By Gretchen Murray
Traverse City Record-Eagle
TRAVERSE CITY — TRAVERSE CITY — A nonprofit organization like the Traverse Bay YMCA couldn’t advance its mission without the help of a large number of dedicated volunteers. The YMCA last month paid tribute to its staff of 322 volunteers and celebrated their 24,451 collective hours of service in 2012 during its annual meeting and volunteer awards banquet.
“Last year’s volunteer hours amounted to the equivalent of over $500,000, based on state and national standards,” said Leisa Eckerle Hankins, director of Membership and Development. “The Y could not exist without volunteers. They are at the heart of what we do at the Y.”
Hankins said Y volunteers serve on the board of directors, on many committees, as coaches and in many other capacities.
“They also bring their expertise to strengthen the Y’s impact on the community, and their passion makes them an invaluable asset,” she said.
Traverse City resident Nick Edson fits that category. Edson, who received the organization’s 2012 Lifetime Mission Award, is a communications and public relations professional who has served on the Y’s board of directors for nine years. He also volunteers his expertise to fundraising efforts for the YMCA’s new facility on Silver Lake Road that’s set to open in early 2014.
“My main goal was to help build the new Y, and seeing the new facility will be one of my proudest moments,” Edson said of the three, three-year terms he spent on the board and his two years as board president. “When the economy slowed down and fundraising got stuck, a lot of people didn’t think it could be done, but in the end it will benefit hundreds, possibly thousands, of families over the next decades.”
The long-awaited facility will be welcomed, but Alicia Ackerson understands a YMCA is much more than a structure. Alicia and Tom Ackerson and their children Aaron, 9, and Amelia, 6, received the Y’s Strong Family Award for their steadfast involvement in the YMCA programs and for demonstrating YMCA values.
The Ackersons have been Traverse Bay Y members since they moved to the area four years ago, but the Y has always been a part of Alicia’s life. She participated in Y programs as a child in Saginaw and she worked as a camp counselor as a teen.
“When they told us we won the award, it meant so much to me,” Alicia Ackerson said. “The friends I made at the Y all those years ago, we’re all still close. There’s something about a Y community.”
Ackerson said she’s eager for her children to share those same types of happy childhood memories, and turned to the Y as a place for making new connections soon after getting settled.
“The Y is someplace where the kids can be active, and I know they’re safe,” Ackerson said. “The kids have made friends there, and so have we. Where else can you go in to exercise and come out with a friend?”
Hankins suspects even more volunteers will be needed when the new YMCA opens.
“We expect to need over 100 volunteers to help with tours, special events, marketing and preparing for the opening of the new facility,” she said.
Learn more about volunteer opportunities by calling the YMCA, 231-933-9622 or emailing Hankins at firstname.lastname@example.org.