Tuesday, February 5, 2008

YMCA promotes itself, and families pour in

U.S. Steel's mighty South Works in the South Chicago neighborhood once employed 20,000 people, but the mill has been shuttered since the 1980s, which means "old residents moved out, new people moved in and neighbors no longer knew each other," according to South Chicago's recently published quality-of-life plan. That's one reason the plan calls for creation of "free and regular teen-specific and family-friendly activities," a message that the South Chicago YMCA has taken quite seriously.

In December, the Y partnered with the New Communities Program lead agency, Claretian Associates, to kick off implementation of the plan with a free family day including food, Santa Claus and plenty of activities.
Four hundred fifty people turned out.

Shelly Butler, the Y's director, followed it up with a creative schedule of programs to acquaint newcomers with the Y's facilities, and the families kept on coming. They must have liked what they found there, because by Feb. 5 the South Chicago YMCA, at 3039 East 91st Street, had 212 new memberships, nearly tripling Butler's goal of 75. She said it was the highest number of new memberships in the local association.

What's the secret? Good promotion, including the video below, good partnerships to spread the word within the community, and most of all good programming, like the following lined up in February:

Parents Night Out, Feb. 8, when parents can leave their 7- to 15-year-olds at the Y for $5, or $8 if they aren't members. On the two school holidays February 12 and 18, the Y is offering "No School, Chill at the Pool," for kids at that tricky middle age of 10 to 15. Free for members, $5 for non-members. And on Feb. 22 there's a Family Swim Night, again free for members. For more details or to learn about membership, call the Y at 773-721-9100.

Here's the video, made by Jackie Samuel at Claretian Associates.

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