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When it comes to creating community partnerships, collaboration is the key ingredient. Once attained, the potential for added benefits and growth is able to flourish.

For example, the Family YMCA of the Desert in Palm Desert, California, established a long-standing partnership with the Coachella Valley Housing Coalition (CVHC) back in 2007. And this Y is different in the fact they are not a fitness facility-based Y, but rather spread throughout the community within 34 programmatic sites, allowing them to expand their collaboration and reach more individuals.

Through this partnership, CVHC contracts the Y to provide services and programs at four of its residential communities. Some of these programs include afterschool care where students are provided snacks, receive help with homework and have access to computer labs. Additionally, summer and day camps are also offered at these locations.

This partnership began out of an already established relationship between both organizations’ leaders. Each consistently looks for new and different opportunities, and ways to help support each other.

One example of support is the Y’s ability to alleviate costs CVHC would incur through providing many of the programs it offers. This includes after-school snacks. The Y alleviates this cost by managing its own Child and Adult Care Food Program and submitting it for funding to receive reimbursement. Additionally, the Y helps provide STEM programming for the kids in its programs through grant funding.

Returning the favor, CVHC has helped the Y with funding to offer aquatics lessons from lifeguards and instructors within the community. Both the Y and CVHC have also coordinated with other organizations such as Humana and KaBOOM! to construct a new playground for community residents.

From within this partnership, Paula Simonds, the CEO of the Family YMCA of the Desert, described a “ripple effect” from the many collaborations they have established throughout their community.

“The longevity we’ve had with CVHC really represents a long-standing and trusted relationship they’ve seen the value in, where we’ve brought more to the table than just saying, ‘We’re going to provide you the funding to operate the program,’” said Simonds. “But we as an organization want to take it to the next level and present it the best way we can, with the resources we have. And if we don’t have the resources, we go look for those who can help.”

Some of the additional partnerships include collaborating with Wells Fargo to provide a financial literacy program, Old Town Artisan Studios to provide art programs, and FIND Food Bank to offer fresh produce to families in the communities they’re working with through CVHC.

Because Simonds has over 20 years of experience in nonprofit work, she has found immense benefit in these many partnerships, big and small. “Sometimes the thought is you don’t want to talk to other partners because everyone is looking for the same funding stream, but I really adhere to the fact that collaboration is critical for success on many levels,” she said.

And in terms of funding, Simonds described it as a challenge they’re always facing. “We’re working through how we can potentially reach out to get collaborative funding that would help support the cost CVHC incurs as an organization,” she said. “Then reaching out to funders saying, ‘We have a great collaboration and we don’t want to lose being able to provide program services to a lot of the residents who live there.’”

In fact, sticking to the mission of providing support for the families in the community connected the dots for this Y of over 400 employees and has allowed for continual growth of collaboration. Simonds elaborated the willingness to reach out and help others, even when it doesn’t benefit you directly, is necessary in forming these partnerships.

“It always resonates with me when others say, ‘Don’t talk to them, they’re our competitors,’ and I say, ‘I don’t see people as competitors, I see them as contributors,’” said Simonds. “We are going to be much better when we work together and can bounce ideas off each other. We can help support each other.”

The collaboration between the Y and CVHC not only has ongoing benefits for both, but has also seen inspiring results.

“We had a resident [at CVHC] who was part of our program and ended up going on to the University of California Davis, then graduated, came back, and was hired to run our financial literacy program,” said Simonds. “It was really full-circle, and tells me our staff and our community make a great impression early on.”

Brittany Howard

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

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