Phoenix, AZ (PRWEB) May 04, 2012
Through a partnership between the Valley of the Sun YMCA and the Department of Defense (DOD), all 17 Valley of the Sun YMCA branches now offer qualifying members of the Armed Forces and their families access to youth development, family strengthening, and health and well-being programs. Initially available the past several years only at the Southwest Valley YMCA, the program has been recently expanded to enable military families to utilize all Valley of the Sun YMCA branches across the State.
Each year the number of military families taking part in the program has exploded. In 2010 roughly 100 military spouses and families utilized the YMCA benefit. Last year the Y welcomed nearly 700 participants and this year the program expects to serve 1,500 military spouses and families. The program is open to members of each of the Armed Forces – Army, Navy, Air Force and Maries as well as National Guard, Reservists and independent duty personal, who qualify through a short series of questions establishing service branch, residence and duty status.
The success of the program can be credited to at least two sources. The first is the yellow ribbon reintegration program, a DOD required program for all military members pre-deployment, during deployment and post- deployment. The second is Jennifer Garcia, Director of Armed Services for the Valley of the Sun YMCA.
The yellow ribbon reintegration program was initiated in 2007 by the DOD to promote the well-being of National Guard and Reserve members, their families and communities, by connecting them with resources throughout the deployment cycle. Through yellow ribbon events, service members and loved ones connect with local resources before, during, and after deployments and can access information on areas such as health care, education/training opportunities, financial, and legal benefits.
A yellow ribbon event is how Jennifer Garcia, wife of a National Guard active duty member, first heard about the YMCA opportunity at the Southwest Valley YMCA. In 2008, during one of her husband’s deployments, Garcia signed up for several benefits to help her and her children while her husband was away. She learned that the DOD funds the service member, in this case her husband, but the YMCA funded the rest of the family.
The YMCA nationally has long supported the men and women of the Armed Forces, dating back to 1861 and the civil war and followed in later years by a permanent Army YMCA established in 1889 at Fort Monroe, Virginia. In 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt asked the YMCA to take the lead in mobilizing military support during World War II. Under the President’s request the YMCA brought together the YWCA, National Catholic Community Services, Jewish Welfare Board, Salvation Army, and National Travelers Aid Association to form the United Services Organizations (USO).
Jennifer Garcia saw the important role the Valley of the Sun YMCA played in the lives of spouses and children of deployed military. The YMCA created a community center where her neighbors and fellow military members could find a connection to others dealing with deployment. From member to volunteer, Garcia joined the Valley of the Sun YMCA as Director of Armed Forces in 2010. Garcia is a one woman department, attending yellow ribbon events, like the one that introduced her to the Y, around the valley each month.
In addition to educating military spouses about the benefit available to them through the YMCA, Garcia in the last year has expanded the YMCA Military Memberships program to all 17 branches in the association. In addition to ensuring every application is processed, Garcia also works closely with another nonprofit partner – Our Military Kids (OMK). Through grants provided by OMK, Garcia is able to secure additional funds for children to experience additional program such as youth sports through the Y or another organization.
The YMCA also serves military families with special programing found at the Y’s overnight summer camps; Sky-Y and Chauncey Ranch both located near Prescott, Arizona. Also through a partnership with OMK, over the last two and a half years, the Y has hosted children of deployed or just returning service members to one of the two overnight camps. Three camps are offered covering children ages 7-17.
To learn more about programs, services and the nearest neighborhood YMCA branch visit http://www.valleyymca.org or call 602-404-9622 today.
About Valley of the Sun YMCA
Valley of the Sun YMCA is one of the largest human services non-profit organizations in Arizona. As the oldest non-profit in Arizona, celebrating 120 years in 2012, the YMCA serves local communities in Maricopa County, Pinal County, Yuma, Flagstaff and Prescott offering over 283 programs and 26 social services at 17 locations. Members are welcome regardless of gender, religion, ethnicity, age or ability to pay.
The YMCA aims to provide each member with every opportunity to reach farther and improve their lives and the lives of those around them. Through Youth Development, Healthy Living and Social Responsibility, the YMCA’s goal is to inspire positive and lasting social change. Visit http://www.valleyYMCA.org to learn more.
Greg Corns, Vice President PR & Communications, YMCA
602-257-5121 | gcorns(at)vosymca(dot)org
Heather Schader, Martz Agency, 602-616-8336 | hschader(at)martzagency(dot)com