The YMCA has been around since 1844 and is unique to the needs of the communities it serves. The one commonality you will see in all YMCA’s all over the world is that it serves under the same guiding principles: Youth Development, Healthy Living and Social Responsibility.

I was introduced to the YMCA at a very young age and as a youth growing up in Minnesota I was fortunate to go every day after school and participate in sports, afterschool activities and more than anything, have a safe and healthy place to “hang out” with my friends.

As a matter of fact, under the watchful and caring eyes of our YMCA staff, I had my very first date! Some of my fondest memories are of my family spending valuable family time together playing sports and swimming.

We were very fortunate to have these opportunities; my mom was a hardworking, single parent raising three children on a very limited income.

The YMCA was there for us during those challenging times and provided financial assistance and other resources for our safety and well-being.

The YMCA was our home away from home, thus assuring us of the adult supervision we needed while mom was able to have a successful career and provide for her family.

Eventually, mom became a volunteer and was able to “pay it forward” to an organization that never tires of giving back.

For the past 19 years I have been blessed to serve as a YMCA team member here in the Ahwatukee Foothills community. I am proud to be able to give back what was afforded to my family all those many years ago.

There are hundreds of families with similar stories that have been given support through the Ahwatukee Foothills Family YMCA.

I witnessed a single mom who didn’t know where to turn come to the YMCA for assistance and we were able to provide financial help for child care so she could work full time, while furthering her education. She is now able to provide for her family without our assistance.

I’ve seen the patience of our instructors teaching children anything from swimming to good sportsmanship; I’ve witnessed the giving heart of our YOPAS volunteers providing transportation to a senior citizen going to a chemo appointment; I’ve watched an extremely shy teen blossom into a great volunteer and leader; I could go on and on, but I share my story to simply spread the Y message of social responsibility.

The generosity of our community is at the core of the Y’s existence as a nonprofit. It is through the support of hundreds of volunteers, public and private donors that we are able to support and give back to our community. Over 10 weeks you will be seeing the Ahwatukee Foothills Family YMCA logo and slogans everywhere.

Please help us reach our 2012 goal of $148,000, so we can continue to give back and support our community members in need.

• Connie Nelson-Askew is senior executive director of the Ahwatukee Foothills Family YMCA. Reach her at (602) 212-6074 or clnelson@vosymca.org.

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