Goals and challenges

The Shasta Family YMCA in Redding, Calif., has strong community ties and maintains programs that closely reflect the needs of the population it serves. There’s a mix of older residents and young working families in this northern California city of about 90,000. Nearly one in six of all households have an annual income of less than $15,000, so making aquatics programs affordable is a key goal.

Summers are hot and dry, with record highs topping 105 degrees from May through October. That, plus ready access to the Sacramento River, only increase the importance of water safety.

How they did it

The cornerstones of the Y are youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. In line with those, the facility developed swim programs for all its diverse clientele. They include:

• Aqua Arthritis, involving stretching, movement and aerobic conditioning in a heated pool

• Swim lessons for people as young as 6 months

• A non-competitive swim team for those 18 and older

• Aqua aerobics, featuring a variety of classes of high and low impact.

• Adult swim school, with three levels of classes offered on Saturdays.

• The Stingrays Swim team, a confidence builder for young people who also learn lifesaving skills

• Foster Camp, a grant-funded program that gives foster children a sleep-away camp experience

• Stewie the Duck, a water-safety program for pre-schools and child-care sites

The center raised $160,000 in its annual campaign, all earmarked for financial assistance, which ranges from 10- to 50 percent off the normal cost and benefits 489 locals.

In partnership with California’s job assistance program, the Y provides employment opportunities. The state picks up wages for a while, then there are long-term employment prospects at the Y. But many use the time to build basic job skills and prepare for careers elsewhere.

With the John Wayne Cancer Foundation, the Y educated more than 100 swim students and their parents about the importance of sun safety.

Prompted by the drowning of a first grader at Shasta Lake in 2000, the Y partnered with the school district and others to provide two weeks of free swim lessons to every first grader in the area.

An active presence on Facebook and Instagram, as well as an in-house website, effectively markets the programs, particularly with young families. Says Aquatics Manager Rachel Forero: “We believe social media can bring communities together, and it allows us to work with other programs and businesses, which strengthens our community.”