More than ever, the Hopkins County Family YMCA feels they are called upon to make a difference in the community.
The Y’s outreach coordinator, Michelle Hale, said they have fed over 60,000 meals in partnership with the Hopkins County School District since schools closed in mid-March.
“That’s pretty big numbers. We normally get somewhere between 60,000 to 80,000 (meals) in a summer,” she said. “We just got into June, and we’ve already done 60,000.”
CEO Chad Hart said he’s glad to address food insecurity in the community. Generally in a year, he said they serve 100,000 meals.
With everything that’s happening on a local, national and global scale since George Floyd’s death, the national YMCA’s Youth in Government said their institution needs to look at how they can be intentional with equity and equality and using people’s voice as power, said Hart.
There are several ways the Y is putting their words into action. Monday, they are announcing five students from the community who were selected to join the Changemaker Institute, which empowers students to be a positive force for change in their community.
“They’ll come out of this institute with a renewed sense of community and how they’re not just a person, but they can truly change and impact their surroundings and their region,” said Hart.
YMCA Chief Operating Officer Kelly Forbes said they want to give the students a reason to stay in the community.
“Knowing that if we’ve invested in them that hopefully they will return to our community and help lead the future,” she said. “We have always been about youth and kids, but just giving them another platform, so that they do have a voice and feel like their voice matters. They’re not just speaking their minds, but that it’s going to make a difference. I think it’s important for them, but then also for our community.”
The YMCA is also partnering with the Hopkins County Clerk’s Office and the school district to promote a Youth Voter Commitment Pledge.
“YMCA of the USA has put out an initiative called the youth voter commitment, which essentially, is a push to get eligible teenagers registered. Let them understand their voting rights, how to vote why they’re voting. Just all things voting,” said Hart. “So, there’s a push to get youth voting poll workers engaged and get them involved in their process, and you know, the true democratic process of voting.”
The YMCA is also in the early stages of building a Youth Advisory Board so students can have a lasting impact on the Y.
“Our stance is to provide a voice to teenagers to positively impact and change their communities,” said Hart. “We’re looking to have a diverse group of Youth Advisory Board Members. We’re looking to have diverse communication and engagement in the upcoming months.”
Currently, the Y is reopening its services in phases. For more information about the programs they offer and their availability during the pandemic, visit their website at hopkinscounty ymca.com.