Take Care of Yourself!!

jeffBy: Jeff Alevy
CEO, YMCA of the Twin Tiers

Is it my imagination, or does life seem a little more relaxed during the holiday season? Somehow, we make more time for parties, goodwill, visits to friends and family; things may slow down just enough to hit the gym or that favorite trail more than usual.

If you’re like many professionals, it’s easy to feel ‘tethered’ to the workplace and other personal obligations. According to an Ernst and Young study completed a year ago, 24% of U.S. employees said their work-life balance is getting tougher to manage and 35% of American workers reported having to work on any given Saturday, Sunday or holiday. According to Joe Staples, CMO of Workfront “More times than not, there are no parameters set by employers on what they require from employees after hours. So the default can be an ‘always-on’ lifestyle…this presents a potential for burnout.”

I will admit – with all the ‘smart’ electronic connections that I have, it often seems that my life is on high alert; always on call! Recently, I had a chance to get away and recharge. It was my first real vacation of the year. I felt a little guilty leaving at a time when seasonal programs were gearing back up at our after school sites and the budgeting process was just beginning to get traction. But I knew that I needed a break and had to ‘reboot’ my energy level and capacity.

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My trip out west included hiking into the Grand Canyon and up Yosemite Falls. The beauty and grandeur of the scenery (not to mention the peace and quiet) were a blessing. This trip made me a believer in doing better at maintaining my work/life balance.

So, as we approach this holiday season, remember this statistic; 38% of employees have missed life events because of a bad work-life balance. From birthdays to kids’ baseball games to anniversaries, nearly two in five survey respondents revealed that they’ve had to skip some milestone moments due to work.

Start planning now; mark those important dates and keep those commitments to yourself and your loved ones! Get out there, enjoy and stay healthy!

Yours truly,
Jeff

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How the Y helped me find my way HOME

melissa_curran3By:  Mel Curran
Association Communications Assistant, YMCA of the Twin Tiers

I’m a transplant to the Olean area; a big-city girl from Boston, MA. 🙂 I wasn’t quite sure what I had gotten myself into when I first moved here with three small children six years ago. My husband was traveling a lot and I was instantly lonely and overwhelmed. What would we do all day? Where would we go? How would we meet people? As the first few weeks passed and the house full of boxes started to become a home, I still felt isolated. I knew I had to do something about it. I looked around for options and the one that seemed the most promising was the YMCA. I was planning to get a job and would need childcare. Y Care came highly recommended – check. I needed to find a place to run as the winter approached, nice indoor track – check. With a place to drop the kids to be supervised while I ran??? – BONUS! Swimming lessons for the kids – check. A place to meet new people – check. A beautiful, well-run, clean facility and friendly staff – check, check. Okay, you get the picture. So I signed up for a family membership in our second month in WNY. And boy, did the Y deliver, BIGTIME.

All three of my children went through the Y Care program. Kelsie Vine, now the director, basically helped raise my children and we felt lucky to have her and the rest of the Y staff to depend on. They learned to swim. They played basketball and football. They complained about being dropped off to play while I ran, but they always had fun and they were always safe. The Y helped us become part of this community. That’s a pretty big deal to us.

When people find out I am from Boston they always ask if I am happy here. This is what I tell them… For the first few years I thought of Boston as home. I missed my family. I missed the ocean. I missed the city. Slowly, without my even realizing it, I started to think of WNY as home. Now, when I travel back from Boston a few times a year, as I pass Binghamton, then Hornell, that feeling you only get when you are coming home embraces me. The mountains seem comforting, the air smells cleaner, the landscape feels familiar and my heart fills with happiness. The Y helped make that a reality. What more is there to say?

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What brought me “back” to the Y?


bev-lubi-photoBy: Bev Lubi

Mission Advancement Director, YMCA of the Twin Tiers

I began working for the Jamestown YMCA in 1999. In 2012, I left the Y to pursue a development position at another local not-for-profit agency. Ironically, my coming “back” to the Y actually began right after I left the Y. As soon as I left, I was reminded constantly how much I truly missed being part of this movement, this cause, that is the YMCA. Through a different set of lenses, I marveled at the dedication of Y staff and realized that they were not merely staff members; they were my friends, they were my family. I was inspired by the volunteers who worked diligently to carry out the Y’s mission every day and made it a priority in their lives. These things made me realize how much I missed being part of the Y and wanted to be part of it again.

