Volunteers read to children at the YMCA to promote literacy.

MANSFIELD -- The Mansfield Area YMCA flourished during 2018 by administering strong programming and exceeding its fundraising campaign goal.

Director of Development and Marketing Sara Baker worked with several area companies and individuals to share the mission and vision of the Y. As a result, the “Y Be a Hero” campaign raised $15,850 more than its $210,000 goal.

The Y leadership team named Warren Rupp as its 2018 hero because of the company’s overall commitment to Y initiatives.

Warren Rupp began supporting the Y during its 150 Anniversary Campaign in 2017. Since then, the company has continued to offer financial and volunteer support.

Warren Rupp’s commitment to the Y stems from the vision and mission of its Community Involvement Group. Supporting Y initiatives closely aligns with the group’s focus on programs that support children, the homeless, and active military and veterans.

Warren Rupp employees have helped with Y on Wheels, Healthy Kids Day, Serving Up Summer, reading during literacy month, Veterans Breakfast, planting and financing the community gardens, and trunk or treat.

The Y on Wheels program appealed to Warren Rupp because it brought Y initiatives to children who might not have had an opportunity to visit the main building on Scholl Road.

Mansfield YMCA President/CEO Cristen Gilbert said the 9-week Serving Up Summer program was the most significant because Warren Rupp employees facilitated and funded the program. Approximately 160 children enrolled in summer childcare at the YMCA received grocery bags with fresh produce and nonperishables. The program was started in response to a growing realization that many families lack resources for regular meals and healthy snacks during weekends.

“We initially invested in the community garden through planting and cultivating the garden, in collaboration with Scotts Miracle Gro, through a generous donation we at Warren Rupp facilitated,” said Warren Rupp HR Director Randy Winkle.

For the second year, Warren Rupp staff built and raised the beds at their facilities and transported them to the YMCA. Children assisted with planting a few hours each day for one week. The garden was accessible to individuals who use a wheelchair, as inclusion is a priority for the Y.

When the planting was finished, employees stuffed reusable grocery bags for the children at each location: Scholl Rd, Carpenter Rd, Ontario and Lexington. Volunteers also connected with the children by leading outdoor activities.

Robyn Montgomery, a category buyer at Warren Rupp, said employees really enjoy volunteering at the Y because of the high level of interaction they can have with children.

“We get to do hands-on things at the facility and make connections with the kids,” Montgomery said. “We really feel that time spent face to face is just as valuable as a financial contribution. We enjoy showing Richland County kids that we care, and we enjoy sharing smiles with them.”

Warren Rupp has several company-sponsored volunteer programs and in 2018, 75 percent of employees donated 800 volunteer hours overall.

“It’s an overwhelming response, to have a community partner be so supportive with donations and manpower,” Gilbert said. “They have really taken the time to understand the Y. “They really appreciate working with the youth in our childcare and our veterans. In my experience, we’ve never had a partner as supportive as they have been.”

Warren Rupp even provided a $5,000 match grant during the county-wide day of giving, Richland Gives, in November.

In order to fulfill its mission to serve community members of all ages and backgrounds, the Y staff members wear many hats.

“When we have partners like Warren Rupp here to support us, it helps make our work more impactful for the community,” Gilbert said.

Warren Rupp is working closely with YMCA leadership to continue its partnership in 2019. The company plans to help with Literacy Month in March, Serving Up Summer, Y on Wheels, Senior Luncheon, Veterans Day Breakfast, and Healthy Kids Day.

“We are looking forward to taking our partnership to the next level in 2019,” Winkle said.

Winkle encourages other companies to volunteer with Y programming.

“The Y works side-by-side with our neighbors every day to make sure that everyone, regardless of age, income or background, has the opportunity to learn, grow and thrive,” Winkle said. “There are many programs for financial assistance for childcare, membership, and a youth program that many people don’t know about. The Y wants to make it affordable for everyone to utilize their safe space within the community. There is something for everyone here, from infants to seniors.”

Gilbert encourages community members to join the Mansfied Area YMCA in 2019.

“It you want to better yourself, you can do that here,” Gilbert said.

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