By JOHN FORTMEYER, CNNW publisher
PORTLAND — Assisted by a big name in Christian music, the regional YMCA agency that serves the Portland-Vancouver area last month not only celebrated a century and a half of history but also emphasized one of its most historic and basic foundations. With a strong re-focus on the “C” — the spiritual vitality that was part of the global Young Men’s Christian Association movement at its founding in the 19th century — the YMCA of Columbia-Willamette marked its 150th anniversary with a festive event Oct. 27 at the Oregon Convention Center.
Highlighting the evening was an hourlong concert, by famed Christian singer Amy Grant, of many of her biggest hits for the approximately 1,000 who attended.
Under the leadership of Bob Hall, longtime president and CEO, and Bob Reichen, vice president of mission advancement and chaplain, the regional Y has been a national model in stressing the need to return to the agency’s traditional Christian roots. That has included a strong and growing chaplaincy program in the Y’s various facilities, meeting people’s spiritual needs as readily as it promotes healthy minds and bodies.
“We want you to know the YMCA is so much more than gym and swim,” Hall said in brief comments to the crowd. He said the local Y is committed to put the Christian principles of love, respect, honesty, responsibility and service into practice through programs that build a healthy spirit, mind and body for all.
Last year the regional Y served more than 68,000 people with life-enriching programs for all ages.
The full evening’s program included dinner, an energetic fundraising auction and the concert by Grant, who noted that one of her own extended family members got critical help at a YMCA elsewhere. That relative was in a “dark tunnel” at one point and received counseling at the Y.
“The great thing about the Y is that it is so welcoming,” Grant said.
Fundraising during the evening included a focus on two special projects. One is a hoped-for $2.5 million purchase of the Beaverton Hoop YMCA, which is currently under lease. The other is developing Camp Duncan’s Woods, a high-adventure camp for at-risk youth on 160 acres near Mount Hood that was given to the YMCA in 2016 by Portland business leader Duncan Campbell.