And who wouldn’t want to be involved with this organization?  An organization whose focus is developing our youth.  You may know that the Y is the number one childcare provider across the US. Hundreds of thousands of our children are cared for in YMCA programs.  This is truly an impressive statistic.  But I think what is more impressive is the fact that each and every day, thousands of children across the country and right here in our own communities are beginning and ending their day with a smile and the caring face of a well-trained and dedicated YMCA childcare provider.

Similarly, every day the Y is helping individuals’ live healthier lives.  Through the partnerships we have with local businesses and companies of various sizes, as well as collaborations the Y has with healthcare providers, there are thousands of individuals who begin and end each day seeing the smiling, friendly and helpful faces of Y staff.

Furthermore, the Y does not exclude anyone from having the opportunity to make those healthy choices and use the Y as a conduit for positive changes. Our YMCA has made it a priority and, indeed, feels that it is our responsibility to assist our neighbors in need who do not have the financial means to support their endeavors to make positive lifestyle changes.

I am happy to say that I am back at the Y. I consider it a privilege to be able to offer my time, talent and treasure to this organization, to this movement, to this cause that is the Y.

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Why we “Y”

Meet members of our Y family and find out why they “Y” every day!

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Brent Raabe
Bradford Branch Manager

Everyday I have the opportunity to come to work and know that what I am doing is truly making a difference in the community.  I have the privilege of overseeing the fundraising efforts in Bradford for our Annual Campaign.  I take great pride in these efforts.  I know that the success of our Annual Campaign will allow me to meet the needs of the community.  These dollars allow families in our community to be able to take advantage of our services including membership, programs and childcare.  I am grateful to be part of such a great organization and surrounded by a very generous community that helps support our mission. 

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Jeff Alevy
CEO

At the age of 30, after a four-year spiritual journey, I realized that it wasn’t about me and how much I could do for myself in life. It became about service to others and making the world a better place. I’ve been working in the Y movement for almost 20 years now. I feel blessed to help use my skills and passion to improve the lives of so many. I am thankful to be teaming up with so many staff and volunteers that have the same service ethic as I do.

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Traci Johnson Keppel
Branch Director Wellsville

When I came to the YMCA 4 years ago, I really had no idea what the Y was about since we didn’t have one in our town when I was growing up.  Since I became part of the Y family I have  had the opportunity to meet so many people.  I always knew I came from a close knit community but I didn’t realize how generous people were.  We offer financial assistance, through our annual campaign, to people who can’t afford to pay full price for programs or memberships. I have met so many individuals who want to help those in need.  I have also met the people who need the financial assistance and benefit from it.  They are so grateful to receive help from the Y for their families. When someone can’t afford healthy activities like dance class or swimming lessons for their child and I get to help them with money from our Annual Campaign it’s an incredibly rewarding experience.  I’m not sure our donors really understand the impact that they have on people’s lives and well-being.  I’m lucky that I get to be on the front line and offer the assistance and directly see the impact of our donors’ generosity.  I feel truly blessed to be a part of such a great organization.

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September CEO Message: Grandparents Day

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By: Jeff Alevy
CEO, YMCA of the Twin Tiers

I remember my Grandpa Al visiting us in Florida when I was a child. He would travel twice per year from South America, where, at the time, he was living and operating a clothing factory. One of the reasons I liked it when he visited – and maybe you can relate to this – is because he would spoil my sister and I with affection and pride. Because we didn’t see each other that often, distance had made the heart grow fonder and there was ‘catching up’ to do.

