Single grandmothers Jeanine and Julie give a testimony about the Y, with board member Vanessa Nordyke. (Courtesy/Ashley Russell)

The Salem YMCA has been changing lives in Salem since 1892. The Y (YMCA) is more than a fitness center. For over 125 years they have been providing education, care, and activities for children and adults. For years, the expansion has been in the works and now they are closer than ever to building a new facility.

The Y held its annual luncheon on Feb. 18 at the Salem Convention Center and hundreds of supporters attended. Guests learned about the important work of the nonprofit and received an update on their planned $22 million facility. The hope is to raise the last $6 million to finish fundraising for the project.

Everyone was greeted by cheerful, enthusiastic children from the Y’s preschool. Teacher Diana Casas introduced Cameron, Titus, and Nadia who enjoyed dancing around the conference center lobby. 

YMCA Board Member and City Councilor Vanessa Nordyke served as the emcee and was featured in the video about the new project. While her parents built their business, she was a “Y kid” and said she did every activity they had to offer. She noted that her caregivers were some of the first to notice that she had hearing impairment in one ear.

Nordyke interviewed two single grandmothers, Jeanne and Julie, who were raising their grandchildren with the help of the Y’s childcare. Senator Peter Courtney was part of a video testimonial; he joined the Y in 1969 and feels it is truly the heart of our city.

YMCA Executive Director Sam Carroll shared the mission of the Y and his vision. The nonprofit is based on four core values: respect, responsibility, honesty and caring. There’s a great deal of excitement about the new building and how it will be a hub of activity and support for the City.

Dick Withnell challenged attendees to not just make a donation, but consider it an “investment” in our community.

Board President Dan Moore closed the program with his request for support. He inspired guests with the poem The Touch of The Master’s Hand, which expresses how the power of God can bring out the best in people.  

The nonprofit will hold a Good Friday Prayer Breakfast at the Salem Convention Center on April 10, featuring Anthony Munoz, an NFL Hall of Fame football player. Register for this free community event online at www.theYonline.org.

YMCA Board President Dan Moore and board member Vanessa Nordyke speak at the YMCA Annual Luncheon. (Courtesy/Ashley Russell)Fundraising signage at the YMCA's 2020 luncheon (Courtesy/Ashley Russell)YMCA Preschool kids and teachers attend the YMCA Annual Luncheon (Mary Louise VanNatta/Special to Salem Reporter)YMCA Preschool kids Cameron, Titus, and Nadia attend the YMCA Annual Luncheon (Mary Louise VanNatta/Special to Salem Reporter)Danielle Bethell and Kelly Carlisle attend the YMCA Annual Luncheon (Mary Louise VanNatta/Special to Salem Reporter)Jose Gonzales and David Rheinholdt attend the YMCA Annual Luncheon. (Mary Louise VanNatta/Special to Salem Reporter)

About the YMCA: The Y originally opened on the south side of State Street in May of 1892, but quickly grew and needed expansion, moving to its currently held location on Court Street in March of 1951. The Y has continually provided for the youth of Salem from childcare to basic health and fitness programs. The Y currently serves over 600 of Salem’s children every day at 22 different sites. It also provides for over 5,000 of its member’s health and fitness needs at its downtown location. 

Mary Louise VanNatta is a Salem public relations professional writing a regular column for Salem Reporter. Tell her about your upcoming event at [email protected] or follow her on Facebook.