Ocean Community YMCA earns honor for fundraising efforts

Ocean Community YMCA earns honor for fundraising efforts

Record-Journal
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Ocean Community YMCA President and CEO Maureen N. Fitzgerald and Operations Vice President Tim Babcock say the Y's selection as the winner of the Eagle Award for fundraising points to the connection between staff and the community. | (Jill Connor / The Westerly Sun)

WESTERLY — The residents of the greater Westerly-Pawcatuck area have catapulted the Ocean Community YMCA onto a very big map — a map that includes the entire United States along with Canada and Mexico.

Thanks to the generosity of local donors, said Y President and CEO Maureen Fitzgerald, the Y has been awarded the prestigious Excellence in Fundraising Eagle Award from the North American YMCA Development Organization (NAYDO), an award presented to YMCA associations that have demonstrated “outstanding achievement in the area of financial development.”

In April, Fitzgerald will head to Atlanta with a contingent that will include the Y’s Vice President of Operations Timothy Babcock, Chief Volunteer Officer William A. Nardone, Development Director Laura Evans and others for the annual NAYDO conference to accept the award and meet with leaders from YMCAs from across North America.

“I know,” said Fitzgerald with delight. “Imagine. Little old Westerly. We are so happy and so pleased.”

In essence, said Fitzgerald, the award is a reflection of the community’s response to the various fundraising campaigns conducted by the Y in the last several years and a testament to the staff at all the Y facilities — the Westerly, Arcadia and Mystic branches, Camp Watchaug and the The Washington Trust Community Skating Center.

“The community raised the money,” she said, “and the staff members are the ones who build the relationships and convey the importance of the Y’s mission.”

Included in that mission, stressed Fitzgerald, is the pledge to never turn anyone away due to their financial circumstances.

Providing programs that “build healthy spirit, mind and body for all” is at the core of the Y mission, Evans, the development director said. The fact that the annual “Reach out to Youth Campaign” — the program that enables the Y to provide memberships to people in need, and allows roughly 2,000 families to participate in Y programs and services by providing more than $450,000 in financial assistance — has been growing consistently over the years also factors into this award.

“It also speaks of the importance of the Y and how important it has become here in our corner of the world,” added Fitzgerald. “It shows that people in the community recognize its importance.”

“This is a huge deal,” said Babcock. “It speaks volumes about the community and about the job Maureen is doing.”

Babcock, noting that the award is not always given each year, nor given without just cause, said it is mostly a reflection of the relationship building that goes on with members, volunteers, staffers and board members.

“It’s really awesome,” said Babcock. “It also points to our ability to garner philanthropic support in the community.”

Edward Smith, owner of Chariho Furniture, and former chief volunteer officer of the association board of directors of the Westerly-Pawcatuck YMCA, said that while he was thrilled with the news, he was not all surprised to hear about the Eagle Award.

“It’s a pretty impressive award,” said Smith, “but truly it doesn’t come as a surprise.”

Not does it surprise Smith that Fitzgerald deflects any credit for the award.

“Maureen never takes enough credit for herself,” said Smith, of Richmond, who has long been instrumental in Y fundraising efforts both in Westerly and at the Arcadia branch, where he serves on the board of managers.

The award, said Smith, is an indication not only of Fitzgerald’s impressive leadership skills, but of her ability to nurture interest in the Y and to involve the community in the Y’s fiscal health.

When Fitzgerald took the reigns of Westerly’s YMCA a decade ago, said Smith, things began to change at the High Street community center.

“Once Maureen got here in Westerly she introduced and promoted the best practices for fundraising from the national YMCA,” said Nardone, who also points to Fitzgerald’s ability to connect with people and engender confidence in donors and in the volunteer board.

“This award is something that we should all be very proud of,” said Nardone. “It translates into a huge benefit for the community.”

Under Fitzgerald’s stewardship, he said, the Y has developed strategies designed to build stronger relationships among community leaders, board members and members of the three branches; has seen 100 percent participation by board members in fundraising efforts with members making personal contributions to support the annual campaign; and has seen the number of annual campaign volunteers increase steadily.

“Greater fundraising success translates to greater financial assistance available so greater numbers of individuals can benefit from all the Y has to offer,” said Evans, adding that representatives from NAYDO will be visiting Westerly in the coming weeks to meet key volunteers and members and to produce a video that will be shown when the award is presented at the national NAYDO conference in April.

The Eagle Awards chairman, Andy Pierce, said the vote to approve the Ocean Community YMCA for this year’s Eagle Award was unanimous by the committee, which was made up of past winners.

The application procedure, Pierce said, is a rigorous one with stringent guidelines.

“We’ll be accepting this award with a great sense of pride,” said Nardone, “and continued confidence for the future.”

nbfusaro@thewesterlysun.com


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