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Heart of the Valley YMCA sites in Madison and Huntsville will host "Welcoming Week" on Sept. 13-22. CONTRIBUTED

YMCA nurtures diversity with Welcoming Week

MADISON COUNTY – Both Madison and Huntsville differ from most Alabama cities because of diversity and backgrounds of citizens. Heart of the Valley YMCA will celebrate the communities’ diversity by hosting “Welcoming Week” on Sept. 13-22.

All YMCA branches, including Hogan Family YMCA in Madison, will participate in this observance.

“Welcoming Week is an opportunity for neighbors to connect,” YMCA President Jerry Courtney said. “At Heart of the Valley YMCA, we are inclusive and celebrate diversity. We believe our community is stronger when everyone in the community feels welcome, and we can all work together for the common good.”

Free multicultural activities will be open to the public. With “One World, One Community,” YMCA staff invites members and visitors to place a sticker on a world map to show their place of birth and celebrate their heritage.

“They can also write a greeting that welcomes others to post in the YMCA branch,” Director of Communications Mary Anne Swanstrom said.

On Sept. 15, YMCA branches will host “Welcoming Day” and open their doors with free admission from noon to 6 p.m. Membership is not required to enjoy classes, swimming pools, fitness centers and gyms.

At Hogan Family YMCA, “Game Night” will be free to families and youth on Sept. 13 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The staff will provide board games, but individuals are welcome to bring their own favorites.

For “Feast of Flavors International Potlucks,” Hogan Family YMCA will host a potluck lunch featuring favorite family or heritage recipes on Sept. 18 at 11:30 a.m. “Bring a dish to share and the recipe with ingredients listed for our compilation cookbook,” Swanstrom said.

The YMCA has a long history of helping new Americans integrate into new neighborhoods and preparing communities to receive newcomers inclusively. In 1856, the Y was the first organization in the United States to offer English as a Second Language classes.

“In the late 1800s, YMCA immigration secretaries greeted hundreds of thousands of new arrivals at Ellis Island and Angel Island, helping them locate family members, housing and employment,” Swanstrom said.

“The Y continues its mission to offer programs and services, as well as a place where all can feel welcome, to everyone regardless of their ability to pay,” she said.

Hogan Family YMCA’s address is 130 Park Square Lane in Madison. For more information, visit ymcahuntsville.org.

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