Students head out from their yoga class at the Monroe YMCA on Thursday, Sept. 21.
Students head out from their yoga class at the Monroe YMCA on Thursday, Sept. 21.
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The Monroe Family YMCA is in the middle celebrating its 10-year anniversary. Its doors opened off Fryelands Boulevard just more than a decade ago on Sept. 1, and thousands of people have been through them since to seek out services.

Over the years the building has been a safe place for youth in crisis, an avenue of support for seniors who have lost a spouse, and a gathering space where people who have special needs and disabilities can find inclusive activities.

It's where Monroe's cold weather shelter saw its beginnings, and its the source of hundreds of thousands of dollars raised to connect struggling families with resources.

The nonprofit has a presence in 10,000 neighborhoods in the U.S., according to the national organization. The association was founded in 1851 as a meeting ground for young men experiencing hardship and retains its original aim to meet the social needs of a community and encourage a diverse membership. The YMCA's programs put a focus on healthy living, youth development and social responsibility.

Monroe YMCA's senior program director Jamie Williams and executive director Patsy Cudaback shake their heads when asked if physical fitness is at the core of the organization. While there is a pool, gym, basketball and volleyball courts, it is more of a gathering place and center that helps people of all ages achieve health and wellbeing as a whole, they said. 

Parents drop their children off for two hours in the morning and evening while they use the indoor facilities or head out to Lake Tye Park for what Williams refers to as the YMCA's outdoor track. Cooking classes are hosted in the nonprofit's nutrition center. There are laundry and showers for members who don't have access to either on a daily basis.

Each branch is representative and “a reflection of the community that it's in,” said marketing coordinator Emily Lucey.

The YMCA of Snohomish County has been around for more than 100 years, according to the Monroe YMCA. The Everett YMCA opened in 1899. Now there are five locations. The Monroe YMCA was chartered in 1999, and the city's 40,000-square-foot facility opened in 2006.

Some said opening in the middle of the Great Recession was a risky choice, Cudaback said, but she thinks it was timed perfectly.

Cudaback said the YMCA moved in and was able to support those who lost their jobs; a six-month free membership was given out to people facing unemployment during that time, so they could access the services that were “so impactful and could be life changing,” she said.

About 700 people joined at the start, according to the Monroe YMCA. It was projected back then that annual membership would eventually reach 13,000.

While more and more people continue to use the facilities, fewer memberships are actually purchased each year, Cudaback said, however, financial assistance is going up. That means more fundraising must be done to meet the demand, she said.

Williams said everyone, regardless of their ability to pay, will receive something when they walk through the front doors. The only limitations are that there may not be enough of some resources to offer to everyone that needs it, she said.

“It is part of the Y culture to want to help,” said Tania Price, development and corporate relations director.

She said before the Monroe YMCA opened she always viewed her family's move to the city as temporary. Afterward, she said she was finally able to feel like she wanted to put roots down in the community.

Price said she knows people who specifically chose to live in a community because they know there is a YMCA there.

Cudaback said she knows of a senior resident who was suicidal after their spouse died but able to recover at the Monroe YMCA. A member told her that he picked the location of his home so he would be within walking distance of the building.

“So, we hear these stories,” she said.

Local partnerships remain critical to the YMCA's success. By working with the school district, Cudaback said the Monroe YMCA has been able to help thousands of kids improve in school.

Cudaback said in working with the Monroe Rotary Club, a partnership that predates the actual building, the Monroe YMCA was able to expand the community's inclusive activities; the annual youth baseball Miracle League has grown to have games each spring for three different age groups, including for adults, she said.

One of the key components of the nonprofit's strategic plan was to bring in more bilingual staff and members, Cudaback said. Three of the nonprofit's board members are Hispanic, including an area high school student.

To honor the past 10 years, the Monroe YMCA is holding events through the end of the month. The highlight will be the location's first World Dance Party, Williams said. The entire community is invited to attend regardless of skill level or style. It is also a potluck, and the hope is that members from all backgrounds will come to teach or learn, she said.

The event is free and will take place 6-8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 27, at the YMCA. The month's other events and updates can be found at facebook.com/ymcamonroe.