The Fernandina Beach Rotary Club recently welcomed club member Jon Dearolf, executive director of the McArthur Family YMCA, who gave an update on the Y. Dearolf said many in the community don’t realize the Y is more than just a gym. It is a cause-driven organization whose goal is to improve the health and well-being of the community through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Dearolf noted that the Y operates five youth development sites in Nassau County where some 150 kids are enrolled in before- and after-school programs in Fernandina, Yulee, Callahan and Bryceville. These programs, which are also open during the summer break when more than 300 children attend, strive to fill the education gap that often occurs when kids aren’t in school. In addition, the Y runs a summer camp and offers area youth a host of sports activities such as soccer, basketball, volleyball and its renowned swimming teams.

Dearolf said the organization has just begun a new program -- Uplift Teens --held at the McArthur Family Y on Saturday nights to provide teens a safe place to gather. Activities include team building exercises, themed events with a positive message and soon, a Leadership Club, focusing on healthy habits and the importance of community service. The Y also offers other wellness programs that are free or at reduced cost to the community, including the Youth Wellness Program and the Drowning Prevention Initiative, which taught 312 kids how to swim last year. A new partnership with Brooks Rehabilitation Center provides exercise and strength training three days a week for seniors suffering the effects of a stroke or Parkinson’s disease.

Dearolf closed by saying the Y never turns anyone away and, in fact, gave more than $300,000 in scholarships last year so that lower income families could take advantage of the many programs the Y offers in Nassau County.