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YMCA offers more than gym and swim

Steve Tammaro, who has been president/chief executive officer of the YMCA Spokane since June 2012, brings 40 years of experience with the YMCA, beginning as a part-time camp counselor, moving through the front desk into membership marketing, branch executive director and chief operating officer to CEO.

Steve Tammaro
Steve Tammaro describes changes at YMCA over 40 years.

Dispelling the common view that the YMCA is “a gym and swim place,” he highlighted its array of services as a charitable nonprofit.

“We do so much for so many people on a given day, serving various communities and answering their needs,” Steve said.  “It’s why I stay with the YMCA.”

Programs include day care, teen intervention, a summer camp, after-school and sports programs, diabetes prevention and support for cancer survivors.

• YMCAs are the leading providers of childcare nationally.  In Spokane, 104 children from six weeks to four years old come to the Central building at 920 N. Monroe.  The Y also manages the childcare center on the Eastern Washington University campus, serving 50 to 60 children of students and staff each day. 

• For teens through people in their 20s, the YMCA offers mentoring through the Youth Investment Program.  At the Spokane Valley branch, staff members and volunteers work with teens referred by the courts, school counselors, social workers and others. 

In the summer, they run a lawn care business.  Year round, they grow vegetables in the Y’s greenhouse.  The vegetables are used in the childcare program.

At North Central High School, the Y staff work through the Outside the Box program to help 9th graders transition into high school, providing homework assistance and helping students connect with teachers.

• Camp Reed is the YMCA’s residential camp north of Deer Park, where it has been in business nearly 100 years. 

It serves 250 children in residential weeks of summer camp on 550 acres at Fan Lake. Campers swim, hike, learn arts, crafts and more.

“When I introduce myself to people, often they say that they went to Camp Reed or were counselors there,” Steve said.

• The YMCA offers after-school programs at Mead and Spokane Valley schools, involving hundreds of youth ages three to 12 and volunteer coaches in non-competitive football, basketball, T-ball or baseball. 

• Participants in YMCA sports learn sports skills, teamwork and values.  Many go on to play in junior high and high school sports, Steve said. 

Most of the Y’s youth sports programs rent gyms and field space in the community.

The YMCA also manages the swimming pools for the City of Spokane Valley.

• In health and wellness, the Y’s Diabetes Prevention Programs works with pre-diabetic people referred by their insurance companies to lose weight and attend classes on nutrition.  The 12-week program seeks to prevent diabetes through good nutrition, exercise and small group meetings.  Then people enter a program to maintain their exercise and nutrition.

The YMCA partners with the Live Strong program to help cancer survivors return to normalcy, as they work out and bond with others.  That program is at the North, Valley and Central locations.

There are three centers. The Spokane Valley center is 14 years old.  In 2009, two centers opened in Central and North Spokane.

“We partner with the YWCA, sharing the building in Central Spokane,” he said.  “We are two separate organizations, but try to partner to help serve the YWCA’s clientele, too.”

Membership based on household income makes access to the YMCA’s three Spokane facilities—Central, North and Valley—accessible, he said.

“Through providing membership fees based on need, the YMCA Spokane gave $1.7 million in financial assistance last year,” Steve said. 

When he was growing up Catholic in Boston, he said the prevailing attitude among Catholics was not to go to the YMCA but to a Catholic youth organization.  The attitude was a carryover from the YMCA’s history.

When the Y started in 1844 in London, for the first 90 years it did not let Catholics in.  It was an Evangelical movement.  So Catholics thought the Y was for Protestants.

“Today, the CEO of the YMCA Spokane is Catholic,” said Steve, who attends local parishes.

“We operate based on Christian principles of caring, honesty, respect and responsibility, four core values that evolved out of our Christian heritage,” he said. 

“Our programs have evolved from being a Christian evangelical organization to an ecumenical organization that welcomes everybody.  The Christian piece is our heritage.  In the past, YMCA offered Bible studies,” Steve explained.

Steve became involved with the YMCA just out of high school when he accepted a part-time camp counselor job at the neighborhood Y in Somerville, Mass., a suburb of Boston.

After he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and marketing at Suffolk University in Boston in 1976, his first full-time job with the Y was in membership and marketing in the Newton branch.

The YMCA in Spokane is the community’s oldest nonprofit, chartered in 1884, Steve said.  The first YMCA in the U.S. was chartered in 1861 in Boston.

“Over the years, the YMCA has become a fluid organization answering community needs,” he said.  “Its evolution is driven by community need.  It has built the infrastructure, staff and volunteer support to meet needs.”

Before coming to Spokane, Steve was COO in Denver, not looking to move, but he felt that Spokane was the right opportunity for him because of the strong board of directors, the new facilities, the staff’s engagement with members and the community reception.

“In Spokane, I find that people come together to solve community problems,” he said.  “Of all the places I have lived—Boston, Rochester, N.Y., St. Louis and Denver—this is the most collaborative community for the nonprofits.

“Despite whatever may be wrong here, there’s a sense of hope in this community that is energizing,” Steve said. 

“We want to expand our footprint and are looking to bring Y services where there are none, such as in Sandpoint, Airway Heights and Pullman.  We are also looking to expand opportunities to bring our programs to groups.

“We have expertise, staff and infrastructure to offer as a service,” Steve said. “We are looking to expand services, not build buildings.  We are looking at what programs are needed for youth, health and wellness.”

For information, call 777-9622 ext 420, 720-5620 or email stammaro@ymcaspokane.org.





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