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As a community rec center, it’s your responsibility to ensure all demographics are being reached. So it’s important to create a welcoming place for underrepresented groups.

If the resources are available, consider creating a diversity and inclusion committee. The Burbank Community YMCA in Burbank, California, has such a committee, made of community members and staff with different backgrounds who discuss the needs of the Burbank community and how the Y can assist where needed.

A committee can be a great way to create and discuss diversity and inclusion techniques for your facility, such as signage a simple way to make current and prospective members feel welcome.

“We have a mural that was painted by Nickelodeon interns on the outside of our building that says, ‘for all,’ with images of diverse populations – everything from someone in a wheelchair, to different ages and ethnicities,” said Bryan Snodgrass, the COO at the Burbank Community YMCA.

The facility has a large sign that says “hello” in a couple dozen languages. In addition, the Burbank Y uses images of their members in promotional flyers. “For example, we just kicked off our 95th birthday celebration for this year and we took photos of our members,” said Snodgrass. “We didn’t want to use stock photos, and we used all ages and ethnicities – we use diverse imagery so people can see the diversity as they’re walking into our building.”

Another diverse resource to incorporate at your facility is staff members who reflect the demographics of your community. “Anytime a member can walk into your facility and see themselves, whether it’s in the staff, the imagery or the languages, that sends the pretty clear message you’re a welcoming place,” said Snodgrass.

Diversity in staff members is something that can be woven into the everyday functioning of your facility. “We make the topic of inclusion a regular conversation at staff meetings with our directors and front-line staff,” described Snodgrass. “If you’re able to make diversity and inclusion part of your culture, it makes all the difference.”

Through regularly discussing diversity, you can learn ways to further welcome and accommodate minorities in your community. When it was time for the Burbank Y to update its equipment lease, the staff purposefully chose equipment that could be easily modified for individuals with mobility issues. “It’s the same with group fitness classes – you need to have instructors who know how to modify for people of all types, disability or not,” said Snodgrass.

Wherever you’re located, diversity and inclusion are incorporated similarly. The Telford Community Center YMCA in Richmond, Kentucky, has found ways, such as child care services, to reach a variety of individuals the staff normally wouldn’t.

“We have a lot of different members from all ages and ethnicities, which plays a large part in our child care program,” said Jacob Roberts, the program director at the Telford Y. “We have four different locations and it helps us reach a lot of different families – they’re all spread out, so we cover a lot of ground in the community.”

The Telford Y covers ground by working with their local college to bring in programs that support diverse groups, such as an Alzheimer’s program and the KAPE program for those with special needs.

Similarly, the Burbank Y’s connections with their local school district and hospital are beneficial. PTA meetings are a great way to hear what is needed for youth at your facility, as is working with hospitals to learn how to help those with health issues.

“Leave the walls of the [rec] center, and go talk to members of the community,” said Snodgrass. “You can see what the needs are and if you can address them. Maybe there’s a demographic that’s not being represented, and maybe you’re able to step in, take charge and help.”

Brittany Howard

Brittany is the editor of Community Rec Magazine. Reach her at brittany@peakemedia.com.

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