Ashley Rowden knows what it is like to live on a tight budget.
"But I never even knew how poor we were until I was 21," she says. "That’s because my mom took us places … I just didn’t know that when we went to the museums it was on free days."
Rowden learned a lot from her mom and now she is using that information to help members at the Indian Boundary YMCA in Downers Grove, which serves the western suburbs.
As membership director, Rowden has pulled together a resource program to help members hit by the lagging economy.
She has created a guide with loads of information, such as contact information and directions for the unemployment and Social Security offices, local food pantries, resale shops and support groups.
"The guide is important because in communities like the ones we serve many people don’t know where the unemployment office is or where to go for help, and they are embarrassed to ask," she says. "I am trying to make things easier for them and help save them money so they can continue to take advantage of the YMCA, too. But it’s not just about saving money; it’s about building relationships."
Nonmembers are welcome to stop by for a resource guide. With the help of staff, each week she highlights an inexpensive recipe for dinner, a suggestion for a family night out at a cost of $30 for four and is organizing a coupon exchange.
The YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago also is committed to helping financially strapped members by waiving membership dues temporarily or charging a fraction of the dues. Military families are eligible for free memberships. Scholarships are available for programs such as after-school and summer camps.
For more information about a YMCA near you, visit www.ymcachgo.org.