YMCA honors volunteers

Published 11:10 pm Friday, February 11, 2011

A Suffolk Family YMCA volunteer was honored with a plaque, a standing ovation and the YMCA Service-to-Youth Award recently at a meeting in Norfolk.

Service: Jennifer Gaines poses with her YMCA Service-to-Youth Award following an area YMCA meeting at which she and 14 area volunteers were honored. Gaines, a volunteer with the aquatics department was selected to represent the Suffolk Family YMCA.

Every year, area YMCA locations recognize one volunteer from each of the 14 area YMCA locations annually. Jennifer Gaines was selected to represent the Suffolk Family YMCA.

Gaines volunteers most often with the aquatics department, and she is the first volunteer from aquatics to be selected to represent the Suffolk Family YMCA.

Email newsletter signup

“The biggest thing was she represented exactly what we wanted a volunteer to be like,” said Rick Matthews, YMCA district vice president based at the Suffolk Family YMCA.

The heart of the YMCA is volunteers, Matthews said, and people like Gaines have donated countless hours working at the YMCA, working from their laptops, and working from home. Gaines has served as a team mom, party planner, referee, counselor, comforter and a recruiter for the YMCA aquatics department.

She unselfishly donates hours to making sure the YMCA swim teams are successful, he said. “She did the yeoman’s work with the swim team.”

According to Matthews, Gaines did the administrative work for the swim program, building the heat sheets, and more.

“She kept it really organized,” he said. “She had a lot of hats, and she never once complained. She is so unselfish. It’s great.”

“She is committed to the success of kids and parents. It’s a lot of responsibility,” he said.

Every year, volunteers are nominated for the award, and the board and the senior management vote to decide who will represent the Suffolk Family YMCA.

“We try to look at the overall body of work and the overall impact,” Matthews said. “Between these two, it becomes glaringly evident who wins.”

“I wish the world had many more Jennifer Gaines,” he added. “She is a great role model and a great mom,” he said. “We here at the YMCA love and thank Jennifer Gaines more than she can ever realize.”

The Taylor Bend Family YMCA, which serves the North Suffolk area, selected 14-year-old Christian Rangel for its Service-to-Youth award.

“Christian is one of the most mature teens we have ever encountered at our facility,” said Jessica Rubio, youth and teen director at Taylor Bend. “He is willing to help. He goes above and beyond and is a good communicator.”

Rubio said that she never has to ask Rangel to help, he is positive and approachable, and in addition to volunteering with the YMCA he also volunteers as a tutor to a second language speaker and with a middle school soccer team.

“He is an outstanding teen,” she said.