Author Archives: MDOTTAVIO


In the post-recession age of growing need and shrinking budgets, it’s become more evident than ever that no single organization can move the needle alone. But when nonprofit, business and governmental partners work together, it creates “triumvirate” of stability and effectiveness that’s difficult to beat.

At the Y, we’re fortunate to have many incredible partners, including Dr. Phillips Charities which has been the catalyst for the Y’s phenomenal growth and outreach for more than 25 years. Thanks to this partnership, we were able to introduce Safe Start, an innovative swim survival program that’s helped thousands of local children stay safe in and around water. Dr. Phillips Charities was also the catalyst behind major improvements at many of our family centers, including the Wayne Densch, South Orlando and Osceola Ys, which serve financially fragile communities. And as our next phase of expansion begins, it’s also funding the transformation of the Dr. Phillips Y, which will serve as the prototype of our new “Y branded” facilities.

The Winter Park Health Foundation has also been an outstanding friend and partner to the Y, first and foremost through the creation of the Peggy and Philip B. Crosby Wellness Center in Winter Park and the Health & Wellness YMCA Family Center in Oviedo. The foundation is also a major supporter of our Scholarship Campaign and its executive director, Patty Maddox, is valued member of our Metro board of directors.

We’re equally grateful to Wayne Densch Charities and Osceola County Government whose generosity helped establish our Outreach Ys serving Pine Hills and Kissimmee.

Walt Disney World has also been a major partner since 2003 when we joined together to create two Y family centers on Disney property. By providing quality child development for young children and peace of mind for working parents, these centers truly exemplify our shared commitment to support local kids and families.

While the Roper Family name has long been associated with the local citrus industry, it’s also synonymous with community philanthropy thanks to Bert and Barbara Roper’s generous sponsorship of west Orlando’s Roper Y. In addition to creating a vibrant center of civic pride and activity, the facility also symbolizes a family’s deep love for their community and trust in the Y.

Just as the Ropers partnership transformed west Orlando, the Y’s partnerships with Orange County Government and Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) have touched lives all across Central Florida. Three of our local Y’s, South Orlando, Tangelo Park and Blanchard Park, benefit from being next to or surrounded by beautiful Orange County parks. We also partner with the county to operate the YMCA Aquatic Center, which trains swimmers and divers from around the world, including many young Olympians.

By joining with Orange County Public Schools, we operate 42 afterschool programs at local elementary and middle schools, all of which provide safety, values and learning support for thousands of students each day. The school district, along with Tavistock, Orlando Health and the City of Orlando were also major partners in creating one the Y’s proudest achievements, the NorthLake Park Community School. By combining an “A-rated” public school with a co-located Y family center, this facility stands as a national model for how public-private partnerships can improve education.

None of these achievements would have been possible without the incredible support of the Y’s generous partners. And this is just a brief snapshot. In order to thank and honor them all, we’ll be highlighting additional partnerships in upcoming communiques.


While many may simply view the Y as a local nonprofit, we’re actually part of a global network – 119 nations strong − that are working to unite and strengthen communities around the world. In fact, based on our efforts to “build bridges” within the Central Florida community, our Y was recently recognized as a Global Center of Excellence by the YMCA of the USA.


Intended, in part, to showcase and share best practices, the recognition places our organization among an elite group of Ys that are leading the way in promoting inclusion, diversity and cultural understanding among members, staff and communities.


“In today’s diverse and rapidly changing global world, we know we grow stronger when we reach out, embrace all cultures and learn from one another,” said Jim Ferber, YMCA of Central Florida President and CEO.  “From bringing kids of all backgrounds together on the playing field, to supporting fragile neighborhoods and uniting our interfaith communities in prayer, the Y is always seeking new opportunities to build relationships and understanding.”


In addition to impactful partnerships with Disney, Lockheed Martin, Darden, Microsoft and other globally focused organizations, the Y is deeply committed to serving unique needs across Central Florida, one of the most culturally diverse regions in the nation.


At our Osceola Y Family Center alone, more than 60 different languages are spoken, requiring our staff to be culturally aware and responsive. And through our focus on Youth Development, we work daily to instill the values, civility and respect that our young people need to accept one another and thrive in a culturally diverse world. 


