Armed Services YMCA

The ASY makes more than 9,000 points of service each month, primarily targeting junior enlisted families with programs that focus on healthy living, social responsibility and youth development.

Since 1920, the Armed Services YMCA San Diego has prided itself on lending military members and their families a helping hand. With those families feeling the effects of sequestration, that support is important as ever. "After surveying our weekly participants, we are finding that military families feel like they are losing more and more programs," says Lyndsay Neer, ASY senior director of family and youth enrichment. "They express gratitude for the continued support of Armed Services YMCA San Diego." The ASY makes more than 9,000 points of service each month, primarily targeting junior enlisted families with programs that focus on healthy living, social responsibility and youth development, says Cat Quirk, ASY director of public relations. The ASY partners with the San Diego Food Bank to provide bags of groceries to about 150 families each month through its Neighborhood Exchange; in another ASY program, families in financial crisis are provided emergency assistance with food, gas and baby supplies. Meanwhile, military families without a computer can be provided a free one through the Computer Giveaway program, allowing service members, spouses and children to stay connected during deployment. Lani, a local Navy wife of 13 years, is a mother of three children ages 4 through 12. She says she takes every advantage of ASY services for her family. "In San Diego, they love their military," she says. "I have never seen a community help the military as much as I have here in San Diego. But these services are needed, they are really, really needed." Lani's sons are participants in Operation Hero, an ASY onsite after-school program that focuses on character development and skill building in military children who may be having self-esteem issues or difficulty adjusting both academically and socially at school. "Operation Hero has helped the boys learn who they are, learn what Dad does and learn what they want out of life and how to handle things," Lani says. Quirk says ASY programs like Operation Hero exist to augment the military's own support services. The military community is proud and does so much to take care of its own, she says, but government spending cuts are having an impact. "We are here to provide additional support for what the military is already doing," she says. "But, now more than ever, the Armed Services YMCA sees the importance of providing support through familybonding events; affordable and free youth development opportunities; and support services to make military life easier. We can't cut back. The need is not going away so neither should the support." The ASY employs four licensed clinical social workers who provide free and confidential in-home counseling to junior enlisted families and wounded warriors who may be struggling with issues like marital conflict; parenting; medical crisis or injury; grief or loss; relocation or deployment; depression; anxiety; or post-traumatic stress. "We have a good relationship with Naval Medical Center San Diego and social workers there in terms of serving families," says Amy de Meules, program director of social work. "They refer families to us. We make about 200 points of contact a month." Military families face the same struggles as civilian families with the added complexities of family separation, de Meules says. "We admire the strength of our military families and we understand the military culture," she says. "We are there to provide the extra support for military families who are oftentimes separated from their extended family and facing deployment. A lot of our families are young; some are first-time parents and facing those first life stages away from their extended family. Our families may have transportation or child care difficulties. It makes it easier that we go out to their home so they don't have to worry about the barriers. "We see the effects of multiple deployments and even with things winding down, families are still facing multiple deployments and the challenges that come with that. That makes all the regular family struggles more complicated." Showing appreciation for our service members and their families is a big part of the Padres' community outreach. "We support Armed Services YMCA San Diego and its array of programs for our military," says Sarah Farnsworth, Padres senior vice president of public affairs. "It is very important to the Padres that as a community we appreciate and take care of our military and their families who sacrifice so much."

The ASY employs four licensed clinical social workers who provide free and confidential in-home counseling to junior enlisted families and wounded warriors who may be struggling.

• Armed Services YMCA San Diego strives to make military life easier through programs for active duty personnel; military families; and wounded, injured or ill service members.

• ASY is the oldest and largest nonprofit organization in San Diego solely devoted to helping military personnel and their families by providing free programs and services. For more information, go to militaryymca.org.