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03.31.16 – Luncheon Notes and Photos

SPOKES Notes written by Teresa Schaal

The Rotary meeting was held at the Mary Free Bed YMCA.  President Derek Aten welcomed the group and Shannon Kolarik introduced guests and visiting Rotarians.  We were honored to have a member of Parliament in our sister city in Ghana as a guest of Jim White’s attending today’s meeting.  Tom Mathison led us in prayer and we all enjoyed our boxed lunches.

After reconvening the meeting, President Derek announced his challenge to fellow Rotarians:  he will donate $25 to our Rotary Charities Foundation in the name of anyone who could beat him in the best of 10 free throws, and will donate $50 to the Rotary International Foundation for anyone who could beat him in 10 3-point shots.  The results of this contest will be announced at a future meeting.

Jackie Taylor introduced our speakers, Scott Lewis, CEO, and Andrew Page, COO of the area’s YMCAs.  The Mary Free Bed YMCA is the new Southeast YMCA, replacing the one on Forest Hills Drive (near Cascade Road) which is being sold.  Scott is new to the area, having come from New Jersey, and was featured in a recent Grand Rapids Business Journal.  He was influenced by his mother to become a lifeguard and was “hooked” into the YMCA after that; he’s been with the Y for 30 years.  He shared that he found Grand Rapids to be a very welcoming place.

Scott shared that the Mary Free Bed hospital and guild partnership with the YMCA has been a real blessing to the Y.  Tours will be offered following the presentation and when we take a tour, we are encouraged to think of outcomes, not the building.  Programs are emphasized.  The Y wants to partner with other organizations and get out in the communities they are serving.  They are doing great work and there are plenty of opportunities to do even more.  He asked us how the Y can link up with us.  He wants ideas and suggestions and offered his email address to connect with him:

A question was asked about the relationship with the YMCA and Mary Free Bed.  Scott told the audience that this was a naming opportunity that the Mary Free Bed Guild secured with a significant gift.  Mary Free Bed Hospital also leases space here and uses the pool for wellness programs.  It is a completely accessible building.

Andy started his career five years ago at the David D. Hunting YMCA downtown, which is considered their “flagship” Y.  He encouraged those who take a tour of the Mary Free Bed Y to notice its scope, its universal design and the facility details.  It is hoped that this design will be replicated throughout the U.S.

The seven YMCA branch locations in West Michigan generate $36 million in annual revenue, and serve 18,700 households which translates to 54,200 people served.  The Mary Free Bed YMCA is an innovative center of collaboration with MFB.  Nineteen elements were included to accommodate the unique needs that MFB required (such as paved baseball diamonds, wider aisles, no stairs, pushbutton doors, font size and color on signage, equipment, hearing loops, and a clinic).

The community impact was reported as four-fold:

  1. Universally designed campus = totally accessible to all (first building to ever get a universal design certification in the world)
  2. Combat obesity epidemic through the Carol Van Andel Healthy Living Center
  3. Support growing active aging market
  4. With KISD, debut a youth leadership academy

The MFB YMCA is located on 36 acres; the building is 116,200 square feet; was a $31 million project; is currently standard LEED certified but they are going after a Silver LEED Certitification.  Their ACTIVATE Program, which is funded by a $4.5 million grant, is not a “gym and swim” program.  It includes nutrition education and access to healthy food.

Andy can be reached at

After a brief Q&A session, a certificate for a clean water filter was given to our speakers in appreciation for their presentation to the Rotary Club of Grand Rapids.  The meeting was adjourned and many Rotarians and guests toured the MFB YMCA; others followed President Derek to a basketball court for the shooting contest.


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