Local organization thrives under new leadership - WREX.com – Rockford’s News Leader

Local organization thrives under new leadership

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A local organization has big plans for the future, thanks to success in the past year.

For the first time in three years, the Rock River Valley YMCA organization has moved from the red into the black. But, the biggest improvement started with a team of volunteers, staff, and community members, united in making the local 'Y' a better organization.

"Yes the dollars have come in, but all of that comes with the fact that people, who were a little bit hateful, not excited to see change, have come together and said 'We're going to do this.'" -says YMCA of Rock River Valley President & CEO Mike Brown.

Before Mike Brown took over as President and CEO in 2011, the YMCA of Rock River Valley was borrowing about $300,000 to $400,000 each year. This year, they borrowed $0 thanks to an increase in community donations, and 3,000 new household memberships.

"You're talking about 9,000 new people. We have 11,000 more visits a month than we've ever had." -says Brown.

And the success continues. In the last year, the organization opened the Willie D. Ashford YMCA at the Booker Washington Center, established a partnership with RPS #205, and one program saw more kids in attendance than ever before.

"This summer at Camp Winnebago we had the highest number of kids that we've ever had which is really exciting." -says Camp Winnebago Standing Bear Unit Coordinator Dani Zoeller.

A $20 million project, over the next seven years, will add an express YMCA near the Cherry Vale Mall, re-vamp locker rooms and add a new gym at the Pennock building, and even give kids who don't have families a place to call home at Camp Winnebago.

"What if we got places like Habitat for Humanity, and other organizations, to come and partner with us, and build a ranch-style home? We can serve those boys, put a house-parent on-place, take those kids to school and invest in their lives." -adds Brown.

YMCA membership fees are based on income and family size, and Brown says with the organization's new 'Open Doors' program, prices are now more affordable than ever.

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