Creating Equitable Communities

Last updated: September 23, 2019, at 12:19 p.m. PT

Originally published: November 27, 2018, at 8:11 a.m. PT

This year, every branch at the YMCA of Greater Seattle lived a commitment to building inclusive, equitable communities. As an organization that serves some of the nation’s most diverse neighborhoods, the Y needs to be a place where all people feel welcome.

This year, at branches throughout greater Seattle, the Y helped people from different backgrounds build healthy spirit, mind, and body in new and exciting ways. As King County’s immigrant communities grow, it’s essential that the Y continues to develop programs that meet diverse needs and expectations.

The Northshore and Matt Griffin branches piloted successful New American Welcome Centers, which not only brought new immigrants into the Y and provided a safe, welcoming space, but also gave them an opportunity to tell Y branches how to better meet their needs. Direct input from the Muslim community at Matt Griffin’s Welcome Center turned into a series of popular after-hours women-only swim nights and exercise classes.

All 13 Y branches held two events to highlight our communities’ diversity: Welcoming Week and Heritage Month. From fashion shows, to dance classes, to delicious home-cooked meals, each event offered a variety of programs and activities to celebrate different cultures: a taste of home for those who miss it – and an introduction to a new culture and new neighbors for other members.

In addition, Bellevue and Matt Griffin held giant Birthday Bashes on January 1 – the birthday the U.S. State Department assigns to refugees who have no birth records.

Last year the Y also did more to serve communities with varying abilities. Free, fun programs for middle-schoolers with special needs filled up quickly each time they were held, and the Dale Turner branch started a popular adaptive swim program providing lessons to children and adults with all ability levels.

As communities change, community service must change – and it all starts with listening. By making space for different ideas and building buy-in from the ground up, the Y is h is helping to build truly equitable communities that work for all.

Did you know? Last year the Y:

  • Hosted Welcoming Weeks to over 1,000 participants, 500 volunteers, and 65 community groups participated in across Y branches to celebrate new Americans.
  • Hosted two Birthday Bashes with 60 volunteers and 120 attendees welcoming immigrant and refugee neighbors on January 1 – the date that new immigrants and refugees without birth certificates are given as their official birth date.

Click on the button below to read more about our work in our annual report