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‘Transformational’ Upper Perk YMCA Celebrates Fifth Anniversary
Written by Ernie Quatrani, Correspondent

Upcoming Gala to raise money for financial assistance



            Five years ago last month, the Upper Perkiomen YMCA opened its doors for the first time, and in the words of Steve Grourke, former chair of the Y's Advisory Board, became a "beacon on the hill for our community".  

            Under Michael Tannous, the Y's Executive Director, and the board, the YMCA has partnered with a wide spectrum of community organizations including Project Live, The Chamber of Commerce, The Open Link, both the Upper Perkiomen and Quakertown School Districts, the UPV Garden Club, St. Luke's, Montgomery County Intermediary Unit, UPV Baseball, church youth groups, Perkiomen Watershed, Miller-Keystone Blood Bank to name some.

            "We consider ourselves a part of the fabric of this community and work each and every day to earn our place as valued citizens," explained Tannous.

            Grourke, who was succeeded by Michelle Forsell as board chair last month, touted the partnerships the YMCA has fostered with area schools. "As the parents of four school-age children, this is important to me and my wife, Erin."

            "Since the summer of 2017 the Y has given swimming lessons to over 1,000 children," noted Tannous.  "That is quite a number given the (Upper Perkiomen) school district has 3,400 students."

            Luanne Stauffer, Upper Perk Chamber of Commerce President, extolled the presence of the YMCA as "transformational".

            "In addition to promoting healthiness and well-being, our beautiful, full-service, state-of-the-art Y has earned a reputation of being our community center. On a daily basis, the Y hosts meetings and events for other organizations, strengthens our personal connections and supports our local nonprofits and businesses," stated Stauffer.

            Fundraising that began in 2001 eventually resulted in the attractive, spacious facility that now sits above Quakertown Road in Pennsburg.

            The Y currently has nearly 12 thousand members, employs 268, full and part-time, and offers 100 free programs each week.

            "We are reaching 32% of our population within a 10-minute drive which is three times the YMCA national average for 'penetration rate'," said Tannous.

            The Y also goes to great lengths to be an inclusive organization, providing financial assistance to those who might not be able to participate otherwise.

            Central to that effort is the annual YMCA Gala, this year set for Saturday, March 7 from 5:30 to 10 p.m.

            "Proceeds of our charitable event support the Y's Financial Assistance Program which helps assure that no one will ever be turned away from the Y programs and services due to an inability to pay," said Tannous.

            Since 2015, the Y has given out more than $1.3 million in financial assistance.

             For $50, the event includes dinner, wine and beer, dancing, a photo booth and silent auctions. More information can be obtained by calling 215-679-9622 or by finding the Upper Perk YMCA on social media.

            Stauffer highlights another benefit of the YMCA.

            "From an economic development perspective, the Y improves our community profile by making our area more attractive to potential investors and residents who evaluate amenities, such as schools, community centers, libraries and YMCAs, before making decisions about location."

            Over the next five years, the Y's primary mission will continue to emphasize physical health and spotlight emotional and mental health. Tannous cited recent presentations focusing on stress, anxiety and suicide by Access Services, Penn Foundation, The Light Program and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) as steps in that direction.

            There will also be efforts to increase "intergenerational programs, events and competitions," according to Tannous. "Plus we see the need to increase our engagement with our friends with special abilities."

            "I am most proud that our YMCA welcomes and supports everyone," Grourke said. "When you become a member of the Y, you become a member of the family."





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