To that end, in August we are also sending a group of community leaders and promising young people to the YMCA’s Global Teen Leadership Conference in Prague. During the weeklong conference, the teens will be joining with 10,000 peers from around the world to discover new ways they can better serve their local, national and global communities.


So stay tuned for more. We’re bringing on a stronger, more interconnected world – and it all starts right here at the Y.




One of the things that set the Y apart from many other local nonprofits is our promise to never turn people away due their inability to pay. It’s part of our mission and deep belief that for many local kids and families, the Y is simply their best, most direct connection to a better life.


It’s why we offer Y scholarships to more than 35,000 kids, families and seniors each day. It’s also why we’re asking you to support our community-wide annual support campaign, which runs through May.


If you’ve already donated to the 2013 scholarship campaign, THANK YOU. With so many of your Y neighbors receiving some sort of financial assistance, you don’t have to look far to see the people you are helping.


And if you haven’t donated yet – or want to continue helping − here’s your chance to do so.  Simply click here to make an immediate, life-changing difference.

100% of every donated dollar truly does make a difference:

$25 provides 1 week of elementary afterschool care for a struggling family
$50 provides swimming lessons to keep a child safe in the water
$75 gives a deserving kid the chance to play soccer or other team sport for an entire season
$100 gives a teen a safe place to hang out after school for 3 months
$250 keeps a senior strong and independent with a 3-month membership
$500 gives a child 1 month of summer camp and a lifetime of memories
$1,000 gives a worthy family 1 full year of Y membership




With a new organizational structure in place for our Y, we’ve aligned the necessary resources and expertise to support all of our upcoming capital expansion projects. In all, we have identified $28 to $32 million in capital projects for 9 of our 22 Y Family Centers, including the Dr. Phillips, Frank DeLuca, Winter Park, Blanchard Park, Crosby, Oviedo, Wayne Densch, Osecola and J. Douglas Ys.


In fact, with design already underway for the Frank DeLuca Y and the Dr. Phillips Y projects, we’re well on our way to creating the “Ys of the Future.” Once complete, both of these facilities will serve as models for the new Y brand and our role as the foundation of the community.


Among the latest innovations they’ll feature will be health screening areas, demonstration kitchens, healthy bistros, diet and nutritional counseling and other prevention-based services. Eventually every Y family center will include these resources as we inspire people take greater personal responsibility for their health and well-being.


In addition to providing beautiful, vibrant neighborhood facilities, we also know that in order for people to truly embrace healthier lifestyles, our members’ relationship with the Y must be more personalized so they can meet their individual goals. To that end, we continue to support all levels of personal health planning through our Coach Approach program and innovative technology resources.


We also know that diet and nutrition – and how people shop for and prepare food – is a critical part of health and wellness, particularly when it comes to preventing obesity, diabetes and other chronic diseases. 


For that reason, we are seeking new food service partners who will not only offer healthy food in our new bistros, but also conduct healthy cooking classes for members. In addition to meeting with Guckenheimer, a global innovator in serving delicious, natural foods, we’ve also gleaned creative new ideas from leading health and wellness centers around the nation.


So stay tuned. We’re gearing up and moving forward. And great things are ahead.

Strengthening the Spirit of Our Community

Bringing the Easter message home to 800-plus local leaders on Good Thursday morning, Barry Black, 62nd Chaplain of the U.S. Senate and guest speaker for the 19th Annual YMCA of Central Florida Celebration of Prayer breakfast, asked the audience “How many of us are carrying a cross we did not choose to carry?”

In asking the thought-provoking question, Chaplain Black challenged guests not to respond to life with indifference, but rather, to embrace challenges as opportunities for spiritual growth. As author of From the Hood to the Hill, Black said his difficult childhood in inner-city Baltimore often left him angry. But the experience also fostered his strong faith and determination to succeed.

As a scholar, spiritual leader, retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral and the first black Senate Chaplain in U.S. history, Black also participated in Q&A with community leaders following the event. (See below for his surprising answers.)

Also speaking during Celebration of Prayer was Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, who said “this event brings people together from across the region. We are a community with tremendous responsibilities…and the Y is the glue.” In delivering the Prayer for Youth Development, Dr. Barbara Jenkins, Superintendent of Orange County Public Schools, said “I look to this event and find inspiration in what you do.”

