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The City Journals

YMCA Healthy Kids Day a success despite budget challenges

Jun 23, 2017 09:37AM ● By Carl Fauver

Cartwheel practice was an impromptu part of the annual YMCA Healthy Kids Day. (Carl Fauver)

By Carl Fauver |  [email protected]

“We never deny any child our services, based on their parents’ ability to pay.”

Jamie Nelson, Community Programs manager for the Taylorsville YMCA Family Center, said that’s been their philosophy from day one. But she also admits, that can lead to some lean times at the facility, just north of Fremont Elementary School (4249 South Atherton Drive, about 1500 West).

“We have a lot of wonderful donors who provide things for free or at a reduced cost,” Nelson added. “And thank goodness the city has been supportive as well.”

Perhaps the YMCA’s biggest supporter within Taylorsville government is City Councilman Ernest Burgess. The “Y” is in his council district. But he says there’s more to it than that.

“My wife has been volunteering for years, helping to teach elementary age kids how to read,” Burgess said. “It helps them get on the right track, to succeed. That’s a big priority here at the YMCA, which is why I support what they do.”

For those of us who remember things like Watergate and corduroy pants, thoughts of the YMCA likely conjure up memories of swimming pools and basketball courts. But officials say that’s not really their focus anymore, at least here in Utah.

“We found kids have access to swimming, basketball and opportunities like that, at all the different recreation centers in the area,” said YMCA of Northern Utah Salt Lake County Regional Director Sarah Ivory. “But what parents need much more than that is a safe place to drop their kids early in the morning, or to pick them up later in the evening.”

That’s why the Taylorsville community center is open from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

The early arriving kids receive a hot breakfast and transportation to and from their school. Those who stay later into the evening are served a hot dinner.

“We also feed lots of kids at their elementary schools,” Ivory added. “It’s typically about 350 meals a day.”

The modest 5,000-square-foot center was built in 2010 at a cost of about $450,000. It features two rooms primarily for preschool and kindergarten classes, an even larger multipurpose room, a full kitchen and office space.

“The land our center is on is still owned by the Granite School District, but they lease it to us for something like a dollar a year,” Ivory said.

During the recent YMCA annual “Healthy Kids Day,” youngsters and parents visited booths to learn more about proper diet, preventing child abuse, staying safe in the sun and a number of other things.

Kids also wore bubble suits to run into one another and played a variety of other games.

Burgess made the rounds visiting information booths, and soon found himself giving (or perhaps receiving, from a child) lessons on how to properly wash vegetables.

“This place is so important to these kids because many of them have nowhere to go, with proper supervision, after school,” Burgess said. “Many of them would be home alone and certainly wouldn’t have the same educational opportunities they have here.”

During a recent city council meeting the discussion turned to possible cuts in community development block grant (CDBG) funds.  Burgess was quick to remind the council, “When we cut funding to the YMCA, Taylorsville kids lose meals. So we need to look at that very carefully and understand what we are cutting.”

Now that school is out for the summer, YMCA Community Family Center staff members are focusing attention on coordinating day camps, field trips and even weeklong excursions into the mountains.

The center employs about 40 people; most of them work part time.

“We are always looking for volunteers,” Nelson said. “We’re providing a safe place for kids, filled with extracurricular activities.  They receive hot meals, snacks and as much one-on-one attention as possible.”

Those interested in donating time or finances to the Taylorsville YMCA Community Family Center should call 801-839-3388.