Breanna Nathorst is spotted by YMCA of Okanagan trainer Collin during a TRX workout.

Communities need charities like the Okanagan YMCA

The YMCA responds to the last year during the pandemic

The YMCA has been a part of our province since 1886 and for almost 40 years in the Okanagan.

The Y has always been there – through the good times and the bad – supporting the health of the communities we serve and adapting through recessions, fires, floods, and today, a pandemic. In the Okanagan alone, the Y delivered services to over 45,000 people in 2019 and provided over $1 million in financial subsidies and free programming so that low-income families in our communities could access vital services they couldn’t otherwise afford.

But now, the YMCA’s very existence is in jeopardy as we experience the economic effects of the current crisis in B.C.

It has been a difficult time for our communities, and a difficult time for our YMCA. We have experienced layoffs and the loss of valued staff, greatly reduced revenue from fees and charitable giving, and uncertainty around every corner. We have worked hard and have innovated to address the challenges our communities are facing and to be a part of the response and the recovery.

The non-profit and charitable sector in B.C. is in trouble. Operational charities like YMCAs rely on a combination of membership fees, community grants, charitable gifts, and provincial and federal grants to fund our many programs and services – such as childcare, chronic disease management, mental health and numerous fitness and aquatics programs. YMCAs like ours were not able to generate program revenue while closed.

Since reopening, programs have become more expensive to operate and yet, with fewer paying members and program participants, generate less revenue. We need to make sure that charities like ours are able to continue to do needed work throughout the COVID-19 crisis. B.C. cannot recover and flourish without the help and contributions of charities and nonprofit organizations.

Sharon Peterson is CEO of the YMCA of Okanagan