As you may be aware, the Albany Area YMCA recently announced that we were awarded a five-year, $2 million grant from the Department of Education to serve 125 children at Magnolia Elementary School. We are pleased that the DOE has chosen to fund this program and excited that the Dougherty County School System and other community partners have made a commitment to support our efforts to make a difference in our community.
I have heard a number of positive comments about this endeavor, but I have also heard some comments that were less than positive. With that in mind, I want to take this opportunity to provide some information about this grant and how it will be administered in an effort to clarify to our members and the public how programs of this nature work. After all, the funds to be utilized are public funds. They belong to you and me, and we all want to know that our money is being used for an effective, well-administered program.
First of all, the YMCA did not receive a $2 million lump-sum check. The YMCA is the fiscal agent for the grant, which means that all incoming and outgoing monies will be routed through the YMCA accounting system and subject to our methods of checks, balances and audits, with the budget reviewed by our Finance Committee and Board of Directors on a monthly basis. All expenses associated with this grant must be submitted for reimbursement. The YMCA could wait up to 3 months for reimbursement, which is why we had to prove to the Department of Education that the Y had the available resources with which to "front" the necessary monies for that time period.
These reimbursements are heavily scrutinized, and if receipts are not submitted correctly or in line with the stated purpose, the Y will not get reimbursed and the expense will immediately come out of our pocket. I can assure you that the YMCA doesn't have the unlimited financial resources to allow this to happen, so we will be required to spend and document with great care. Since these funds are earmarked for a specific program, they cannot be used for anything but the Magnolia Elementary program. We can't purchase new fitness or sports equipment, pay existing staff salaries, or pay the light bill. In fact, the Y has created a separate budget for the grant to ensure that funds are kept apart from the funds in our normal operating budget. Minimal administrative expense allowances (3 percent) are built into this grant, meaning that 97 percent of the grant funding goes directly to serving the children and families at Magnolia Elementary.
Second, this grant has three specific and measurable outcomes. They are: Improving math scores; Improving reading scores; Increasing parental involvement. A specific academic curriculum, student enrichment programs and parent activities are in place that will assist the YMCA staff in meeting those specific outcomes. Outcomes are reviewed regularly by the Department of Education. If the YMCA program does not meet or exceed our goals, grant funding could be discontinued. Community partners such as the United Way, Strive2Thrive, DCSS, DOCO Library, Communities In Schools, and Musculoskeletal Associates have been enlisted as partners with the Y to insure that we meet or exceed the stated outcomes.
You may wonder why the YMCA would dedicate valuable and limited resources to apply for a very complex grant that requires a significant financial investment, places a high level of scrutiny and accountability upon the organization, and has a miniscule financial return on investment? It's simple. The YMCA is committed to building upon our 100-plus-year history of investing in our community. We are committed to our mission of serving all. We want to be recognized as more than just a gym, and as one of the leading Albany area organizations that has a hand in addressing immediate community needs. We want our members and future members to be proud to belong to an organization that wants to do the right things that positively impact our community - beyond treadmills and swimming pools.
In closing, you can count on the YMCA to do everything possible to see that this grant is properly administered as if it were our own money. You can count on the YMCA to do everything possible to see that this grant has the measurable impact it is designed to have. It is my hope that the community will do everything it can to support and advocate for the YMCA and other organizations that are tirelessly working to improve this great community. It cannot be done alone.
Dave Wallace is executive director of the Albany Area YMCA.