Shasta Family YMCA Celebrates, Remembers 25 Years


Note: At the time of this Q&A, Staci Bertagna had been the YMCA’s Director of Communications & Development for nearly five years. She was recently laid off during company cutbacks that effected her position, and other Y employees. Stay tuned for updates.Q: Staci Bertagna, thanks for talking with us about the Shasta Family YMCA. It’s hard to believe it’s has been at its Court Street location for 25 years. What’s YMCA’s before-and-after story look like, in terms of its location and footprint?

Probably the best way to learn about our history is to click and read here.

Q: Thanks. How about the Y’s human numbers, in terms of members and staff? How have they changed during the last 25 years?

When the YMCA opened its doors at our Court Street location in December 1984, our membership base consisted of just 800 members. Today, our YMCA serves over 9,400 members and our highest number of members in recent years was close to 11,000!

The YMCA is a place of constant activity when serving so many. In 2008, our Family Activities Center served 1,700 (unduplicated number) children, our Aquatics Department provided swim lessons for 950 children, 157 youth participated in Camp McCumber, and our after-school program served nearly 600 youth.

The YMCA originally started out with a group of dedicated volunteers who believed in the importance of offering opportunities for youth and families in our community and brought the spirit and philosophy of the YMCA to Shasta County almost 70 years ago. Today, the YMCA has 11 exempt staff and 135 non-exempt staff who work hard to provide a wealth of activities for children and families throughout the North State. We have a very dedicated group of staff who have been with our YMCA for five years or more. One of our longest running staff members started at the front desk, moved into our after-school programming and is now the Assistant Finance Director, and 2009 marks Dawn’s 18th year working with the YMCA!

Besides our dedicated staff, the Y also relies heavily on volunteers and Family Activity Center aides to support the great work of the YMCA. In 2008, the YMCA worked with 401 volunteers and aides who put in approximately 8,800 hours of service in a variety of Y programming and events.

Q: The Shasta Family YMCA is a gym, and a place for work-outs, but you talk a lot about how the Y makes a difference in people’s internal lives, too – especially young people. Can you expound on that?

We emphasize the “family” in Shasta Family YMCA because we believe in the importance of the sense of family in a person’s life and providing that feeling of family even when your own biological family isn’t always around. We are a place where people develop friendships and become a part of a community, may it be the group of seniors we have who sit and have coffee together in the morning after working out, or the youth who come in to the Y to hang out after school. Sometimes people forget in this fast- paced, busy world just how lonely some people can be, and we provide that place where people can connect with someone, may it be a smile at the door when they walk in, an instructor who takes some time after class to help them learn those extra hard steps, or a volunteer who is willing to sit down and listen to how a child’s day was. Whatever that need may be, the YMCA is there and at some point or another, has helped support individuals and families in our community in a wide variety of ways.


Photo courtesy Shasta Family YMCA

The Y believes in the future of our children and knows the impact that positive activities in a safe environment with caring adults can have on a child’s life. The Y believes in designing programs and activities for children that build assets and incorporate the Y’s four core values of caring, honesty, respect and responsibility. Over the years, our Y has been strong in providing programs and activities for infants, toddlers and school-age children, but we have seen room to grow in the area of providing opportunities for youth and teens. In 2009, the Y is happy to have a new department specifically focused on programs for youth and teens in our community and is excited with the variety of programs being developed specifically for this age group, including our For Teens/By Teens Program.

As part of our mission in building a strong community, the Y believes in being actively involved in a variety of community groups and activities. The Y is proud to be one of the founding partners for Healthy Shasta and is dedicated to providing more opportunities in our community where the healthy choice is the easy choice. The Y is also proud of collaborating with a variety of other organizations in various activities and opening up our facility to the needs of local schools, the Special Olympics and agencies, including the Shasta Women Refuge and Good News Rescue Mission.

Q: Do you have a favorite Y success story, or two?

1. In 1995, the board hired James Finck and Jeff Herndon to run the place. It was ready for plywood over the windows and a For Sale sign. Finck had been at non-profit YMCAs for years and Herndon at private athletic clubs for years. Together, the board said to “go for it” and “keep us informed.” First thing that came up was ‘What is a YMCA without a pool?’ So in 90 days all the money for the outdoor pool was raised and in 180 days kids were swimming. And over a 10-year period, Finck and Herndon grew the YMCA to what it is today – no plywood needed!

2. In 2001, a student of Redding School District drowned in Lake Shasta. Then-Superintendent Mike McLaughlin was hit hard by this tragedy, and was in the process of looking for money to build a pool at Sequoia Middle School. At the same time, the Y was deep into its construction of the indoor pool. McLaughlin was budgeting the construction and operation and was blown away at the cost. He called Herndon and said he had raised a little bit of the money he needed, but wasn’t going to make the project as he had no idea of the operation costs. He asked if the Y could take the money he raised and use it toward the Y’s pool. As part of the agreement, the Y would then give every 1st grader in the district swim lessons.

The rest is history. As of today, 3,360 Redding School District 1st graders have participated in the best swimming program in the North State!


