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YMCA Director Andy Orazio, center, honors Merilee Perkins and Jonathan Mapes, winners of the Pillars of the Community Award.

YMCA Director Andy Orazio, center, honors Merilee Perkins and Jonathan Mapes, winners of the Pillars of the Community Award.

Photo: Jack McAdam

By Jack McAdam

The Sanford-Springvale YMCA shared highlights of the past year during its annual meeting May 1 at the Y. Over a Cinco de Mayo breakfast, Board President Kimberly Stewart and Executive Director Andy Orazio thanked volunteers and young staff for carrying out the Y’s core values of caring, honesty, respect and responsibility. They bestowed honors on a few standouts.

Orazio presented the Pillar of Community Award to Director of Health and Wellness Merilee Perkins and her brother Jonathan Mapes on behalf of their late parents, Polly and Allen Mapes. Both siblings shared stories about Polly and Allen and their life and the impact the YMCA had on them.

Linda Gaidimas, Ali Fair, Aquatics Director and Andy Orazio, CEO of the YMCA
Linda Gaidimas, Ali Fair, Aquatics Director and Andy Orazio, CEO of the YMCA

The Volunteer of the Year award went to Linda Gaidimas, who works with the aquatics program. Gaidimas’s dedication of time and energy to the program was described as outstanding.

Orazio noted that 35 to 40% of the Y’s workforce is between 15 and 21 years old. Two young employees who started as volunteers spoke about how the Y changed their lives in completely different ways.

Morgan Hamel works as a lifeguard and finds his sense of purpose in the aquatics department. He commented that when he was hired, he thought “how cool it is to get paid to watch water.” Seven years later, he enjoys teaching kids water safety and how to swim.

Caroline Daskowski began helping with the summer camp programs and each year became more involved with children’s programs that the Y offers. She now works with youth development in the childcare program.

Also offered was a review of the Y’s new strategic plan, Strong Communities Thrive Together. The plan showed how the Y partners with 15 organizations to help bring programs and services to our communities. The Trafton Senior Center partners with 10 organizations that help with aging in place and resources for seniors. The Y was involved in seven community events in 2023 and continues to find those local connections.

Another highlight is the Early Learning Center expansion, which is expected to open in June. This will allow the program to welcome 30 more children ages 6 months to 5 years. The Diabetes Prevention program, now in its third year, is at maximum capacity due to hard work by Perkins to launch this pilot program and work with local health providers to refer clients.

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