La Porte County Family YMCA Celebrates Over 100 Years of Community and Service

By: Caitlin Vanlaningham Last Updated: February 25, 2015

If an entity has been around for over 100 years while still going strong throughout the decades, something must have been done right.

In late February, the La Porte County Family YMCA held their 105th annual meeting and luncheon at Portofino Grill in La Porte. The achievements of 2014 were recognized and celebrated and then all eyes turned to 2015, the year ahead.

Click here to see more photos from the luncheon!

“This is a great way to celebrate the success that we had in 2014,” Cindy Berchem Executive Director and CEO of the YMCA said. “We have a lot of great things on the horizon, too.”

Things began with lunch. A delicious spread was prepared by Portofino’s staff and all in attendance ate heartily. After the meal concluded a lovely slide show was played to show all in attendance what a busy and productive year the YMCA had. It was indeed a busy 2014 as in that year’s time span over 700 volunteers gave their time to the Y, financial assistance equaling $214, 253 was given by over 400 donors to their Annual Campaign, and great partnerships were forged in La Porte County with schools, other nonprofits, and great local businesses. Two members of the Y then spoke, Pat Harder and Gail Beal, sharing their stories about how the La Porte County Family YMCA helped to positively change their lives.

“I joined the Y at a young 83,” Harder said. “My motto is use it or lose it. It’s helped to come to the Y and see the friends that I’ve made there. If I didn’t have the Y I wouldn’t have anything to do.”

“Hi I’m Gail and I’m a Zumbaholic,” Gail Beal said jokingly. “I fell in love with Zumba at the Y and they have helped me on my weight loss journey. I’m so happy that they were around when I needed them. I came to the Y at 435 plus pounds… And 14 years later I’ve lost 250 pounds. Everybody is very welcoming and encouraging.”

Two outgoing Board members were recognized: Bob “Skip” Gerometta and Terry Jones. They helped to get the Y to where it is today and though they are passing the torch, they will still be part of and continue to support the YMCA’s mission. Outgoing Board President Tim Larsen was also recognized for all of his contributions.

“I’ve been around many good Y Directors but there is no one like Cindy,” Gerometta said, giving some well-deserved recognition to Berchem.

The Directors Class of 2018 were then nominated. The nominees were: Susan Aaron, Mike Arnett, Brian Dunham, Tom Fara, Kevin Higdon, and Val Martinson.

The 2014 Youth Volunteer Award went to Paula Gurband a dedicated Y kid. A 5th grade student, Gurband gives of her time to the Y and has become buddies with the Y staff.

“I watched Paula grow up and to have a 5th grader volunteer the way she does is great,” Ben Fout Member Connections Director for the La Porte County Family YMCA said. “She’s done our triathlon, our 5k run, and she’s always looking for other ways to volunteer.”

The 2014 “Dot Ryan” Adult Volunteer Award was given to Dan Jackson. Jackson demonstrated the Y’s core values and stepped up to help multiple times with the youth soccer and basketball leagues as well as other Y programs without asking anything in return.

“Dan has made a difference in the lives of hundreds of children,” Fout said. “Dan has been the epitome of what the organization strives for in a volunteer.”

“It’s been very rewarding volunteering for the Y,” Jackson said. “You really get paid just be seeing the kids progress and seeing the fun that they have.”

And the 2014 “Shirley Hersmen” Community Service Award was given to us at LaPorteCountyLife!

“I can’t say enough great things about this organization,” Berchem said. “They have an absolutely amazing staff. If you’re having a blue day, go chat with Chris and company and it’s always uplifting. It’s great to spend time with people who always want to look at things from a positive standpoint. Anything that we need they help wit. We are more than just a gym and a place to swim. We have so much going on and LaPorteCountyLife has been instrumental in helping us share that with the community.”

“We are honored to accept this award because the YMCA has welcomed us with open arms to the La Porte County community and we love telling their story and all of the stories that are within the organization. We love our partnership with the YMCA and hope to continue to telling their story,” Jenny Craig Executive Team Leader for LaPorteCountyLife said happily.

Tim Larson ended the meeting with encouraging words that summed up the meeting and sent everyone out with good thoughts for the rest of the day.

“It’s a great day at the Y and it’s great to be associated with the Y. I’d like to thank Cindy, the staff, the board members, and all of the volunteers for everything that you do to make the Y great and for the positive impact that you have on the community. I’d just like to say, keep up the good work.”