SIKESTON - Children have somewhere safe and fun to go after school until mom or dad gets off work.
They have a place to learn sportsmanship, character development and how to get along with others through a variety of sports.
Day camps give young people a summer filled with field trips, swimming, crafts and games.
Race and age have no significance and because of the YMCA and the generosity shown by people in the community, it doesn't matter whether their families have the money to pay for the programs or not.
That, says Jeff Partridge, is why the Partnership With Youth Campaign is so vital.
"In all communities there are youth who through no fault of their own don't have the same opportunities as others," said Partridge, YMCA's executive director. "Providing the programs and services we do, and making them available to all will play a part in their future development. The YMCA helps build confidence, develop values and make them feel good about themselves so they can be productive as adults. The YMCA plays a part in this for all youth along with schools, church and their parents.
Partridige said the YMCA could not meet its mission without the Partnership With Youth Campaign, an annual fund-raising campaign. "It allows us to be available to anyone who wants to participate. Without the campaign our fees for memberships and programs would have to be much higher. We would not be able to provide financial assistance to youth and families. The YMCA would cease to exist because we would not be considered a not-for-profit."
Although additional funds are always needed and appreciated, the campaign is conducted this time every year as the only time the YMCA actively solicits funds from the community.
So far just over $15,000 of the $62,000 goal has been reached. Organizers, including Tom Robison, campaign chairman, Steve Forbis, Debbie Wilson and 23 other YMCA volunteers, hope the rest is made up by Nov. 21.
The YMCA has 1,500 members, 45 percent of whom are under age 18. This year the organization has provided financial assistance or outreach activities for 231 individuals, of which 80 percent are youths.
"We provide numerous activities for our youth, but most of all it's how we run the programs that impact the youth," said Partridge. "We stress character development in our programs. We try to build on the values that are taught in school, church and hopefully at home. The staff and volunteers who run our programs try to instill values such as honesty, caring, respect and responsibilities in all the youth that participate. This is more important than the program itself."
He also noted the campaign helps the organization keep the membership and fee structure affordable for the general public and makes it possible to provide community outreach activities.
The YMCA staff can see every day the difference the organization makes in the lives of its youngest members but it's the thank-you notes and the smiles on the children that they hold near and dear.
"I want to thankya for letting me go on trips to St. Louis," wrote 9-year-old Antwan. "I enjoyed going to the zoo, seeing different animals. I learned alot about camp. I leared to always be respectful and kind to oneanother. While being in the camp I met alot of new friends. Thank you."
"We had a youth last summer who was participating in day camp and was on financial assistance," Partridge recalled. "I saw him the last day of camp and his head was down and he was obviously down in the dumps. I asked what was wrong, expecting him to say one of the kids said something mean or something to that effect. But he looked at me and said 'I don't want camp to end.'"
Anyone wishing to make a donation to the Partnership With Youth Campaign may do so by sending it to YMCA of Southeast Missouri/Partnership With Youth, 602 Tanner St., Sikeston, Mo. 63801.