We’ve all heard it…the population is aging in America. According to the website http://aga.grandparents.com/ there are 70 million grandparents in the United States and they are younger than ever before. The average age is 48! And 72% of them think being a grandparent is the single most important and satisfying thing in their life. I hope Grandpa Al felt that way 🙂

Grandparents Day is September 11, 2016. On https://grandparentsday.org/ there are several activities and ideas about how grandchildren and grandparents can celebrate their love for each other. A few include:

  • Change your Facebook profile to a picture of you with your grand-children/parents and do something special with them
  • Do a volunteer project together in the community
  • Grandparents – share your wisdom and perspectives with youth

Imagine the amount of knowledge and experience that could be transferred to younger generations from grandparents. One year our family traveled to South America to visit Grandpa Al. It was a special trip; I learned so much about the culture, the food, how to fish with a hand line, and I even learned some Spanish.

Generations United is a national organization focused on improving the lives of children, youth, and older people through intergenerational strategies, programs, and public policies. They act as a catalyst for stimulating collaboration between generations. If you’d like more information, go to: www.gu.org

While September 11th is a date infamous for the attacks on our soil, let’s also remember the special people who held, played with, fed and spoiled us when we were younger – our grandparents. I miss you, Grandpa Al.

Yours truly,

Jeff

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August CEO Message: How “old” is old?

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By: Jeff Alevy
CEO, YMCA of the Twin Tiers

When I was between the ages of 6-9 years old, every so often I would ask my mother how old she was. EVERY year she responded with “Honey, I’m 29”. After four years of getting the same response, I finally called her on the matter. I was devastated to learn that she had aged…even though she was still the most beautiful lady I knew 🙂

When I was in 4th grade, I remember seeing the ‘big’ 6th graders walking around our elementary school and thinking what it must be like to hit that milestone:) When I went into high school, I wanted to appear older so the juniors and seniors would take me seriously. At the age of 15, living in San Francisco California, two of my friends and I rode our bicycles 100 miles north to the Russian River. My friend’s dad lived there; we were going to stay with him for a week and then hitch a ride back to the city in his truck. My friends’ father was not even 45 years old at the time and yet, back then I remember thinking how “old” he seemed! Shame on me…

When I turned 45 I got a stark wake-up call! One day I received (unsolicited) an AARP card in the mail! At the time, I thought AARP was only for “old” people. Well, guess what?! It’s not, and what I considered ‘old’ back then – is my generation today!

You should know that in 1988, under President Reagan, the Congress designated August 21st as National Senior Citizens’ Day. An excerpt of the proclamation by President Reagan reads:

“With improved health care and more years of productivity, older citizens are reinforcing their historical roles as leaders and as links with our patrimony and sense of purpose as individuals and as a Nation. Many older people are embarking on second careers, giving younger Americans a fine example of responsibility, resourcefulness, competence, and determination. And more than 4.5 million senior citizens are serving as volunteers in various programs and projects that benefit every sector of society. Wherever the need exists, older people are making their presence felt — for their own good and that of others.”

Now that I’ve hit (and passed) 50, I’m starting to take exception to the term “senior citizens”. At the Y we have a more appropriate term – Active Older Adults. I can live with that. In fact, more than 50% of our membership base today is 55 or older, in line with national aging trends.

No matter what your age, I encourage you to have fun, be adventurous and adopt healthy habits. Today, I am around people – that in my younger days I considered “old” – who stay very active; they even participate in mud runs and triathlons! They also have the emotional wisdom and experience that comes along with years of street smarts. In my opinion, that kind of strength in spirit, mind and body is a blessing.

I’ve thought about trying out that software that lets you get a look at yourself as you age. But I can’t bear to watch it. I guess I’m a lot like my mom!

Yours truly,

Jeff

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July CEO Message: Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Bee

jeffBy Jeff Alevy
CEO, YMCA of the Twin Tiers

“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” These words are familiar to you if you’ve ever heard of – or followed – one of the greatest boxers of all time. Born Cassius Clay in Louisville, Kentucky in 1942, he was given the Islamic name Muhammad Ali while spiritually searching – and ultimately joining –  the Nation of Islam in 1964.

Ali got his start in boxing with an ironic twist of fate. At the age of 12, he went to a store with a friend as they left their bicycles outside. When they came out, the bikes were gone. As a result of that experience, Ali met a police officer, Joe Martin – who also trained young boxers at a local gym. Ali started working out there to learn how to spar, and from there his boxing career began.

