By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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“We should look for areas where there is a need and provide help to fulfill that need,” Jefferson County Family YMCA Executive Director Erica Delma told an audience of about 50 gathered for the weekly Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Elks Club.
“We need to be giving kids experience in activities that they may not have access to such as culinary arts and fencing.”
Delma said children in East Jefferson face an uphill battle, noting that 22 percent of them live in poverty, 39 percent receive economic assistance, and 49 percent receive medical assistance.
Delma said that one in four children suffer from food uncertainty, which means the kids do not know where their next meal is coming from.
Delma said the Jefferson County YMCA differs from many other Y chapters as it has a per-use rather than a membership model.
The organization is not supported by city or county government, aside from a lease with the city at 1919 Blaine St., where the Y has a small office.
To this end, the YMCA is beginning a fundraising campaign with a $32,000 goal, although it needs an additional $26,000 in order to offer all the needed programs, Delma said.
One of its most important programs is day care.
The Y provides the only licensed facility in the Port Townsend area, she said.
“It's important to offer a low-cost child-care alternative for parents who go to work, a place that keeps kids safe and healthy after school,” Delma said.
Kids also learn by example, Delma said, lauding a program that puts Port Townsend police in direct contact with the youngsters.
“When a child's first contact with police is positive, it sets the stage for them staying on the right track later on,” she said.
“And we are looking for mentors, if they spend one hour a week with a kid, the benefits can last a lifetime.
“Having a strong role model can make all the difference in the world to a kid.”
Youths need allies, and it's up to the community to provide that support, Delma said.
Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Teresa Verraes said that having a strong YMCA presence encourages people to relocate to the area.
“I get four or five calls every month from people who want to move here, bring their families, and when they hear there is a Y here, they see it as a positive thing,” Verraes said.
“And we all need to support the Y. I found a way to make lattes at home and now have $25 a week that I can contribute.”
Delma said the Jefferson County YMCA is “nimble” and can respond to needs as they are discovered, but seeks community partnerships.
“I feel positive about collaboration here,” she said.
“I look around this room and see a lot of potential team members and look forward to working with you all in the future.”
For more information call 360-385-5811 or go to http://jeffersoncountyymca.org.
Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at email@example.com.