By Andres de Ocampo
San Marino Tribune
The South Pasadena San Marino YMCA is accepting donations as a part of the nonprofit’s Annual Support Campaign with a goal of raising $75,000 for community members of any age who might require financial assistance to participate in the Y’s programming or membership.
The fundraising campaign kicked off on March 29 and will continue through the month with a “Victory” dinner planned for April 26 to mark the end of the campaign and to celebrate volunteers helping to raise the funds.
Halfway through this year’s monthlong campaign, a report dinner is planned to thank volunteers and highlight the positive impact of their work and how the funds are used to support the community. The report dinner will be camp-themed and is scheduled to be hosted at Pendleton Hall on April 12 at 6:30 p.m.
“Every year we have the Annual Support Campaign and the money we raise during this time goes back toward financial assistance and program subsidy. That means, anyone comes to the Y that would like to participate in a program but can’t afford it — that’s where this program comes into play,” said SPSM YMCA Executive Director Jason Ramos.
Though donation amounts vary, any giving makes an impact, the YMCA highlights.
For example, $200 could provide a child with an opportunity to participate in a full season of Y Youth Sports, which includes basketball, soccer, volleyball programs and others. Similarly, a $400 donation could help four children enroll in the Y’s swim lessons, $550 could cover 10 senior members’ first month of membership and $1,500 in donations could help two teenagers participate in the YMCA Youth and Government program, which is a program centered around solving community and global issues.
The fundraising campaign returns after a two-year hiatus following business closures during the COVID-19 pandemic, which affected all the YMCAs throughout L.A. County.
“In March 2020, when the pandemic hit and everyone got the notices, we had to close our doors for normal operation … many of the Y’s continued to do social services, so we pivoted,” Ramos said.
“Our goal for YMCA is to serve the community and, when needs changed, we tried to pivot and change with that,” he said, noting that pandemic-era services included food distribution, blood drives and support for distance-learning.
When the SPSM YMCA reopened in 2021, the process was slow, according to Ramos.
“When we were closed during the pandemic, our membership and the funds coming in stopped. Staff was [also] furloughed and hours were short. … Ever since the reopening, as the pandemic has eased, as we’ve been able to bring staff and members back — our goal has been to add more programming and more hours; trying to get us where we were pre-pandemic,” he explained.
Ramos said that recently the community facility re-opened programs such as Youth Enrichment, dance and martial arts classes as part of the Y’s goal to getting back to a pre-pandemic normal.
“It’s been a slow process of staffing and resources. … It’s been tough being closed but we’re back open and rolling. We’re seeing people coming back; parents and children coming back and getting active. … We’re seeing that, which is awesome, but the need for financial assistance is there more than ever,” Ramos said.
The campaign fundraising success goes in great part to all the community volunteers, many of whom have been positively impacted by the YMCA, he added. Volunteers have also helped by doing a social media plug, essentially spreading awareness for the fundraising during the monthlong campaign period.
Financial assistance per individual is based on their income and given consideration on a case-by-case basis, taking into account what programming they might benefit from.
Ramos estimated that about one in five community members are receiving financial assistance for their program enrollment or membership.
“We try to adjust based on the need. … It all varies,” Ramos explained. “That [financial assistance] can go toward anything that the Y does — programs, membership, anything. There’s an opportunity from there, whether it’s a family or individual that needs more assistance, they can approach me and we can have a conversation to understand [their] needs.
“On paper, it can seem like someone makes OK money but then they’re also taking care of grandma or grandpa or a sick sibling — there could be other factors involved and we try to take it all into consideration,” Ramos said.
The SPSM YMCA is still about “halfway” back, or 47% below, where membership used to be pre-pandemic, though some people kept their membership during COVID just to support the Y.
“Thank you to the South Pasadena and San Marino YMCA community for their support of the YMCA to help us get back open and going. I want everyone to know that we’re here, ready to support the community, however it’s needed. Our goal is to support communities with everything we do and, hopefully, people can come support us with donations, memberships or taking a program,” he said.
For donation inquiries or questions on attending the dinner on April 12, Ramos suggested emailing SPMS YMCA Operations Executive Director Nancy Yuen-Perales at email@example.com.
Direct donations are accepted at ymcala.org/spsmgive and other inquiries can be directed through the SPSM phone number at (626) 799-9119.