YMCA fundraises to fill deficit left by unrenewed grant

By Claire Hettinger

The University YMCA has raised almost $37,000 in its efforts to replace the Catholic Campaign for Human Development grant that was not renewed last fall.

The YMCA hosted “Storylines: A Gathering of Words and Songs” on Sunday as part of its continual effort to raise funds for their immigrant work, which added about $3,600 to its fund.

In November 2013, the YMCA lost a $60,000-per-year grant due to affiliation with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, which openly supports same-sex marriage. Mike Doyle, executive director of the University YMCA, said the YMCA does not have an official stance on same-sex marriage, but the organization wants to be inclusive of all people and treat every person with human dignity.

One speaker at the event, Father Tom Royer, a Catholic priest who is involved with immigrant concerns in the Champaign-Urbana area, talked about the importance of circles of mutual concern where groups of people can come together to achieve the same goals.

“One would think the churches would be (circles of mutual concern),” he said. “They have their own agenda, and sometimes they avoid the issues.”

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The event included performances by Amasong, Champaign-Urbana’s premier lesbian and feminist award-winning chorus, and Dan Keding, storyteller. Both groups performed works relevant to the cause of human dignity, uniting as one group of people and accepting differences.

Alicia Beck, development director of the University YMCA, said the new fund is named the Committee Concerned for Human Dignity. CCHD is the same acronym as for the previous grant, and she said they wanted to claim it as their own to assert that it is concerned with the rights of all people.

Doyle said the YMCA thinks of gay and immigrant rights as the same thing. Gay people coming out is not unlike immigrants coming out and calling themselves undocumented, he said. He said it is unfortunate that the Catholic Church found the conflicts of interest too great to overcome to continue working with the YMCA. He thinks it is the church that will come around, not the rest of the world, and perhaps they could work together in the future.

The church’s CCHD grant was renewable for four years at $60,000 a year. Doyle said the YMCA wishes to raise $120,000, half of their total goal, by the end of 2014. Beck said the YMCA’s goal is to raise $60,000 by the end of March, adding that they have more plans for fundraising, including another concert.

Royer also spoke about his experiences with immigrants in the community and the success of the projects the YMCA manages.

“(The C-U Immigration Forum) is the most important effort on behalf of immigrants in this part of the state,” he said.

The YMCA helps immigrants apply for driver’s licenses because it can be a confusing and difficult process. It also helps children apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program created to let children who arrive in the United States before age 16 receive Social Security numbers; this would allow them to be a more active member of the community by having the opportunity to be legally employed, receive their driver’s license and receive higher education.

“The people that are affected by this are people that we know, people that we talk to everyday people who live right next to us,” Lorenzo Macedo said, a volunteer with the C-U Immigration Forum.

He told a story about his family and their problems with being undocumented drivers. He spoke about the terror experienced by parents as their children drive knowing that, if they are pulled over, they might not come back. But through the work at the YMCA and the C-U Immigration Forum, he said he is excited about the changes that he sees.

“I have seen how all of them are starting to gather their information and requirements so they could go and get their appointments so they can legally drive,” he said. “This is something huge. This is something that everyone should be celebrating.”

Royer said the YMCA is a place where real education is going on. It is part of many classrooms on campus where students can actually learn about differing view points. He said the University YMCA is one of those places that stands out in its efforts and fidelity to justice and is a place committed to human dignity for all. 

“We do have a very diverse community, a very rapidly growing immigrant population in Champaign-Urbana,” Beck said, “We want to make sure that the folks that are contributing to our local economy that are living here, that everybody feels included.”

Claire can be reached at [email protected].