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Working to Make Madison Area YMCA Programs Available to All
(Madison, NJ) January 29, 2016- When Maggie Claudio comes to the Y for work, it is a highlight in her week. As the Madison Area YMCA’s member assistance coordinator, Maggie is a ray of sunshine and a harbinger of hope for people in need who live or work in Madison, Chatham and Florham Park.
“You never know who is going to come through the door,” said Maggie. “Divorced parents, families with serious illnesses, people who have lost their jobs,” she trails off and then looks pensive. “And the Latin population. It has grown immensely. I hear a lot—Señora Maggie!”
Fortunately for the Y, Maggie is fluent in Spanish. As a woman of Spanish decent, Maggie understands the culture. She is able to allay concerns and focus on what is a priority for families. “’Swimming is important to the Latin community—they want their children to learn how to swim,’” said Maggie.
“This community is affluent; but, just below the surface is another population living here that is barely getting by. They are hard-working families, many who clean homes and work in the landscape business,” Maggie said, adding, “They are so humble and grateful to receive financial assistance awards from the Y.”
Maggie has amassed a treasure trove of stories during the three years that she has held the member assistance coordinator position.
“A Spanish-speaking mother who works full-time came in to see if she could receive financial assistance for her 10-year-old daughter to attend camp so that she could work—and you have to understand that in our culture, camping is not something you do,” said Maggie. “The girl cried, begging her mother not to sign her up. “I leaned over my desk and said to her, ‘Listen to me. Let’s make a deal. Just try it one time—do one overnight. If you go and hate it, you never have to go again.’ A week went by and on Saturday, this kid came through the door with the biggest smile on her face. She said, ‘I loved it! I can’t wait to go back!’”
By way of a member assistance protocol, Maggie is a liaison between those in the community who would appreciate some help and the Madison Area YMCA’s Family Center and F.M. Kirby Children’s Center. Her job has evolved from handling financial assistance award distribution to other sorts of member assistance such as helping obtain a piece of sports equipment or clothing for a child who is participating in a Y class if the family has exhausted all other avenues to obtain a necessary item. And all is done in strict confidence. “I’m always cognizant of people’s privacy,” said Maggie.
“I’m touched by the amount of single-parent families who come to see me. They sit with me, and sometimes cry, as we figure out what the Y can do for them. A mother who brings her children to the Y once told me, ‘This is where we can come to swim together. It’s our happy place.’ To me,” said Maggie leaning back in her chair and looking up, “That is worth a million dollars.”
“I’m uniquely qualified to hold this position at the Y,” continued Maggie. “When my husband and I divorced in 2004, I became a single mother to our son. I came to the Madison Area YMCA to apply for financial assistance and received it. I’ve been there. I was a recipient. I know what a difference it can make in your life. I worked out and my son was able to do karate.”
After moving to full-time employment at a local hospital where she is currently employed, Maggie jumped at the chance for the part-time member assistance coordinator position that opened at the Y when her son went away to college. “I wanted to feel that I’m making a difference….and you have to get it, which as a former recipient of financial assistance, I do. I feel. I empathize.”
“I have lots of stories,” said Maggie. “After helping a family gain acceptance into summer camp for two boys, Maggie said, “I vividly remember the boys telling me that they made friends at camp and enjoyed lots of activities. One of them said, ‘Nobody cares about what shirt or sneakers I’m wearing at camp.’ The boys even wrote me thank you notes,” said Maggie smiling. “When families thank me, I tell them—don’t thank me. It isn’t my money. My job is to do everything I possibly can to have you become part of the Y.”
As a cause-driven charitable organization and anchor institution in the community, the Madison Area YMCA is a hub in the community for people of all ages to participate in athletics, children’s programming, active older adult programming, and fitness and wellness programs at its Family Center. It’s where children receive quality childcare and early childhood education in a safe environment at the F.M. Kirby Children’s Center. Currently, there are 267 active financial assistance recipients. “I want to enable as many people as possible to come to the Y,” said Maggie.
Dedicated to nurturing the potential of every child and teen, improving the community’s health and well-being and giving back, the Y is a cause. A cause worth investing in. Each year, the Madison Area YMCA holds a fundraising campaign to further the vital work of the Y. Contributions raised through the Y’s Annual Campaign make it possible for all to be enriched by the Y, regardless of income. In 2015, financial assistance recipients shared nearly $570,000 and became part of the Y.
“As the member assistance coordinator of the Y, I want everyone to know that I’m here to help,” said Maggie. “People can come to see me at the Family Center on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 5 p.m. – 8 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m.-2 p.m. I have an open door policy-appointments aren’t necessary,” she said, noting that in-person meetings aren’t required. “Everything can be done over the telephone or the application can be downloaded from our website and mailed to me.”
Summing up her experience working in this role at the Y, Maggie said, “It’s an honor to be here doing what I do. I feel like I’m making a difference—and to be able to do that is priceless.”