YMCA campaign hopes to provide benefits of membership to those who can’t afford it

The YMCA of Centre County provides programs for people of all ages.

Preschoolers making snowman pictures with glue sticks and cotton balls. Retired ladies who gather together to walk on the treadmills while they socialize. High school boys building muscle in the weight room over the winter.

But what about the preschool mom who can’t afford three afternoons a week to get her son ready for kindergarten? The senior citizen on a fixed income. The kid who won’t ask his parents for a membership he knows isn’t in the budget.

That is where the Open Doors program comes in.

“It gives us the ability to turn no one away due to the inability to pay,” said CEO Howard Long.

Last year, the YMCA gave $363,124 in assistance at its locations in Bellefonte, State College and Philipsburg. That money mostly went for memberships for those who couldn’t afford them, but it also helped families provide child care, participate in after-school programs, attend Paint and Play preschool and more.

“Without the Open Doors program, many would not be able to take advantage of what the Y has to offer,” said board member Mark Johnson.

The Y kicked off a fundraising campaign to keep that happening last week. The goal is to raise $260,000. With early gifts from staff, board members and corporate donations, $141,885 already has been raised.

According to Long, $21,338 came from employees of the three branches.

“We have an incredibly dedicated staff who believe in this mission and give generously every year,” he said.

Another $42,650 came from volunteers.

“It’s a very generous community,” said Long. “We’re very blessed.”