It was reported that Ali was bold at a young age; unafraid to fight anybody. Ali won national Golden Glove Tournaments and the Gold Medal at the 1960 Olympics before turning pro in 1963. By 1964, Ali had become the world’s Heavyweight Champion by knocking out Sonny Liston. He had to take a 3-year hiatus from the sport due to a suspension from boxing when he refused to be drafted into the Vietnam war as a ‘conscientious objector’. Upon returning to the sport, he fought in several championship bouts. Ali eventually retired from boxing in 1981.

It was during the peak of his career that I personally met the self-proclaimed “greatest” fighter of all time. As a teenager, I was training to be an amateur boxer at the 5th Street Gym in Miami Beach. The gym was opened by Chris Dundee; Angelo Dundee’s brother – who happened to be Ali’s trainer. I went for a run one day near the gym. Ali happened to be in town training for a fight. We actually met on the street – he with his entourage – and me by myself. He took a few minutes to speak with and encourage me. It was an honor. To this day, I remember how gracious and soft-spoken he was. It was for this impression he made on me in the mid 70’s, that I felt it fitting to write about him this month.

Ali passed away in June. His wife, Lonnie, said, “Muhammad indicated that when the end came for him, he wanted us to use his life and his death as a teaching moment for young people, for his country and for the world. In effect, he wanted us to remind people who are suffering that he had seen the face of injustice. That he grew up during segregation, and that during his early life he was not free to be who he wanted to be. But he never became embittered enough to quit or to engage in violence.”

Former President Bill Clinton spoke about how Ali found self-empowerment: “He decided that not his race nor his place, the expectations of others – positive, negative or otherwise – would strip from him the power to write his own story. ”

Here’s to you, Mr. Cassius Clay.

Jeff

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The Origin of Father’s Day

jeffBy Jeff Alevy
CEO, YMCA of the Twin Tiers

This month is a time to recognize the father figure in your life. Regardless of the good, bad or indifferent feelings that may be conjured up about dad, I am sure the relationship is/was meaningful and has a tremendous influence on your life.

In case you’ve ever wondered how this celebration of fathers came about, the first Father’s Day celebration was held in the Spokane YMCA on June 19, 1910 by a woman named Sonora Smart Dodd, who was born in Arkansas. Her father, a civil war veteran named William Jackson Smart, was a single parent who raised his six children! After hearing a sermon about Mother’s Day a year earlier in 1909 at Central Methodist Episcopal Church, she told her pastor that fathers should have a similar holiday honoring them.

Sonora initially suggested June 5th – her father’s birthday – to celebrate Father’s Day. Interestingly enough, the pastors did not have enough time to prepare their sermons, so the celebration was moved to the third Sunday of June. Several local clergymen accepted the idea, and on June 19, 1910, the first Father’s Day, “sermons honoring fathers” were presented throughout the city of Spokane.

Early memories of my father include growing up in Miami Beach and watching his utter enjoyment laying out on the beach or at the pool sunbathing. He was a sun worshipper. Maybe the fact that he was born and raised in New York had something to do with that. After experiencing a few winters here, I can relate.

My father had the ‘gypsy’ bug in him; he loved to travel, see new places and experience new things. Even when he was home on weekends, we found ourselves watching travel documentaries on TV which connected us to the rest of the world. He also, by the way, had a bad temper. There are times I can still picture his facial muscles tightening up as if he was about to explode.

He drove a yellow Volkswagen Bug and was in the advertising business, which required occasional travel to the Caribbean Islands where some of his agency’s clients were located. On one of his business trips to St. Thomas, USVI, he brought me with him. I remember it being a special experience, not just for the beauty of the island – but because my dad cared enough to want me with him and show me new things. My dad is no longer with us. Even so, Happy Father’s Day to my dad – and all father figures who devote themselves to raising happy, healthy families.

Yours Truly,

Jeff Alevy
CEO, YMCA of the Twin Tiers

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Be Safe in the Water This Summer

By Taylor Lubi and Nick Burt
Aquatics Department, YMCA of the Twin Tiers

Happy Summer!

‘Tis the season for cookouts, picnics, camping, s’mores, swimming, and boating.  There’s nothing like the summer; there’s something for everyone to do!

