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YMCA’s 130+ Years Of Impact: Volunteering

Photos By Hillary Ehlen

Along with being a “swim and gym” and childcare facility, the YMCA offers many opportunities to give back to the Fargo-Moorhead community through volunteering.

We talked with a few Y volunteers to share their experiences and the opportunities they’ve taken.

James Botnen

Co-chair of Brighter Futures

James Botnen Co-chair of Brighter Futures

“Brighter Futures was kicked off in early 2016 by Christie Gleason. I joined in November of that year because I wanted to network. To be in Brighter Futures, you must be under 40 — so it’s a young professional networking, development and volunteering group. The main focus is asking how do we not only impact today but the future, and not only for ourselves but for the community members. The only other requirement is a $100 donation to the Partner of Youth Campaign.

“The donation, whether it’s a minimum of $100 or more is used to keep the Y programs available to the youth in the community. From what I was able to be a part of as a child who grew up going to the Y, I hope people aren’t limited and can have that same opportunity. That’s what hits home to me.

“Brighter Futures is still an infant in its stage because it’s been less than two years and within the whole landscape of the Y, that’s crazy. Meetings aren’t mandatory so we don’t always see the whole group together but we try to meet once a month — whether it be a volunteering opportunity or a professional development social. It’s not always the same thing every month. It ebbs and flows based on the opportunity.”

Dick Warner

A retired principal from Fargo Public Schools (2004) and from the Educational Leadership Program from Tri-College University (2011).

Dick Warner

“I’ve been involved with the YMCA since I moved here in 1976 and I think I’ve served on just about every committee that the Y has to offer. The one thing I’ve been involved with quite heavily is the Partner of Youth Campaign, which started 25 years ago. Out of the 26 Partner of Youth drives that we’ve had, I believe I’ve chaired or co-chaired 12 or 13 of them.

“Partner of Youth Program is one where we solicit donations from the community to put together scholarship money for children and families who can’t afford the program fees. It’s a program that in our first campaign, our goal was $25,000 and we raised $35,000. The goal this past year was $325,000 and I think we broke $400,000.

“Seeing growth like that is one of the most rewarding aspects of being involved. For example, in the 1980s, we were so strapped for money, we considered selling Camp Cormorant because it was an ideal location and developers would have loved to buy it. However, we resisted to do that, and look at the camp now and the success it’s having.

“If people are wanting to get involved, I would encourage them to look at areas they have a passion for. There are directors for all of the different programs. Talk to those folks because they may have a committee you might be interested in.”

Nicole Burkhartsmeier

Probation Officer with Fargo Juvenile Court

Nicole Burkhartsmeier Probation Officer with Fargo Juvenile Court

“I was asked to join the Membership and Marketing Committee three years ago. There were some changes they were making to the childcare families and I had expressed some concerns and thoughts. I agreed to join the committee to be involved in some of the decisionmaking.

“We meet twice a year to talk about any changes we want to make regarding membership or marketing. The marketing team brings to us their current ideas to get feedback. We bring different ideas the marketing team can look at and try to put in place. We’ll also bring up member concerns, review them and make decisions.

“In addition to my involvement with the committee, I had worked to start a wellness program for my drug court kids. They were coming once a week to do different fitness and wellness activities. We did that last summer and I’m hoping we can get it going again for next summer. We’re trying to get those kids tied in with physical wellness and wellbeing to try to overcome the addiction issues they have.”

Written by Kara Jeffers

Fargo Monthly Editor Kara Jeffers is from Garrison, North Dakota, a small town north of Bismarck, North Dakota, on Lake Sakakawea. She graduated from North Dakota State University in May 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minor in theatre arts. In addition to working at Spotlight Media, Jeffers also works at the Fargo-Moorhead Visitor’s Center, where she’s one of the first people (and, at times, the only person) visitors meet when they arrive in North Dakota—talk about pressure.

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