1. How are you connected to the YMCA?

The non-profit Armed Services YMCA is a proud partner organization of the YMCA.  We provide social services for the military community—like fun activities and events for families, youth development programs, and support programs for service members and wounded, injured, and ill. Rather than fitness facilities with traditional dues or membership, our Armed Services YMCA offers our social services to active duty and their families at now or low cost. We have the National Armed Services YMCA Headquarters in Springfield, VA with 150 Armed Services YMCA program sites nationwide.   We do not charge dues or membership and are a privately funded charity that does not receive any government funding.  We share the same core values of the YMCA of Caring, Respect, Honesty and Responsibility and we focus our services and programs toward young enlisted military personnel and their families.

2. Where is the Pool/Gym?

The Armed Services YMCA primarily focuses on social services and hands-on programs for young enlisted Military Families for no or low-cost. Programs and facilities vary by branch, but most are not a traditional Pool/Gym Facility, but rather an outlet for Military Families to help make military life easier. Most branches have several service sites, from Military Housing Community Centers, playgrounds, schools, and on base facilities. Our focus is to keep donations and funding for our programs and services, so we operate out of free or donated spaces that are convenient to Military Families, rather than spending funding on facility upkeep. That is how we are able to remain a top-rated military non-profit.

3. Why do you exist? What makes you unique? What needs are you meeting?

The Armed Services YMCA (ASYMCA) exists to Make Military Life Easier for our junior enlisted military and their young families. These young heroes and their families are voluntarily serving and sacrificing daily so we can continue to enjoy our freedoms and way of life. The junior troops don’t get paid very much and can barely afford the basics for their families. With shrinking defense budgets, troop and family programs are being cut at every military installation. The ASYMCA, in close coordination with military leaders, attempts to fill the highest priority gaps in these required programs and services. Our junior military troops and families deserve all the help we can possibly provide with no and low cost programs.

4. What have you accomplished? Who have you actually helped? How? Tell me the story of someone you’ve helped or some change you’ve brought about.

In an effort to help military children, Operation Kid Comfort provides free, hand-made, photo-quilts to children of deployed service members. The family provides the pictures they’d like to see on the quilt; they are transferred to material; and volunteer quilters across the country then make the quilts. More than 22,000 free quilts have been provided to children of deployed military troops since 2003. In 2012, we proactively impacted 12,772 military families with emergency assistance in times of crisis, death or other major life events to help prevent more serious, long term issues.

Operation Hero is an after school tutoring and mentoring program designed to assist military children in 2nd – 6th grade to cope with the daily challenges associated with living in a military family (deployment of parents; frequent moves).  It is a 10 week session during the school year that meets twice a week for 2 hours each day at local elementary schools that service the military kids stationed at more than a dozen installations across the country. They get assistance in schoolwork, making friends, dealing with stress and coping with daily challenges. The ASYMCA reaches almost 2,000 military children annually through this award winning program that consistently receives high praise form educators, parents and the students and offers proactive and effective tools to children to help cope with the challenges of military.

5. How do you help people in my community?

If you are near a major military installation, we most likely have a program site to provide tangible, hands on support , with access to free programs like free photo quilts for children of deployed and the YMCA DOD Initiative to help reduce the stresses and challenges of  military life. For example, in Oklahoma, we had a young enlisted Solider with a newly born infant was having physical difficulty and was transported to a hospital in Oklahoma City. The ASYMCA provided food and gas to help with expenses during this time. Soldier’s statement: Having our new baby ninety miles away in a hospital in OKC is very hard for us. We just have to see her every evening. Thanks to your help we are able to do just that! Thank you! Military often have to move and relocate, and spouse often return to their hometown for childcare and other support during family separations, so all communities are really impacted by the struggles of military families.

6. Why do you need my support? Would my small gift really make a difference? How will you use it? How will you make a difference in the future? What’s your vision? How are you different from all the other causes out there?

The Armed Services YMCA is consistently rated as a high impact, fiscally responsible charity with hands-on programs for 500,000 troops and their families each year to help make military life easier.  We receive no government funding and the amount of individual donations and grants directly impacts the number of military families we are able to help.

Our military has been bravely and selflessly supporting two simultaneous wars for 10 years now; less than 1% of the U.S. population voluntarily ensuring the safety and security of the other 99%. The strains and sacrifice of the troops and their families thru continued relocations around the world, multiple extensive combat tours, and the challenges they are facing upon return are well documented. The stress on troops and military families is at an all-time high. The Services have recognized that fact, and knowing that the future of the all-volunteer force is at risk, have committed to ensuring troops and family members receive the programs and services they need and so richly deserve. The most comforting factor for troops as they deploy is the knowledge that their Families are being properly cared for with hands on programs and services. Only with that need met, they can then focus solely on their mission at hand and take full advantage of their training to accomplish that mission and return home safely.

The ASYMCA currently operates under an official public-private partnership with the Department of Defense. This agreement provides the military installation commanders the flexibility and authority to donate facilities, utilities, maintenance, etc.in support of ASYMCA operations and programs to help keep costs down.   We also have established partnerships with the YMCA, the Sierra Club, Fisher House, Operation Homefront, the USO and others to maximize our outreach and impact on the families.

7. How can I be sure that you will use my money wisely and won’t waste it?
  • The ASYMCA has only about 500 employees, while relying on more than 13,000 volunteers to deliver 115,000 volunteer hours, saving the organization over 2.5 million dollars while being able to offer our free or low-cost programs and services to nearly 500,000 service members and their families annually. By operating out of free donated spaces, and keeping staff costs low, we are able to focus on programs and services.
  • 91 cents of every dollar donated to the ASYMCA goes direct to program support. Rated as “Exceptional” (Top 2% of Charities) by Charity Navigator for the 7th consecutive year; transparency, accountability and fiscal responsibility is a top priority along with quality and high functioning programs.  We undergo an independent audit annually, and our audit reports and federal tax forms (990) are displayed openly for review on our website.
  • Charity Navigator is an independent, non-profit organization that evaluates American charities. Its stated goal is “to advance a more efficient and responsive philanthropic marketplace by evaluating the financial health of America’s largest charities.” In 2012, Charity Navigator awarded the ASYMCA a 7th consecutive 4-Star rating which has been achieved by less than 2% of their rated charities and is designated as an “Exceptional” Charity.
  • Charity Watch provides information about charities’ financial efficiency, accountability, governance, and fundraising, and acts as an independent clearing house for charitable information. The ASYMCA has consistently continued to receive an “A” rating from Charity Watch.
  • ASYMCA is a recipient of the Independent Charities Seal of Excellence; awarded to the members that have, upon rigorous independent review, been able to certify, document, and demonstrate on an annual basis that they meet the highest standards of public accountability, program effectiveness, and cost effectiveness.
8. Can I volunteer? How?

We heavily rely on volunteers and community partnerships to remain a top rated, fiscally responsibly charity- over 13,000 in 2012. We partner with the community and our wonderful volunteer base to provide comfort and care to our service members at 150 program centers throughout the United States, near 45 major military installations. We encourage to find a location near you to see how you can impact military families.