If you enjoy activities in the water during these outdoor months, we’d like to remind you of the importance of water safety knowledge. Will you and the kids be spending time by the pool or on the lake this summer? Have you made sure that everyone knows how to swim?

In an area surrounded by as much water as we are, learning how to swim and the importance of water safety is an absolute must. Unfortunately, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional deaths for people ages 1-to-14, and the fifth leading cause of all deaths in people of all ages. As we enter into the warmer months of the year, swimming becomes one of the most popular forms of recreation.

A local youth member receives swim lessons at the YMCA.

A local youth member receives swim lessons at the YMCA.

Learning to swim is not only a fun way to get children involved in a lifelong sport they can practice for the rest of their lives, but also a way for our youth to develop character as a member of a team. Swimming is a life-changing and potentially life-saving skill that all members of our community should have.

We hope you have a happy and safe summer!  Below are a few safety tips for your summer aquatic adventures:

Safety Tips

  • Never go into the water to get someone if you believe them to be in trouble. Always be sure to reach something out to them or throw them a floatation device or rope to tow them back to safety. Reach, Throw, Never Go.
  • Always use a USCG approved floatation device when on a boat or for at risk individuals such as children.  Avoid any floatation that is filled with air.
  • Avoid alcohol use while swimming.
  • Always swim with a buddy.
  • Learn CPR.  Having the knowledge of CPR can possibly help save a loved one, even outside the aquatic realm.
  • If you are responsible for children or loved ones while they are in the water, please leave your cell phone with the towels.  Nobody wants to be distracted while tasked with the safety and lives of others.
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Five Historical Reasons the Y Makes “For a Better Us™”

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On June 6 the YMCA marks more than 170 years, as more than a place, it is a movement that offers programs and services designed to foster youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Here are five past notable events and achievements that demonstrate the Y’s commitment to the communities it serves:

  1. American Institutions: Celebrations such as Father’s Day, and organizations like the Peace Corps, all have their roots at the YMCA.
  1. Camping Under the Stars: The oldest known summer camp, Camp Dudley, first opened in 1855 and countless numbers of boys and girls have since learned the skills and wonders of camping through the Y, developing critical skills and making memories along the way.
  1. Inventing New Ways to Play: From James Naismith’s invention of basketball to instructors creating racquetball and what would eventually become volleyball, the Y has a rich tradition in activities that are played by millions of people around the globe. One Y staffer, Robert J. Roberts, is even credited with inventing the term “body building.”
  1. Nobel Laureate: YMCA leader John R. Mott was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1946 for the Y’s groundbreaking role in raising global awareness and support and for the organization’s humanitarian efforts.
  1. Furthering Education: The Y is credited with spearheading the first public libraries, night school for adult education and English as a second language courses.

How the Y is relevant in 2016

Today, the Y serves more than 22 million people annually and offers resources at over 2,700 locations across all 50 states. Here are three ways “community” continues as the Y’s number one cause:

  1. Nurturing the Potential of Our Kids: When kids are out of school, they can face hurdles that prevent them from reaching their full potential. Nationwide, the Y helps over nine million youth to close gaps in hunger, health, learning, water safety and safe spaces while providing a place to stay healthy, build friendships, and achieve more – all while having fun! Each program demonstrates the Y’s unwavering commitment to ensuring children are on track for a successful education, especially those in underserved communities.
  1. Improving the Nation’s Health: More than a place to work out, the Y offers programs that help individuals and families improve their health and enact changes that strengthen community and society as a whole. From working with people who are trying to find ways to improve health, but don’t know how, to preventing chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and helping people recover from serious illnesses like cancer, the Y is one of the few organizations in the country with the size and influence that can effectively reach millions of people. Ys are also active in the community, creating communal gardens, increasing access to farmers markets and ensuring children have a safe route to school.
  1. Support For All Our Neighbors: As one of the nation’s leading nonprofits, the Y’s social services and volunteer programs help more than 10,000 communities nationwide. From organizing volunteers when disaster strikes to member-led community service projects through the Togetherhood program, every effort helps to make a difference.

For more information on Y programs please visit: ymca.net/forabetterus

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