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United Way keeps YMCA programs alive

Yasmin McKinney’s head spins when she thinks about all the programs the YMCA offers to the Selma and Dallas County community.

McKinney, executive director of community development, is enthusiastic about the new program the YMCA has started to feed children “a hot, nutritious meal one day a week.”

The program, called Kids Café, has existed for two months. Students are given dinner once a week, a meal provided by the Selma Area Food Bank and Calhoun Foods.

The YMCA offers many other programs for students. Participation in the youth basketball league, youth programming, college readiness programming, mentoring and after-school programming is encouraged for students in the area.

“The United Way funding helps support all that,” McKinney said. “The YMCA is mission-driven. We’re here to build strong kids, strong families and strong communities.”

Mary Elizabeth Buchanan spends her afternoons with the after-school program.

“Since my momma has to get off work at 6, I get my homework done here,” Buchanan said.

Her favorite activity to do at the YMCA is play kickball.

Walker-Johnson after-school program has 24 students enrolled. From 50 to 80 students participate in the Claude C. Brown after-school programming per day.

Students from Southside High School and Keith High School participate in the college readiness program.

“It is a career development program,” McKinney said. “We work with the schools. Kids can go on and work extra to get their class credits.”

Once a month, the students travel to the YMCA during school hours to attend workshops. The program also assists students in goal setting, career development and improvement of ACT or SAT scores.

The budget for the Claude C. Brown YMCA is $142,000 per year, and for Walker-Johnson $90,000 a year. Of this amount, the United Way sends $15,000 to Brown and $17,000 to Walk-Johnson.

JCPenney After-school Round-Up donates one dollar from every item sold at the store to the after-school program, a total of about $5,000 a year. The YMCA has been the selected program of this initiative for the past three years.

The Dallas County Commission also donates funding to the after-school program.

“It’s one of the oldest agencies in the United Way,” said Jeff Cothran, executive director of Selma and Dallas County United Way. “We work with them to provide a safe agency for children.”

Most of the funding from the United Way for this agency is allotted to scholarships for students.

“In times like these, a lot of parents can’t afford a YMCA membership, but still want their children to participate,” Cothran said.