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The holiday season is upon us, and with it comes a great opportunity for community rec organizations to host special events to drive community engagement, which can contribute to new memberships and better retention as the year closes.

Three YMCAs in particular — Hastings Family YMCA in Hastings, Nebraska, Hornell Area Family YMCA in Hornell, New York, and Grand River Area Family YMCA in Chillicothe, Missouri — are using the holiday season as another opportunity to enhance community engagement:

Family Christmas Movie Night — Hastings Family YMCA

Hope LeBar, Marketing Director: 

This is the first year the YMCA has done a Christmas movie night. The YMCA’s Family Christmas Movie Night gave the entire community a chance to get out and spend some time together as a family. This event was free to members and non-members, and it was great to see families show up with their children in their pajamas, ready for the Christmas movie! And we had concessions donated, which allowed us to offer free popcorn, candy and hot chocolate for everyone!

Once everyone got their snacks, the lights turned off, and the movie started, it was so special to see how many families were able to make this a fun memorable night. It may be a new Christmas tradition!

Click here to find out more about the Hastings Family YMCA and the Family Christmas Movie Night.

Annual Christmas Concert — Hornell Area Family YMCA

Rebecca Weaver Hamm, Music and Arts Director: 

This was our eighth annual concert, which featured performances by 28 Y members, music students and music instructors. The music ranged from traditional Christmas carols played by some of our KidPiano students (young piano students) to ukulele songs to holiday classics like “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “O Holy Night” to a bluesy Christmas song written by one of our adult voice class students. We closed the concert with an audience sing-along of “Silent Night” in honor of the bicentennial of the carol’s composition.

Our members have commented that the concert lets them take a break from the bustle of the holiday season as they enjoy a variety of music, including lots of holiday favorites. Our music students and their families appreciate the opportunity to shine — it really is a wonderful event.

Click here to find out more about the Hornell Area Family YMCA and the Annual Christmas Concert.

Dinner with Santa — Grand River Area Family YMCA

Shawn Hurtgen, Y-PALS and Christian Outreach Director:

This is the first year we’ve called it “Dinner with Santa” — we used to call it the “YMCA Family Christmas Party,” but last year, we invited Santa and changed the name. This is a members only event — we try to mix it up and do some things that are more of a perk for our members. We’ll have a nice backdrop with Christmas trees around where Santa is sitting, and the kids and their families can come take pictures with him. We’ll also be serving soup, sandwiches, cookies and other snacks!

And we have the real Santa coming. All the kids in our town believe he is the real Santa, because he’s the one who shows up at their schools, on the float in the parades and all around town. We’re pretty excited!

Click here to find out more about the Grand River Area Family YMCA and Dinner with Santa.

Bobby Dyer

Bobby is the former editor of Community Rec Magazine.

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