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In many cases, the end of the year gives you time to step back and take stock of the last 12 months. This is when many of us take a hard look at what worked and what did not, complete performance reviews, and formulate plans for the coming year. For me, it is all of those things plus a time when I u...
YMCA of the USA and Annie E. Casey Foundation Honor Five YMCAs for Family Strengthening Excellence

Award recognizes local initiatives that improve lives of children and families

CHICAGO, Sept. 17 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- YMCA of the USA today announced that five YMCAs have been named recipients of the 2009 YMCA-Annie E. Casey Foundation FAMILIES COUNT Family Strengthening Award in recognition of their exemplary work to strengthen and support families in their communities.

This is the fourth year that YMCA of the USA, with the support of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, has presented the award to YMCAs offering exceptional programming that develop strong, capable and financially stable families. In recognition of their accomplishments, the selected YMCAs will receive $15,000 each to enhance their family strengthening initiatives and will serve as models for YMCA family strengthening programs throughout the United States.

The five award recipients were chosen from submissions from local YMCAs across the country that serve low-income, disadvantaged families and provide intentional family services that make a positive difference in their lives.

"We are very proud of the accomplishments of the 2009 Family Strengthening Award recipients and are grateful to the Annie E. Casey Foundation for their support of the YMCA's work, and for helping to stimulate discussions and activities in support of family strengthening," said Neil Nicoll, President and CEO of YMCA of the USA. "Each of the recognized programs this year is a reflection of the meaningful - and so often life-changing - work YMCAs are doing in communities all across the country. Each program underscores the YMCA's commitment to help every family build stronger bonds, achieve greater work/life balance and become more engaged with their communities."

Award recipient YMCAs and their programs include:

Burlington County YMCA, Mt. Laurel, NJ

Women's Opportunity Center

The YMCA of Burlington County's Women's Opportunity Center (WOC) is dedicated to improving the lives of women who have lost their primary source of income due to separation, divorce, death or disability of a spouse and are trying to support their families. Since 1990, the WOC has served more than 1,700 women in transition through a broad spectrum of holistic and comprehensive services designed to help them gain economic opportunity and self-sufficiency. The program includes educational and vocational counseling, job readiness training, networking, financial workshops and emotional support. Women are also provided assistance in the form of clothing, food, gas cards, emergency funds for bill payments, and holiday support (food and toys for their children).

Northshore Branch YMCA, Bothell, WA

YMCA English Language Learners Summer Program

The YMCA English Language Learners Summer Program at the YMCA of Seattle's Northshore Branch serves children from newcomer/immigrant families in the Greater Seattle community who have been identified by the school district as needing expanded English language assistance. By improving their language skills, the children have a better chance at academic success and are better able to help their families adjust to living in a new community. Components of the program include reading, writing projects, hands-on exploration, guest speakers, and traditional summer program activities. The YMCA English Language Learners Summer Program is getting ready to celebrate its fifth year of service to the Northshore community and currently serves 60 students from six elementary schools. Enrollment has doubled in size since the program's inception in 2004.

Providence Metropolitan YMCA (RI)


LIVESTRONG at the YMCA, offered by the Providence Metropolitan YMCA, is a comprehensive program for cancer survivors and their families in partnership with the Lance Armstrong Foundation. As part of the LIVESTRONG program, the Providence Y assists in restoring strength and vitality in survivors following cancer treatment through a specialized 12-week program that focuses not only on exercise and re-building strength, but also on the importance of empowerment, understanding, mutual trust, camaraderie, safety and connection with the whole family - not just the cancer survivor. Financial assistance for program participation is available to participants and their families. The Providence YMCA has served 700 cancer survivors and their families since it began offering post-treatment wellness programs in 1999.

Urban Services YMCA, San Francisco, CA

Family Resource Center

Located in an underserved neighborhood of San Francisco, the Family Resource Center of the Urban Services YMCA is a refuge for families residing in the Oceanview, Merced Heights and Ingleside (OMI) neighborhood - an area challenged by high rates of poverty and crime and the lowest per capita income in the city. Many families in the community lack access to social services support which is reflective of their cultural and linguistic needs. The mission of the Family Resource Center is to help strengthen OMI families by empowering parents and caregivers through effective, culturally relevant parenting workshops, family counseling, support groups, a business center, and more. The center also offers a community food pantry to support those in need. Since opening its doors six years ago, the Urban Services YMCA Family Resource Center has served more than 10,000 families.

YMCA of Greater Des Moines (IA)

Fatherhood Initiative

The Fatherhood Initiative of the YMCA of Greater Des Moines is a program designed to help strengthen parental skills and involvement of men who have been living apart from their children and/or involved in court child support cases. The Fatherhood Initiative is based on the premise that the lives of children, families and the community as a whole improve when fathers and mothers share responsibility for their children. Through ongoing weekly classes based on the National Fatherhood Initiative's 24/7 Dad(TM) Curriculum, the program offers support in such areas as health and nutrition, effective communication, being a positive role model, co-parenting, financial education and community resources. Since its inception in 2006, the Fatherhood Initiative has had more than 150 participants and more than 60 graduates of the full 12-week curriculum. Of those graduates, about 90 percent report they are employed, pay child support regularly and see their children more often.

"Research tells us that children do better in strong, healthy families, and families do better when they live in communities that help them succeed," said Miriam Shark of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. "The YMCAs being recognized this year demonstrate a strong commitment to family strengthening and truly make a difference in their communities. Their outstanding work opens doors to real opportunities for the families they serve."

For more information on these and other YMCA programs recognized by the Annie E. Casey Foundation for family strengthening excellence, visit

ABOUT THE ANNIE E. CASEY FOUNDATION: Since 1948, the Annie E. Casey Foundation has worked to build better futures for disadvantaged children and their families in the United States. The primary mission of the Foundation is to foster public policies, human service reforms, and community supports that more effectively meet the needs of today's vulnerable children and families. The YMCA of the USA/Annie E. Casey Foundation Families Count: Family Strengthening Awards program recognizes YMCAs whose programs support the development of strong, capable and economically successful families. Award recipients receive $15,000 in recognition for their outstanding efforts and serve as role models for YMCA family-strengthening programs throughout the U.S.

ABOUT YMCA of the USA: YMCA of the USA is the national resource office for the nation's 2,686 YMCAs, which serve 21 million people each year, including nearly 10 million children under the age of 18. YMCAs respond to critical social needs by drawing on their collective strength as one of America's largest not-for-profit community service organizations. Through a variety of programs and services focused on the holistic development of children and youth, family strengthening, and health and well-being for all, YMCAs unite men, women and children of all ages, faiths, backgrounds, abilities and income levels. From urban areas to small towns, YMCAs have proudly served America's communities for nearly 160 years by building healthy spirit, mind and body for all. Visit to find your local YMCA.

    CONTACT: Diane Hurles
    Donor Relations Manager
    YMCA of the USA


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