Ogden YMCA community center at capacity, making a difference

Friday , January 08, 2016 - 8:42 AM

Standard-Examiner staff

OGDEN — It's been one year since the YMCA opened it's Community Family Center in Ogden, and officials say it's making a difference.

“We were operating an after-school program inside of Lincoln Elementary School, that served primarily Lincoln Elementary students,” said Carol Beddome, development director for the YMCA of Northern Utah.

The size and scope of the Y’s programming changed when the Larry H. and Gail Miller Family Foundation YMCA building opened, on Jan. 26, 2015.

“The center has been like a hub for the YMCA,” said Beddome, who is based in the Y's Salt Lake City office. “We have space now that allows us to be more adaptable and responsive to community needs. In the past, we were limited to what could do based on when the school was open and if there was space available.”

Land for the YMCA center was donated by Ogden School District on the Lincoln Elementary grounds, located at 575 Lockwood Dr. in Ogden.

“We gave up some outside space, but I love it,” said Lincoln Elementary Principal Ross Lunceford. “If I ever go to another school, I would love for them to have a YMCA right next door — it's awesome.”

The YMCA has three main goals, according to Ann Nelson, the organization's Weber County regional director.

“One is youth development, one is social responsibility, and one is health and wellness,” she said.

In Utah, the primary focus has been on youth development. Before opening it's own facility, the Y became a partner with Ogden School District, offering after-school programs to give students a safe place to be in the hours between when school ends and parents return from work.

The organization also worked with the district to open preschools to increase kindergarten readiness. Those programs have blossomed since moving to the center.

“We've seen a lot more enrollment,” said Nelson. “We have doubled, almost tripled, our preschool enrollment ... it's filled to capacity at this center.”

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The after-school program has seen a slight increase and related programs are booming.

“Since we've moved into the building, we've opened up our before-school camp, extended our after-school hours, and also opened up our holiday day camps so that we can offer programming when they're out of school,” said Sharon Gardner, program manager at the center. “Having this building on the grounds has also opened up summer camp opportunities.”

Nelson said the number of students participating in the Y's summer camps has almost doubled.

It's not just the number of programs that has increased but the quality of the experience, according to Gardner.

“Because we have our building, we have office staff — that has helped a lot with talking to parents,” she said, explaining that extra staffing gives parents someone they can speak with about their children. “We want to talk to them, but our main focus is with the kids.”

The kids get a better experience because the building has multiple rooms, so a group of students can be doing louder fitness activities in one area without interrupting music or poetry groups in another. 

“Having this building has opened up so many opportunities and really allowed us to serve a lot more kids,” Gardner said. “I love it.”

A 10-year-old in the after school program named Anabella described it as structured time.

“We do outside time, then homework, then we go eat, then we do clubs, and then math and literacy,” she said.

The “clubs” encourage children’s interests in scouting, music, robotics, science and more.

Nelson said programs for children are helping them academically.

“In both the preschool and the school age programs, we do pre-testing and post-testing,” she said. “We see the gains.”

The center has also given Y staff members a chance to offer community events, including the organization’s “Thingamajig Invention Convention,” a fall festival promoting healthy family activities, and the “Y I Ski” program for kids learning to ski or snowboard.

“We’re doing that again,” Beddome said, noting that the ski program is expanding this year.

Classes for adults were added to the mix in topics ranging from English as a Second Language to nutrition and parenting.

Even though the building is already at capacity just a year after opening, Nelson said there are currently no plans to open another center in the area.

“Personally, I would like to see the YMCA have a full facility in Ogden — a traditional YMCA with a pool, a gym,” said Nelson, who came to Utah from Pennsylvania, and said there is a YMCA on just about every corner in the East.

A full facility brings people of all ages and cultures together, she said.

Nelson said she doesn’t know what the future will bring, but if preschool enrollment continues to grow there may be discussion of moving the school-age programs back into the school and making the YMCA facility strictly a preschool center.

There is a new program that is more certain.

“We have a diabetes prevention program,” Nelson said. “It’s a collaboration with YMCA of the USA and the CDC, and it’s a fantastic year-long program. Right now we are partnering with the Morgan-Weber Health Department to offer this program to the community, and this will be one of the sites. It hasn’t officially started, but will, I think, within the next month or two.”

You can reach reporter Becky Wright at bwright@standard.net or at 801-625-4274. Follow her on Twitter at @ReporterBWright or like her on Facebook.

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