History comes alive

The YMCA of Ithaca and Tompkins County caps off historic year

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This Friday, Nov. 9, the YMCA of Ithaca and Tompkins County invites you to take a step back in time as the organization celebrates 150 years of serving the community with a special dinner at the Statler Hotel. From 6 to 11 p.m. guests will be surrounded by history. As they enter the hotel they will be greeted by one of several figures from the past, dressed in period clothing and armed with knowledge of the time period. Throughout the event, these figures, dressed in costumes donated by Running to Places, will be a living embodiment of what guests are in attendance to celebrate. Those still looking to get their tickets ($100 for one, $150 for two) should call the YMCA.


The ballroom will be decorated with historic pictures and posters, some from the YMCA archives, and keynote speaker Anthony DiRenzo, a professor in the department of writing at Ithaca College, will give a presentation on the history of the YMCA. Guests will be given a surprise history-themed gift before the evening is out to remember the event. Scrapbooks from the YMCA’s history that were heavily referenced while organizing the event may be on display for perusal while guests enjoy the musical stylings of Johnny Russo.


Before making it to the ballroom, guests will pass the items collected for the silent auction. Although the event is not billed as a fundraiser, the money made will be put toward the YMCA scholarship fund for memberships and programming.


But the night is not just about looking back, it will also be about creating the organization’s future. Cards will be left at each table for guests to write a note, the notes will then be sealed into a time capsule. But the eventual location of the time capsule is still being considered. Frank Towner, CEO of the YMCA of Ithaca and Tompkins County, has long dreamed of reconstructing the current building to be able to offer more services to the community. Placing the time capsule in a special place during that construction has not been ruled out.


“Going forward, to serve the community the Y needs to be able to adapt to the needs of the community,” Towner said. “So, we know that after surveys, talking to community members, that we are adapting by going out to the public. Not everybody can get to us but we can maybe bring childcare to them.”


The YMCA already has two off-site childcare centers along with the on-site childcare, but Towner wonders if there are other places the YMCA could be providing that service. Currently, the childcare at the YMCA is spread out across three different rooms, but in the future, Towner would like to see it all consolidated. Partnering with local pools at TC3 or Ithaca College for their pools is also an idea he wants to pursue. The future of the YMCA, much like its past, will be about partnering with local community members and organizations to meet the needs of the community.


“We want to do more with more organizations,” Towner said.


But it’s not about just creating a space for people to congregate or parents to drop off their kids. Towner wants the YMCA to become a place for people to find purpose, connect with others, and stay healthy in all ways, not just physically. Already the YMCA has helped former addicts create a new community and stay active. Partnering with the Alcohol and Drug Council is another one of Towners many ideas to help become a partner in the transition of care.


“We have several success stories of people who came to the Y and connected with the right people,” Towner said. “Exercise, exercise mind, and body. So, if you exercise and you feel good about yourself you’ve got a stronger force to repel those things.”


These plans, Towner said, are to help make sure that in another 150 years the YMCA will have what it needs to continue serving the community.


150 years ago, a group of locals came together on the Cornell University campus, on Nov. 23, 1868, to form the local chapter of the YMCA. This Friday’s event, also in November and also being held on the Cornell Campus, is a celebration of the people that have come before us to create the YMCA that we know now, while at the same time building on that foundation to create a future that will stand just as strong.


Event sponsors include Cayuga Medical Center, CFCU Community Credit Union, Reeder & Sally Gates, Holt Architects, Sciarabba Walker LLC, and Therm Inc.

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