With Florida Hospital serving as the event’s lead sponsor, David Banks, Senior Executive Officer at Florida Hospital, offered a prayer for Healthy Living. YMCA Board Chairman Helen Ryan thanked guests for attending and supporting the Y’s Christian mission. And Mosaic Church lead pastor and YMCA of Central Florida Board member Renaut van der Riet, closed the event with a prayer for Social Responsibility.

In speaking later with local leaders, YMCA of Central Florida President and CEO Jim Ferber, urged greater collaboration. “We have enough people here today to change the trajectory of where our country is going.”


For additional photos and a video of the event, click here.


Following the breakfast, Chaplain Black also participated in a Q&A session with local leaders. Below are a few of his remarks:


Q: How is it to advise some of the top leaders in the world?
A: You have to keep it in perspective no matter what they are dealing with – sequestration, global issues, etc. We have 30 to 35 Senators join us for a weekly prayer breakfast. You don’t see these on CSPAN, but the leaders are there with us, holding hands with us at the end of each prayer breakfast. We have over 150 in just one of our weekly Bible studies, so there are enough people sighing and crying up there to keep God in charge. I have great concern for our nation with people moving toward secular humanism and away from the Biblical law of God. But, the power of God is in control of the future.


Q: As a religious advisor to the Senate, how do you handle the separation of church and state?
I make sure I don’t provide any ammunition for appearing that I don’t uphold pluralistic inclusion in my work there. I invite various religions to join us, including a Hindu priest and a rabbi, to reinforce the point that we are aware of the spiritual needs of all people.


Q:  Do you not get weary in what you are doing? Is partisanship taking a toll on you?
A: Not unlike the story in Mark 13, some seeds make it and some do not. We cannot be weary in what we are doing. I try not to remember the political persuasion of the Senators until it is revealed via something they may say that gives it away. We have a group of Senators in our Bible study who work to prevent gridlock of the “Gangs” at critical points.


Q: As a legal immigrant, I am interested if you have prayed over the immigration issue?
I have prayed about it and share with people that the issue is similar to the parable of the judges in the book of Matthew 25 where we are commanded to take in strangers. It is top of mind now in D.C. because God arranged a political climate conducive for it. I think reform is going to happen.


Q: If we were to pray for the Senate, what should we pray for? And what else can we do?
A: Our lawmakers do their best, but some need revelatory knowledge. Pray for our favor with other nations and for an outpouring of the Spirit of God.  We’ve lost the war on poverty. I went to one of the largest federal prisons and just wept about our industrial prison complexes filled with a majority of minorities. Our churches need to do some spiritual warfare, to keep doing things for the incarcerated.


Q: When did you realize you had a gift of memorization/a photographic memory?
When my sister had to memorize the Gettysburg Address for school, she was struggling and I didn’t understand why it was so hard. At 4 years old, I recited it for her word for word.





Here in Florida, kids are never far from a swimming pool, lake or beach, which makes water safety a key concern for parents, caregivers and others.


That’s why the Y offers Safe Start, a one-of-a-kind drowning prevention program, which teaches infants and young children the skills they need to be safe and have fun around water.


Geared to children ages 6 months to 6-years-old, classes are taught by certified instructors in ten-minute sessions, five days a week for six weeks. Lessons include the Infant Swimming Resource system’s “rollback-to-float” and “swim-float-swim” techniques, which have provided water safety and peace of mind for generations of kids and parents.


Safe Start is currently available at a Y neighborhood Family Center near you. For more information, call (407) 599-0113 or email [email protected].


YMCA Celebration of Prayer to Feature – U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry C. Black

U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry C. Black

The YMCA of Central Florida is bringing U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry C. Black to Orlando on Thursday, March 28 to share an inspirational message of faith and unity during the Y’s 19th Annual Celebration of Prayer Breakfast.


Attended each year by more than 1,000 community leaders, the event is the largest of its kind held locally during Holy Week. It will take place this year from 7 to 8:15 a.m. at the First Baptist Church of Orlando, 3000 South John Young Parkway.


