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WHAT’S YOUR Y? Building Community

IRON MOUNTAIN – The launch of the YMCA in Dickinson County within the Community Center building brought new life to an old facility.

When the Y officially opened from the 800 Crystal Lake Blvd. location in late 2010, the number of members still attached to the Community Center was around 100. Within the first few months under Y operation, membership eclipsed 1000.

“It was remarkable growth,” current Center Director Jonathan Ringel said. “There was so much excitement for what we were doing, what we were trying to build.”

Membership today is more than 2,600 and continues to grow. So to do programming opportunities and special events.

The YMCA membership today accounts for nearly 8,000 visits each month. More than 50 youth, aquatics, fitness and special event programming opportunities are available each session to members and non-members alike. And, the Y annually provides more than $100,000 in membership and programming assistance to the greater Dickinson County community.

YMCA special events such as the Father-Daughter Dance, Northwoods Triathlon, Mountain Mud Sling, Color Run and others have become yearly traditions in Dickinson County.

The YMCA annually teaches every third grade student in the county how to swim at no cost. And nearly 70 kids are participating on the YMCA swim team through the Dickinson Center – a program record.

“Our third-grade swim lessons program has proven remarkably successful,” YMCA Aquatics Director John Leech said. “We target kids in the third grade because they have both the mental and physical capacity to learn in a large group setting.”

More than 250 kids go through the free third-grade swim program each school year. Participating schools include Woodland Elementary School in Kingsford, North Elementary School in Iron Mountain, Norway Elementary School, Bishop Baraga Catholic School in Iron Mountain, Holy Spirit Catholic School in Norway and North Dickinson Elementary School in Felch.

Summer Day Camp also saw record growth in 2017, with three dozen regular participants.

Along with the exponential membership growth, the Northern Lights YMCA Dickinson Center has formed several key community partnerships, from corporate wellness programs to outreach efforts.

“The community has welcomed and supported us wholeheartedly,” Center Director Jonathan Ringel said. “And in turn, we try to give back and support the community. Partnerships help build community, and that benefits all.”

YMCA community partnerships include Bay College, Light at the Inn Rotating Homeless Shelter, Dickinson County Healthcare System – including the Rehab and Diabetes Clinics, Iron Mountain Public Schools, Big Brothers & Big Sisters, Dickinson Area Partnership, Kingsford High School, Northpoint Behavioral Health, Dickinson Parkinson’s Support Group, Autism Support Group, Great Beginnings Early Childcare.

Corporate partnerships as just as numerous and include CCI Systems, Stewart Manufacturing, Iron Mountain Animal Hospital, Kubick Aviation, Lakeshore Systems, Champion Inc, Econo Foods, Gallery of Floors, Bauman Engraving, The Daily News, Results Broadcasting and TV 6 among others.  

Growing membership and program participation along with the many community partnerships illustrate the rapid success of the YMCA in Dickinson County. Also not lost is the volunteer component to the Y. Each year more than 100 community volunteers and supporters step up to work on the Y’s annual fundraising campaign. And hundreds more provide donations each year.

“Core to our mission is having the YMCA and its programs available to all,” Ringel noted. “We are very fortunate to live in a community in which that is understood and supported.”

Y officials expect membership to continue to grow in the coming years, and as that base increases so too will the programming and employment opportunities. After starting with a staff of less than five, the YMCA today employs more than 50 people in full-time, part-time and seasonal positions.

“You could say we’re busting at the seams,” Ringel said. “Which is a good problem to have and the reason we are now looking ahead to the future.”

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