YMCA leadership breakfast honors volunteers

YMCA leadership breakfast honors volunteers

The Westerly Sun

WESTERLY — The four people honored at the Ocean Community YMCA’s annual Leadership Recognition Breakfast at the Ocean House Friday morning shifted focus from themselves and insisted that the accolades belong squarely with the organization that one speaker called “a galvanizing force in the community.”

Each year for the last five years, the YMCA has honored volunteers who embody the organization’s key areas of focus: youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility. This year, in front of a sold-out crowd of roughly 170 guests, Charles and Perry Kellogg of Westerly were honored for their efforts with youth development; Stephen Morgan of Ashaway, for healthy living; and Paul Verbinnen of Westerly for social responsibility.

State Senate Minority Leader Dennis L. Algiere served as emcee for the event and first introduced Tim Babcock, the Y’s vice president of operations, who introduced the Kelloggs, the couple known for hosting the annual “Pink and Green” party, a fundraiser for the financial assistance program at the Westerly-Pawcatuck branch.

Clad in a green jacket and pink slacks, Babcock said the Kelloggs’ benefit has helped scores of children enjoy membership benefits at the Y, and help the Y continue to ensure that no one is ever turned away from membership. In the nine years since they began holding the parties, Babcock said, more than $300,000 has been raised for the financial assistance program.

“According to many,” Babcock said, “the color pink symbolizes caring and love and green symbolizes health, youth and generosity.”

Ideal for the couple who do so much for the Y, and are frequent visitors to the Westerly-Pawcatuck branch, where their children participate in swim lessons and other activities.

Charles Kellogg, who, with his wife, also contributes time, resources and ideas by chairing the planning committee, managing the invitations and strategizing, thanked his parents, Jane Kellogg, who was in attendance, and his father, the late Thomas Kellogg, for opening the doors of their Watch Hill home, Rock Pile, for the benefit parties.

“I am humbled,” Kellogg said before the breakfast began. “There are so many people who do so many things that I am in awe ... but I am grateful too.”

Malcolm Makin, president of Professional Planning Group of Westerly, introduced Morgan, a housewright, who has volunteered as a swim coach, chaired the Westerly-Pawcatuck board of directors, and served as a key figure shaping facility improvements. He also oversaw a $1.4 million renovation to Camp Watchaug and served on the Association Property Committee during the $8.2 million renovation of the Westerly-Pawcatuck branch.

“I’ve known Steve a long time and I was shocked to learn all he has done,” said Makin. “He is one of those people who says very little but works and works and works behind the scenes.”

“I am honored and humbled,” said a soft-spoken Morgan.

“The Y has always been a big part of my life. It’s an institution that sustains itself because it is able to adapt and grow and stay inclusive.”

The Y makes it “easy to give back,” Morgan said. “It’s a tremendous organization ... we are a real family.”

“I thank all of you out there ... I wouldn’t be standing here without you,” he added, with a nod to his fundraising efforts. “And I’ll be calling you again soon.”

Cee Greene, who also volunteers at the Y, introduced her husband, philanthropist Paul Verbinnen, the finance chairman for the Watch Hill Fire District and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

‘Galvanizing force’

“Paul is grateful and honored,” said Greene, calling the Y the “heart of this community” and “a galvanizing force in the community.”

“The Y brings people together,” she continued, “it’s a welcome center for one and all. Everyone is welcome at the Y and that is profoundly important.”

“We should never underestimate our primordial need to connect,” she said, adding that in these days of increasing isolation, “the Y allows people to connect.”

Verbinnen, a 1975 graduate of Westerly High School, said he used to attend dances at the Y as a seventh and eighth-grader.

“They were wonderful,” he said, “I met many friends there ... many of whom are friends today.”

Kellogg has also served on the Westerly-Pawcatuck branch board, the annual campaign committee, the camp committee and the fund development committee. He also serves on the association board of directors.

Morgan, along with his wife, Ruth, are active fundraisers and advocates for the annual campaign to provide YCares scholarship support. He served on the association property committee during the renovation of the Westerly-Pawcatuck branch.

Verbinnen served on the major gifts committee for the campaign and helped the committee exceed its $4 million goal by more than $1 million.

As a result of the campaign, the Westerly-Pawcatuck branch is now serving more people than ever before in its history, according to Laura Evans, the Y’s vice president of development and community engagement.

“This has become quite a tradition,” said Evans about the recognition breakfast. “I think it’s telling that most of our past recipients are here with us this morning.”



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