Black, a retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral, has served as U.S. Senate Chaplain since 1993, during which time he has led the assembly in prayer, provided counseling and spiritual guidance, and assisted in theological and biblical research. A decorated Naval officer, he previously served in the U.S. Navy for 27 years and ended his distinguished career as Chief of Navy Chaplains. In addition to earning doctoral degrees in philosophy and ministry, Black was honored in 1995 with the NAACP’s Renowned Service Award for his contributions to equal opportunity and civil rights.


Celebrating the ‘C’ in YMCA, the Celebration of Prayer marks the arrival of Easter and provides a meaningful way to recognize the Y’s Christian mission, which has guided our organization for over 150 years,” said Jim Ferber, YMCA of Central Florida President and CEO. “The Y remains deeply committed to strengthening our community by connecting residents, inspiring leaders and providing relevant solutions through spiritual enrichment.”


The breakfast welcomes people of all faiths and backgrounds. Tables are available for $250 and individual seats for $35. For information or to reserve tickets, please call Rexanne Paugh at (407) 895-8615 or email [email protected].

Committed To Fragile Communities

Nearly every day around 3 p.m., staff at the South Orlando Y receieve a clear reminder of why their work is so important.


As soon as school lets out at Oak Ridge High, kids start climbing over the back fence and trying to sneak into the Y,” said Liz Diaz, South Orlando Y membership coordinator. “They want to be here because it’s a safe place to play basketball and be with their friends. No child is ever turned away, but our resources for providing additional help are limited.”


As one of 11 area Outreach Ys that rely on the scholarship campaign to operate, the South Orlando Y is located in the Orange Blossom Trail/Oak Ridge Road corridor, which is one of Central Florida’s most impoverished, high-crime areas. And thanks to the generosity of many partners, including Lockheed Martin, Darden, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits, Microsoft and others, the center’s programs and facilities are second to none.  


Currently, more than 95% of its 600 members are families or children who receive scholarship assistance, which enables them to participate in afterschool activities, youth sports, summer camp, aquatics and more.


With its newest addition, the Y Golf & Learning Center, set to open this month, kids will have the opportunity to learn a new sport, as well as develop important values like civility, sportsmanship and self-esteem.


And with the program’s tie-in to the Y’s Lockheed Martin Technology Center, kids will also discover the sport’s connection to science, technology, engineering and math.   


“It’s one more important way we can serve kids who really want to be part of the Y,” Diaz said. “The scholarship campaign helps us make that connection.”  To donate today, click here.


Last month I had the pleasure of meeting a bright, beautiful young lady who has overcome more tragedy and challenge than many of us will face in a lifetime. Only 15, Rabecca’s family life has always been difficult, but when her father suddenly died last year it touched off a storm of emotions that left her frightened, hopeless and alone.


Finding little support at home, Rabecca began acting out at school and got into fights with teachers and friends. With her home life, grades and self-esteem battered, she began thinking that her best option was to simply run away. Fortunately, rather than the streets Rabecca turned to the one thing that’s been a positive, welcoming influence in her life – the South Orlando YMCA.


Warmly embraced, literally and figuratively, by staff, Rabecca began spending more time at the Y, where she found the safety, caring and attention she needed to heal from her grief. And through afterschool tutoring at the Y’s Lockheed Martin Technology Center, she also found the help she needed to reclaim her standing as a top student in math, science and reading.


Now a sophomore at Oak Ridge High School, Rabecca has a 3.8 GPA and firm plan to attend college and law school. After school, she still heads to the Y where she has become one of their most vocal and inspiring ambassadors.


“The Y is a place where you can go if you need help with a problem,” she said. “Kids don’t always have people who care about them, so that’s really important. They welcome you with open arms.”


Rebecca – and thousands of young people just like her – underscore the importance of the Y’s Annual Scholarship Campaign. In addition to providing financial assistance to more than 35,000 deserving kids, families and seniors, dollars raised also helps keep the doors open at 11 Outreach Ys − including South Orlando − which serve our most economically challenged communities.


As a Y member, volunteer or special friend, you know what a life-changing difference the Y can make in people’s lives. That’s why we hope you will join us in ensuring that even more people − regardless of age, income or background – can benefit from Y quality programs and services. 


And as Rabecca’s story reminds us, the results are often nothing short of amazing.




