Roberto E. Aguirre has served as President and CEO for the Arlington-Mansfield Area YMCA (AMA YMCA) for the past four years. His involvement with the YMCA in general goes back 34 years when he first became engaged with the YMCA of Greater Houston Area as a part-time employee at Camp Cullen, located in Trinity, Texas. From that point forward, his “Y” experience included leadership positions in El Paso, San Antonio, New Mexico, Florida and Abilene. So, he is unequivocally qualified to explain how the YMCA works – and works for its member. This month he does just that in a conversation with Arlington Today.
Arlington Today: In a nutshell, what does the job of the leader of the Arlington-Mansfield Area YMCA entail?
Roberto Aguirre: As the President and CEO for the AMA YMCA I am ultimately responsible for the experience we provide to our 30,000-plus members and participants, responsible for the quality of the delivery of our programs, and working in conjunction with volunteer community leaders, my responsibilities also include raising the necessary funds to support those in need within our service area.
AT: What, in your opinion, is the greatest service provided by the Arlington-Mansfield Area YMCA?
RA: Family programming. The vision of the Arlington-Mansfield Area YMCA is to become the Family Center for the communities we serve. Our YMCA provides services to families of all ages, including wellness and social programs for almost 5,000 seniors. From Health and Wellness programs to Summer Day Camp and Swimming instruction, the YMCA is committed to delivering a menu of programs that will support the family and will help individuals improve their quality of life.
AT: What are some of the other ways the “Y” represents a positive influence on the communities it serves?
RA: The YMCA does not deny services to anyone due to their inability to pay for services. Each year, YMCA volunteers go out in the community to raise the necessary funds to support our scholarship program. In 2016, the Arlington-Mansfield Area YMCA provided $502,028 in financial assistance to youth and families in our community. Furthermore, the YMCA collaborates with community organizations like the Trinity Sports Foundation, area schools (public, private and charter schools), and other not-for-profits to deliver a quality program and improve the quality of life of those we serve.
AT: Despite all the good the YMCA does, you have been quoted saying that “Y” programs remain something of a well-kept secret. What are some of these programs and what benefits do they provide?
RA: The AMA YMCA is probably one of the best-kept secrets, even after 60 years of existence within the Arlington and Mansfield areas. Normally known for “Gym and Swim” programs, our YMCA provides many other programs to members of our community.
In the area of Healthy Living, we are active in diabetes prevention, offering our evidence-based YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program. Providing support to cancer survivors, the AMA YMCA offers the Livestrong Program designed to build communities and support systems in order to improve the quality of life for individuals dealing with cancer.
Related to Youth Development, over 9,000 children ages 3-15 participated in Youth Sports last year, a program commonly known within YMCAs. But how about our Youth and Government program? The Youth and Government program is shaping future community leaders by exposing high school students to “hands on” experiences within our judicial system and democratic processes. Or how about our Youth Wellness Program teaching children starting at the age of 10 years old about exercise, healthy eating, and healthy lifestyle choices?
And within the field of Social Responsibility, providing 126,000 free meals in 2016 to children and families in need. Furthermore, the YMCA does not deny services to anyone due to their inability to pay. As you can see, the Arlington-Mansfield Area YMCA is way more than a Gym and Swim.
AT: How does the Y bond with its community, not only through the obvious health benefits it provides, but through its staffing and service initiatives?
RA: As a community service organization we believe it is important to give back. In 2016 our YMCA engaged 921 volunteers to help us deliver programs to our youth. On a different initiative, the AMA YMCA during the month of November asked new and current YMCA members to donate canned food or a cash donation to support Mission Arlington. In early December, all full-time staff took a day to deliver to Mission Arlington three truckloads of food, and a cash donation of $2,860. Furthermore, the YMCA staff helped organize the Mission Arlington Christmas Store, a project we have been doing for a number of years. As you can see, in many different ways our members and our staff give back to our community.
AT: Speaking of staffing, how big is the YMCA staff?
RA: The Arlington-Mansfield Area YMCA is one of the largest community non-profits. Led by a volunteer Board of Directors, in 2016 the AMA YMCA employed a workforce of more than 400 employees and 921 program and policy volunteers.
AT: Let’s say that a family has just moved into the area. What information would you like to share with them to help them seriously consider becoming members?
RA: The Arlington-Mansfield Area YMCA makes it easy for your entire family to get involved in many different programs. With a unique Value-Add membership program, when you join our YMCA you have access to all three Family Centers … you will never have an excuse not to work out, we have state of the art wellness equipment, all of your group exercise classes are included with your membership, and within our service area there is always a YMCA near you that you can use at no additional cost. Furthermore, Youth Sports and other youth programs are a part of your Family Membership. Yes, that is correct; with the same affordable monthly rate of your membership (plus a small supply fee at times) you can enroll your children in sports, swim team, martial arts, dance and many other activities. Your YMCA includes half-day preschool age camps during the summer and multiple monthly Parents Night Out. Drop off your child at the YMCA and enjoy an evening with your significant other while your children have a blast at the Y! Finally, you don’t have to sign a contract. Our goal at the AMA YMCA is that you remain a member because the services are of value to you, your family, and help you be a better you.
AT: (last one) Please finish this sentence: It’s a great day for the Arlington-Mansfield Area YMCA when …”
RA: … A family or an individual finds the YMCA connection that will help build a stronger person in spirit, mind and body.