(EDITOR'S NOTE: This series shares the real-life stories of people who benefit from the services provided by the Lycoming County United Way Program Partners and the individuals who make it possible.)
Special to the Sun-Gazette
They say it takes a village to raise a child. For one local man, his village not only helped nurture his child but saw her soar to new heights.
Albert C. Hughes Jr. has been a single dad for daughter Al-Lyssa since she was an infant. But Albert recognizes that he never was alone. For the past 10 years, Al-Lyssa has been attending the River Valley Regional YMCA Williamsport branch.
In those 10 years, Albert said Al-Lyssa started in infant day care. She then moved upstairs to regular day care and preschool. From there, she continued into the before- and after-school programs when she reached school age.
"The YMCA has been a very positive influence on my child," Albert said. "She learned to swim at the Y, and is now a competitive swimmer. Al-Lyssa has recently been accepted in the People to People program as a student ambassador. I attribute much of her success to the many great influences in her life who support her."
According to Scott N. Lowery, Lycoming County United Way executive director, Al-Lyssa is a prime example of how effective the Y's programs can be.
"It literally has been there for Al-Lyssa since she was an infant," he said. "This summer we visited some of the kids taking part in the Youth Mentoring program. Their enthusiasm was genuine and their response honest. One youngster told us she liked to come to the YMCA to meet people and have fun. Then she added, 'If I wasn't here, I'd be home being a couch potato.' (It's) reason alone to get our kids engaged in something positive."
The Lycoming County United Way provided a total of $73,000 for the child- and youth-related programs at the Williamsport branch of the YMCA for 2012-13. Of that, $58,000 is used for its child care program, while the remaining $15,000 helps cover the costs of the youth and teen program.
Without the United Way's allocation, Suzanne Compton, school age childcare director at the YMCA, said many of the families would not have the opportunity to give their children appropriate care in a positive environmental.
"The funding offers help to families who are struggling and gives them an opportunity to keep their jobs and still make ends meet and keep their children in a positive and safe environment," Compton said. "The monies are used as a subsidy against (a family's) full fee. We can only offer so much in discounts, but that discount reduces what the parent pays out of pocket and the United Way funding helps with the difference."
The youth and teen program is a safe, supervised and supportive place for youth ages 9 to 16 to spend their afternoons as an alternative to being home alone or out on the streets. The program has been designed to provide the participants a wide variety of fun and educational activities through which the youth learn healthy lifestyle choices, gain leadership skills, increase socialization opportunities and acquire the tools needed to make positive decisions that will shape their success.
Youth also are engaged in the four core values of the YMCA - Respect, Responsibility, Caring and Honesty. The tools and opportunities provided to participants give them the components to grow in a positive direction and become a successful part of the community.
"In our everyday work in the community, we are constantly aware of a variety of issues relating to our young people," Lowery said. "Consumption of alcohol and drugs, child abuse and neglect, hunger, teenage pregnancy and juvenile delinquency affect the lives of all too many Lycoming County youngsters. Investing resources of education, prevention, time and caring go a long way in providing our youth with a stronger sense of right and wrong and building positive values of self-worth. It is an investment producing dividends upon which productive lives can be built. The YMCA program reinforces these positive values and provides a safe environment for its participants."
Albert is grateful that community members recognize the values of programs offered at the Y.
"The Y has always been there for me as a single parent and I appreciate the level of professional care that has been exhibited over the last 10 years, such important years," Albert said. "None of this would have been possible without the scholarship that I receive there with funding provided by the United Way. I thank you."
As the Lycoming County United Way campaign continues, the community is urged to think about family, friends and neighbors who may be facing hardships. Consider helping those individuals and others like them by supporting Lycoming County United Way. Live United. Give United.
For more information, visit lcuw.org or call 570-323-9448.