Photo courtesy Shasta Family YMCA

Q: Any funny moments?

From the desk of Linda Delles: Prior to our last remodel, maintenance and repair men had to crawl across the top of my desk to go out a window to get to the roof for repairs. If I closed my office window, they would be locked out on the roof, and this did happen occasionally. (I thought it was funny – they didn’t!)

From the desk of Jeff Herndon: With a brand new indoor pool ready to be filled, Finck and I had every hose the Y had to try to fill it. The two of us tried to calculate how long it would take, knowing that if we weren’t here to monitor it, we could have the potential of flooding the locker rooms. After doing all of our brilliant deductions, we thought that the pool would be full by 8:30 p.m. After spending the night at the Y and finally turning the hoses off at 5:30 a.m., we only missed it by 9 hours.

Also, our Wellness Director, Chip Mark, was actually married at the Y. Chip and his wife recently celebrated their 8-year anniversary in April.

Q: Any Y myths or misconceptions you’d like to clear up?

The Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) started over 150 years ago as a group dedicated to the spiritual, physical and emotional well-being of men, but the Shasta Family YMCA is, and always has been, open to all genders and faiths.

They YMCA is not just a gym; we provide so much more than just a workout facility in our community! Most people are unaware of just how many things the Y is associated with in our region and how much takes place within our facility. When people come in asking about the Y, they tend to get an ear full of information that they never knew the Y was associated with.

Did you know:

The Y offers its facility free to the Special Olympics for all of their practices.

The Y offers its facility for the end-of-the-year party for Mountain Lakes School, Sequoia School and Central Valley High School’s Sober Grad.

The Y’s Raising A Reader Program puts books in the hands of children, serving 3,182 children age 0-5 in 2008.

The Y runs after-school programming at five school sites in Shasta County and runs Summer Camp at two sites.

The YMCA has a competitive rowing team and we offer rowing lessons out at Whiskeytown Lake on our own boats.

The Y’s Men are a group of men dedicated to supporting the YMCA and have participated at YMCA events for years. Many of its members include previous board members and community members who believe in the work of the Y.

Q: What exactly is the Y’s “Strong Kids” campaign?

The YMCA’s Strong Kids Campaign (SKC) is the primary source of funds to provide financial assistance for children, teens, and families, and program subsidies for those programs that are free of cost for participants. The YMCA takes every effort to ensure that no person, especially youth, will be denied access to programs and membership because of financial hardship. In our efforts to meet this mission, the Y works with community volunteers to raise the much needed funds to provide the opportunity for all to participate in YMCA programming. In 2008, the YMCA provided approximately $200,000 in financial aid for over 1,200 residents in Shasta County and provided a variety of free programming to support children, youth, teens and families. In 2009, we have already seen close to triple the amount of requests for financial aid just in the first quarter of the year. For this year’s campaign, we set our highest SKC goal ever – $150,000. Thanks to the generosity of our community, we have raised $157,000 to date, with all funds going directly toward providing the opportunity for children, youth and families to participate in YMCA programming.


Photo courtesy Shasta Family YMCA

Q: What are the Y’s most popular features? I know, for example, that Zumba is a huge hit (Kelly loves it, I’m working up my courage to try it). What else?

Zumba is a big hit at the Y, but before the Zumba craze came, there were so many other things that were and still are a hit. Both our indoor and outdoor pools are very popular and we have a dedicated group of members who you can find routinely hitting the water. We also have our Stringrays Swim Club for youth.

Our Noon-Ball is very popular, with a group of dedicated players who are rather competitive in nature.

And don’t forget the free coffee in the Café in the mornings for our members. Come any morning down to the Y and you will a large group of folks sitting around, enjoying each other’s company after a workout. Often times, you will find potlucks and snacks being passed around. You will hear laughter and deep conversations taking place and you will find connections and friendships being made.

Q: How does the Shasta Family YMCA compare to YMCAs in other cities?

The great thing about the YMCA is that every one is different and is tailored around the needs of its community! As compared to other Y’s in similarly sized towns, the Shasta Family YMCA is one of the best in the nation. Our Y offers a true family atmosphere and we have staff who show a strong commitment to our Y and to our community in the longevity of their service to the Y. Not many Ys have the longevity of staff like we do.

Q: Anything else you’d like people to know?

Pleasing our membership is important! We are always working on ways to ensure that we are listening to their needs, wants and ideas. The Y is in existence to serve the needs of our community and is here because of the dedication of hundreds of community leaders. Over the years, since originating in 1930 as part of the Mountain District YMCA, our YMCA has had the support of over 300 board members. We have gone from no building to a building that has been added on to several times. We have expanded our services to serve all and we will continue to grow thanks to the generosity of this community.

Q: What is the vision of the YMCA’s future in the North State?

To build a full facility on the East side and expand the YMCA’s mission and programs to surrounding counties.

Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded A News Cafe in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain holds a Bachelor's Degree in journalism from CSU, Chico. She's an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She's been featured and quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, The Washington Post, L.A. Times, Slate, Bloomberg News and on CNN, KQED and KPFA. She lives in Redding, California.