Feature Article - November 2008
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Versatile Venues

Collaborate to Bring More to Your Community

By Jessica Royer Ocken

Need a Broader Audience?

Say you have a multipurpose facility already, but you're not sure it's living up to its full potential. Seems like there are some empty spaces here and there that should ideally be filled with activity—be it an art class, a camp for kids, or group lessons in computer use or parenting or Spanish. Or perhaps you have the opposite problem: a team of staff and volunteers just bursting with ideas for activities they'd like to lead and classes they'd like to offer, but not enough space to accommodate them or not a convenient enough location to bring all the potentially interested populations in-house. Either way, your solution is the same: find a programming partner.

"Our board about three years ago wanted to expand services to un-served areas," said Lake Houston's Gonzales. "We don't have the funds to build Y's everywhere, so we have to collaborate and look at existing resources." Part of this goal has led the Lake Houston Y into a full-fledged collaboration with another institution (more on that later), but in Splendora, it means the Y is providing programming in a preexisting local community building.

"There's a doctor's office in there, and the Boys and Girls Club has used the facility, but the Y has taken it a step further by bringing more programs than a specific, targeted agency would," Gonzales said. Whether you're a Y or a park district or some other type of community organization, bringing the services you offer to those who need them is a guaranteed way to increase participation—and make any space into a multipurpose facility.

YMCAs are not only excellent current examples of this process, they're probably the original example. "In its inception in the United States, the Y did not operate its own facilities," explained Kent Johnson, COO of the YMCA of the USA. "Y's shared frequently with churches, libraries and other locations, so this is a longstanding tradition and a big piece of our community-based mission model." YMCAs have been partnering with park districts, schools and municipalities for many years, and even today, the Y's "recreation facility may be their base, but we continue to offer programs in schools and libraries," Johnson said.