It's an opportunity for at risk youth in the metro, like no other in the nation. A new partnership between Omaha police and the YMCA of Greater Omaha is giving those children a chance at the kind of activities they may have only heard about, with mentors to guide them.
It was the brainchild of Omaha police homicide detective, Scott Warner. “So many of these kids could benefit from a caring environment and a place where they can start to feel a sense of accomplishment,” he said. Warner serves on the Southwest YMCA board, one of five locations taking part.
Warner contacted the YMCA and together developed F.R.I.E.N.D. program, which stands for: Family Resource, Information, Education, Network and Development. Those are the guiding principals behind the effort which begins with the officers who come across children exhibiting at-risk behavior, whether in school or on the streets.
Police officers can issue children, ages eight and up, a card good for one month’s free membership at “Y” locations including Southwest (13010 Atwood Ave.), Butler-Gast (3501 Ames Ave.), Maple Street (7501 Maple St.), South (3010 R St.) and Downtown (430 So. 20th St.).
Once those children bring their card to the “Y,” they are matched up with a liaison, to help determine which activities interest them most. They can take part in everything from swimming to weight training to team sports. Throughout the month, they can earn “achievement points,” toward financial aid to continue their membership.
“This is a brand new program, so we’re learning as we go,” said Leonard Romano, Sr., President/CEO of the YMCA of Greater Omaha. "The YMCA stands for three things, youth development, healthy living and social responsibility, and the friend's program really provides a platform for us to accomplish that goal along with the Omaha police department."
Romano added, “Really, it's all about life-changing hope, one kid at a time, one day at a time. And that's what the F.R.I.E.N.D. program is all about."
It’s not something the “Y” had budgeted for. Instead, the money to fund it is coming from community donations, part of their Strong Kids campaign.
Other programs include after school activities and free swim lessons for some grade school students. Liberty Elementary second graders are currently taking those classes at the Downtown YMCA, as part of their school day. Teacher Meredith Gray said, “They do not get much opportunity to get in the water, and we really want to keep them safe."
Those who wish to make a donation to the local YMCA, or who would like to learn more about their programs can visit MetroYMCA.org/.
Posted April 4, 2012
The YMCA of Greater Omaha and the Omaha Police Department are collaborating on a new program to help open YMCA doors to all children, helping them to learn, grow and thrive.
Titled the F.R.I.E.N.D. Program, the new venture stands for FAMILY, RESOURCE, INFORMATION, EDUCATION and NETWORK DEVELOPMENT.
Omaha Police Officers and School Resource Officers will refer children ages eight and older to the YMCA in an effort to give them alternatives and detour them from at-risk behavior.
Referred youth are then able to call one of the four participating YMCA's and receive a free one month membership. Once at the Y, they will meet with a designated liaison to determine which activities interest them, including swimming, basketball, exercise classes, weight training, team sports, and more.
The four participating YMCA's are Butler-Gast (3501 Ames Avenue), Maple Street (7501 Maple Street), South (3010 R Street) and Southwest (13010 Atwood Ave.). “There are at risk children in all parts of city,” says Warner. “Just because a child lives in a certain area, doesn’t mean they couldn’t gain from a program like this.”
The F.R.I.E.N.D. Program is the brainchild of Omaha Homicide Detective Scott Warner, and was created as a way to help children who could benefit from the YMCA environment.
Explains Warner, “So many of these kids could benefit from a caring environment and a place where they can start to feel a sense of accomplishment.” Warner, who is on the Board of the Southwest YMCA, contacted then YMCA Group Vice President Jeff DeWispelare, and together they developed F.R.I.E.N.D.