BELLOWS FALLS -- Meeting Waters YMCA continues to have life-changing impacts in the Brattleboro, Bellows Falls, Springfield and Fall Mountain regions. From providing nurturing and affordable school-age child care for hundreds of low-income children to empowering families and individuals to lead healthier lives, the YMCA is continuing to strengthen the foundations of communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility.
"Meeting Waters YMCA continues to have a profound impact in communities up and down the CT River Valley," said Steve Fortier, the organization’s executive director. "We remain steadfast in our efforts to improve the lives of children, families and individuals in the many communities we serve."
Fortier and the regional Y’s Board of Directors have been compiling data and stories from the past fiscal year for their annual community benefit statement they call "ROI: Reporting Our Impact." Among the impressive numbers are 385 children that participated in one or more of Meeting Waters Y’s "out-of-school" programs -- Y ASPIRE, Y Day Camp, Snow Days Program, and Kindergarten ASPIRE. This number makes Meeting Waters YMCA the region’s largest provider of state-licensed school-age child care, and one of the top five in the state.
According to Fortier, there are two other important statistics related to the number of children served, "First, 49 percent of the kids we served received some form of financial assistance." Fortier added, "Second, our programs are not ‘drop-in’ -- they are curriculum-based youth development programs. So, these kids are with us for many hours each week, and many weeks each year -- most from the first day of school until the last. Over 30 are with us year-round -- these kids are with us nearly as many hours as they are in school."
Helping all people achieve and maintain a healthy lifestyle is the regional Y’s other main focus. Last year, the Healthy Communities Coalition, an initiative of Meeting Waters YMCA, guided and supported schools, workplaces, neighborhoods, youth organizations and entire communities through assessment and planning processes to improve their supports for "the healthy choice."
According to Fortier, the changes these organizations made have led to "at least 10,000 people having greater supports for healthy eating and routine physical activity." He cites as examples several improvements made to the "walkability" of Brattleboro, the development of a walking path at Flood Brook School, Our Place’s expansion of providing fresh vegetables in their meals and food pantry, and the growth of farm-to-school programs thanks to HCC partner Windham Farm-to-School Program and HCC financial support for start-up programs.
"We feel our mission calls us to be supporting and guiding other organizations and communities in efforts that reverse the devastating trends we’re seeing in childhood obesity and chronic diseases like Type 2 Diabetes," Fortier said. "We know that improvements in healthy eating and increased routine physical activity are the two best tools for preventing these devastating and costly health problems."
In 2012, the Healthy Communities Coalition received national attention for its impacts. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention named HCC as one of four "model success stories" for healthy communities work nationwide.
"We are proud of our ongoing positive impacts in communities throughout the Brattleboro, Bellows Falls, Springfield and Fall Mountain regions," said Fortier. "And, we’re thankful for the many collaborative relationships and financial supporters that contribute to the quality and impact of our efforts."