YMCA of Greater Louisville

Philanthropy…What It Really Means

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Today we have a guest blog post from our fearless leader and CEO, Steve Tarver…

The last 10 days have been an incredible set of experiences both professionally and personally. Last Thursday, I returned from a 6 day trip to Hong Kong. I flew from Hong Kong to Boston and then drove to Newport, Rhode Island, where I watched my son graduate from Naval Officer Development School. Both experiences were unbelievable privileges to experience. In the middle of it all, our own community had to respond to the weather related needs.

I was able to spend time at the Hong Kong YMCA, a 110 year old organization with a rich history in this bustling city of 7.5 million people living in a very small area. It’s a very diverse city that has history, modern business, great wealth, and poverty all within blocks of each other. Hong Kong has the greatest wealth gap in the world.

I was there to share case studies on membership, youth development, and community health. (This was a result of the Louisville YMCA’s reputation in these areas. Thanks to all our staff and volunteers for allowing this to be the case.) Included in the group were representatives from the Asia Pacific Alliance of YMCAs made up of 27 countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, Thailand, Cambodia, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and the Philippines, among others.

During the presentation on community health, I was talking about diabetes, obesity, and tobacco policy, lifestyle for granted when the initial issues raised were malnutrition, malaria, and dengue (acute viral disease similar to malaria also called “breakbone disease”). The Y’s located there are doing amazing work in health, community development, education, and human rights.

Even in Hong Kong, I became aware of the severe weather rolling in. Fortunately, our immediate area was spared, unlike our neighbors just to the north. Our terrific staff began to look at ways to help before the wind stopped blowing. Laurie Madden from challenged us to help. Melanie Cox made contact with a local church  in Henryville. Andy Pierce coordinated with the Red Cross. Within hours, each of our Y’s, had set up collection stations and lists of needed items. Many staff, members, neighbors, and volunteers contributed in many ways – communication, coordination, logistics, and delivery.

It started by providing 20 tables to a church so that meals could be served. Following were 3 trailer loads of supplies, mostly cleaning supplies and toiletries. One of our members, a five year old girl, however, donated her personal bible given to her as an infant…”I want those children to have it, Momma,” she said.

The Y family gave until being told that the need had been met. All done within about 72 hours. Do you see why I say so frequently what a privilege it is to serve with our staff and volunteers?

My son is now a Lieutenant in the US Navy.  He will serve as an audiologist at the 29 Palms Marine Base in California.  The Naval Station Newport is on a peninsula where it is very cold and windy this time of year.  My son told of training in the “Rose Garden” (a sand pit) and highly regimented procedures, meal times, and great honor in the work that is done.  I was able to observe some of the closing training activities including comments of the “Chief” – their drill instructor, and several of the staff officers.  Even though the Chief had frequently kicked their butts, woke them with whistles and bullhorns (sometimes after only 30-60 minutes of sleep), and took them to the Rose Garden, they loved the guy.

I was touched by a couple of things.  First was the amazing commitment that these men and women have to the protection of our freedom and rights – past, present, and future.  There are regular references to the willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice in these protections.  How many of us profess a willingness to die as part of our jobs?

Second were the comments made by Chief Hebert (pronounced a’-bear). He gave them 5 guidelines for success. The first was, “Integrity is everything. Without integrity, you have nothing and are lost.”

The second comment was, “There is no room for ‘drama’. You must maintain a focus on the MISSION!”

And this brings us to today. Our Annual Giving Campaign is not about drama. It’s about a passionate commitment to allowing those in our community that can benefit from a relationship with the YMCA to become part of the Y family. You have heard many stories of the impact of these experiences.

Philanthropy – from Greek, “to love people”. We are blessed to have such an attitude in our country. That’s all we are offering to our friends and colleagues –please focus on the mission!

Thank you for your PHILANTHROPY!


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