YMCA Offers Guard Families Free Membership

By Spc. William E. Henry, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

INDIANAPOLIS, March 31, 2008 - The Greater Indianapolis YMCA is offering family members of state National Guardsmen an affordable way to stay active and healthy while their loved ones are deployed.

The organization has created "Operation Indiana Partners," which allows the families of deployed Indiana National Guardsmen to enjoy free memberships.

"We want to make sure their families have lots of positive activities during these difficult times," said Eric Ellsworth, president and chief executive officer of Greater Indianapolis YMCA during a recent news conference at the YMCA's Fishers, Ind., branch.

Operation Indiana Partners and the Greater Indianapolis YMCA got favorable reviews from Indiana's adjutant general, Army Maj. Gen. R. Martin Umbarger.

"This is really a special day for us in the Indiana National Guard," he said. "The YMCA has stepped up and offered free memberships to National Guard families. We hope all our families take the opportunity and take advantage of the YMCA's generosity."

Participating facilities also are offered up to two hours of free child care during specified time periods. That's time for mothers like Colleen Curtis to get away for at least a little while.

"I think mostly it helps with him," she said, referring to her son, Jaxon. "It gives me a break to have 'me' time. I just want to say how awesome this is. The overwhelming support is amazing."

New YMCA members taking advantage of the program know that little things can make a difference.

"As a military wife, it's very hard with a loved one being gone, and this definitely helps," said Guard spouse Ashley Witt. "It made my day. Things like this can really change your mood. It's the little things like this that can make the families happy."

About 43 facilities throughout Indiana participate in Operation Indiana Partners, according to YMCA's Web site.
Though the years, the YMCA has tended to the needs of servicemembers, prisoners of war and civilians through some of the country's most turbulent times of war and poverty.

The organization established an armed services department in September 1898, and in 1902, YMCA facilities were built on military bases. In 1903, special training was made available for the Army and Navy. By 1914, there were 31 military YMCAs and 180 traveling libraries, allowing almost a quarter of a million men to stay in dormitories.

During World War II, the YMCA gave aid to about 6 million prisoners of war from 36 different countries.

Today, the YMCA still offers its support by lending servicemembers and families an opportunity to participate in structured and positive activities, ensuring emotional and financial preservation.

"This is just one way to help our brave men and women who serve in the National Guard," Indiana Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman said.

(Army Spc. William E. Henry serves with the Indiana National Guard.)

*Related Sites:*
Indiana National Guard  [ ]
Greater Indianapolis YMCA  [ ]
YMCA Offers Guard Families Free Membership [ ]