As the executive director of the White Rock/Lake Highlands YMCA, I see on a daily basis the important roll local agencies play in our neighborhood families’ lives.

Our YMCA, in particular, provides programs for children as young as 18 months and extends to our Active Older Adult groups. Within that range lies a wide variety of people with a wide variety of needs. Addressing and serving our neighbors’ needs are what our community agencies’ goals are all about.

Supporting our local agencies can be done in a variety of ways. Three major areas I would like to share with you are financial support, volunteering time, and word-of-mouth advertising.

Financial support is always greatly appreciated. The YMCA allocates donated funds to scholarship our neighborhood children and their families into programs they might not be able to participate in, due to a lack of funds.

Last spring, when baseball teams were forming, the YMCA and the Lake Highlands Exchange Club collaborated to sponsor a T-ball team from an area elementary school. Club members coached, while the YMCA league provided a fun atmosphere for the children, where the philosophy is: “The child first, the sport second.”

Each sports season we receive numerous scholarship requests for children to participate in soccer, flag football, or basketball.

Volunteering time is another way you can assist our local agencies. January and February of each year YMCA’s rely heavily on volunteers to raise funds through our “Partners With Youth” campaign.

The money raised is used to scholarship children or adults needing assistance in order to participate in YMCA programs. Each year, we scholarship hundreds of children in our child care programs alone.

This year we have a $65,000 goal to meet. More than 100 volunteers work the campaign.

Word-of-mouth or sharing of information is another way to support our local agency. Most of us do not have a large budget allocated to advertising. We rely heavily on our participants to share their knowledge of our programs with neighbors and coworkers.

Time and time again, I hear comments from people saying: “I didn’t know the Y did that.” The YMCA provides a variety of programs that change with the times and as the community changes.

Many people immediately picture swimming lessons or T-ball games when they think of the Y. But others know us as the largest child-care provider in the country.

A few years ago, it was suggested we provide affordable, all-day child-care for our community. Staff and volunteers listened to the community, conducted research and ultimately opened a pre-school for children ages 18 months through five years.

That’s what our neighborhood agencies are about, listening to our community and responding to its needs.

If you have not made a resolution for the new year, please consider volunteering with an agency in our neighborhood. Volunteers are the key to any organization’s success – they are the eyes and ears of the community.