YMCA housing began in the 1860s and the Lincoln Family Downtown YMCA remains one of the few Ys across the nation to maintain a housing program for men and women.

As a non-profit, the Y strives to promote healthy living and social responsibility. Offering affordable housing assists those looking to get back on their feet and heal their spirits, minds and bodies.

This Thanksgiving, the YMCA invited the entire community to be involved with assisting its residents. A three-week food drive enabled YMCA members to provide turkeys and non-perishable food items. On Thanksgiving Day, over 30 volunteers, including Y staff, volunteers from Target, Y board members and friends and family of those volunteers assisted in prepping, cooking, serving and caring for the residents.

“This event brightened the season for many of the residents,” Residence Operations Director Rick Mouer said. “Many of them dressed up and felt cared for.”

Food and decorations set an inviting scene. Ernie, one of the long-time residents and professional musician, brought down his keyboard and provided music. Valley of the Sun YMCA CEO Ralph Yohe and COO Kerri O’Brien as well as many other YMCA staff members and volunteers visited, talked, sat and ate with attendees.

“Everyone treated everyone the same. Everybody had a smile on their face.” Mouer said. “People got a chance to share their stories.”

About 120 people were served on Thanksgiving: 100 residents, their families and an additional 20 people who simply walked by. The YMCA doors were open and greeters stood outside to invite the community. People selected their food from a menu and were served not just once, but had an opportunity for seconds and thirds. There was an abundance of food and it was boxed up for residents and others to take with them.

Since Thanksgiving, Mouer has received thank you cards. Many messages note that this past Thanksgiving was the best one the residents have been to at the YMCA.

“They enjoyed the interaction,” Mouer said. “There was a lot of energy in the room that day.”