Jim Ferber
YMCA of Central Florida

Our Annual Support Campaign: “Y” It Matters

As part of the Y’s commitment to social responsibility, more than 35,000 people − or one-third of our members − receive some sort of financial assistance. And with Central Florida’s poverty rate rising, the need for Y quality programs and services continues to grow.

With an estimated 25% of Central Floridians now living in poverty, many parents are working several jobs just to survive. In addition to the enormous financial burden, they are also dealing with daily stress of keeping their kids safe from negative influences while they are working.  

All of this highlights why access to Y-quality after-school care, summer learning programs, family strengthening resources, and health and wellness services are so important.

“In today’s world, there’s an even greater need for families to have a safe, positive place to be together,” said Kimberly Strong, YMCA Senior Vice President of Philanthropy, Government and Community Affairs. “The Y’s annual campaign is about keeping the Y’s great work going, especially for families who are facing challenges. For many of them, the Y is their best, possible path to a happier, healthier life.”

In addition to providing much-needed access to Y programs and services, donated dollars also help keep the doors open at 11 Outreach Ys, including those serving South Orlando, Tangelo Park, Pine Hills and other financially challenged communities.

So please do your part today to ensure that all residents – regardless of income – have access to the Y’s life-changing programs and services. To make an immediate difference, click here to give. 


We’ve all heard the saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. And while the idea is hardly new, it’s certainly gaining new attention as America looks to reform its healthcare, education and criminal justice systems.


Here at the Y, we’ve been at the forefront of prevention for decades. In fact, our organization is leading the way in preventing – and reversing – many complex problems that affect individual lives and the well-being of our entire community.


For instance, more than 5,400 kids per day, including 43% from low-income families, are participating in Y-quality afterschool programs that are helping them close the educational achievement gap.


Operated in 40-plus Orange County elementary and middle schools, these programs provide a safe, nurturing environment for kids, as well as a stress-relieving solution for busy working parents.


Through homework help, tutoring and an hour of physical activity, kids also receive the extra time and attention they need to improve their reading, values, health and wellness.    


In terms of “big picture” benefits, a recent study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation found that dollars invested in enrichment programs for low-income children resulted in a 7% to 10% gain in terms of kids’ lifelong success, health and contributions to the workforce.        


Another report from the Council on Crime and Justice goes so far as to say that “investments in high-quality early education appear to reduce future crime and are more cost effective than additional spending on police or incarceration.”


So the evidence is in. Prevention works. And the Y is leading the way. With our 2013 Scholarship Campaign underway, we think you’ll agree that the Y is a smart, compassionate way to invest in kids − and the future of our entire community. To donate today, click here.


All parents want the best for their children. Close bonds, good friends, strong values and sense of belonging. But sometimes unexpected things happen that can truly turn a family’s life upside down.

Such was the case five years ago for Osceola YMCA members Eric and Janelle Jenkins. As the parents of two beautiful little boys with a third on the way, things seemed nearly perfect. But when Eli was born with a rare development disability, their life was shattered.

“Eli’s birth was life-changing,” said Janelle. “Caring for him was all-consuming. And without family nearby, it was all up to Eric and me. Taking Eli to a restaurant, the mall, day care or a play date was impossible. For the first three years of his life, we just stopped going out.”

Concerned about their other sons, Eric and Janelle joined the Y in 2010 so the boys could play sports and make friends. What they didn’t count on was the love and support the entire family would receive from other parents and Y staff.       

“Everybody really embraced us,” Eric said. “With a disabled child, you’re never sure how people will react, but from the start everybody was incredible.”

And when they eventually felt comfortable enough to leave Eli – and their newest baby, Jonah − in the Y’s child care center, they knew they’d come full circle. “Everyone immediately welcomed Eli and put us at ease,” Janelle said. “It was really the turning point for us to be able to reconnect with our other kids and each other.”

As scholarship recipients, the Jenkins give back through volunteering. Eric loves coaching youth soccer and basketball and Janelle helps out in other ways. “Volunteering is a way we can repay what we’ve received from the Y,” Janelle said. “By being part of the Y family, we’ve become a stronger family and for that we’re truly grateful.”

To make a difference for other deserving families like the Jenkins, click here.