he said. "I'd say probably 70 percent of our campaign dollars raised come in at the end of the year. But individuals have donated in January, February, March, all the way through. We're willing to accept a donation to support that program at any time throughout the year."
Mullen said the Open Doors Campaign in conjunction with the Financial Assistance Program is his favorite program offered by the YMCA, because it gives everyone the opportunity to utilize the facility.
"The scholarship application provides everyone the opportunity to experience the Y. If that wasn't in place, based upon the donations that were coming in, there would be people in our community, and the families and kids, that would never have the opportunity to experience this building, or the amazing volunteers, or our amazing instructors," he said. "The scholarship application and the support campaign, hand in hand, is my favorite program because it supports so many people, and it breaks down any barriers or challenges of access to the Y."