The YK Lifesaver Report to the People of the Region

by Beverly Hoffman

The YK Lifesaver Endowment Fund continues to grow with recent contributions. In 2016 the Lifesavers received funds from Bethel Volunteers Emergency Services Association, the Bethel Lion’s Club, Calista Corporation, the Kuskokwim Ice Classic, the Annual Christmas Cookie Extravaganza, #bethelgives, the Langois Brinich Family, and contributions in memory of Gary Vanasse and Reed McWilliams along with several anonymous donations.

Started 20 years ago to support a swimming pool/fitness center in Bethel, the Lifesaver Endowment Fund is now at $220,000. The fund housed under the Bethel Community Services Foundation umbrella is going into a third year of providing grants to the Yukon Kuskokwim Fitness Center Swim programs.

In the last 2 years the fund has contributed more than $41,560 in grants to the YK Fitness Center. In 3 business plans prior to construction the Lifesavers fund was expected to contribute just $5,000 a year. The boost comes from how donations are divided and our community commitment to grow the fund.

The YK Lifesavers, unless a donor requests a different allocation, puts half of any donation received into the Endowment Fund for continued growth and half goes to immediately support the YK Lifesavers-sponsored Swim Programs. Alternatively, some donors wish to have their entire contribution allocated to the endowment fund for growth and future spending, and others wish to have their contribution used immediately- the Lifesavers can accommodate each of these wishes.

Every year the fund averages 5 years of its end-of-year balances, which have typically grown each year, and is able to contribute 5% of the value of the fund balance to swim programs. Funds in the endowed fund will ultimately grow, and over time will grant out more in interest than the value of the fund itself. For example, an individual may contribute $25 to the fund, and over the years, that $25 will remain permanently in the fund- but by BCSF giving out in grants just a portion of the interest it generates, over the decades to come that $25 will result in hundreds- perhaps even thousands- of dollars in future grant making.

Organizers first tried to have a free swim session sign up but could see the fund would dry up too quickly, and decided to offer half price fees for those who couldn’t afford to pay the full fee on the weekends. The Lifesavers are now celebrating the popularity of the half-price program.

In the last 7 months hundreds of youth have benefited from the Lifesavers Fund through half price fees on the weekends, purchase of swim suits and trunks and swim lessons.

Lifesaver monthly numbers for Friday, Saturdays and Sundays calculated by Stacey Reardon, the HealthFitness facility manager of the YKFC, are as follows:

July 2016: 423 youth, 243 adults, 16 seniors, 9 swim suits

August 2016: 647 youth ,144 adults 13 seniors, 2 military

September 2016: 478 youth, 129 adults, 8 seniors

October 2016: 441 youth, 165 adults, 12 seniors, 2 military

November 2016: 402 youth, 193 adults, 15 seniors, 4 military

December 2016: 340 youth, 165 adults, 4 military

January 2017: 428 youth, 229 Adults, 27 seniors, 4 military

Bethel Community Service Foundation Director Michelle DeWitt cautioned the Lifesavers recently, saying the popularity of the half price weekends last year and in early 2017 is causing a financial drain on funds available and we risk running out of the 2017 grant allocation too early in the year.

As a result, the Lifesavers are planning to seek continued support from businesses and organizations to prevent that from happening. They will also post a sign at the customer service desk of the YK Fitness Center asking patrons of the pool to help stretch the 2017 grant allocation by paying the full price if they can afford it. Voluntary full-price payment for those who can afford it will ensure that our friends, family and neighbors who most need the financial assistance, can continue to use the pool at half-price throughout the year.

Added community support has come through individual sponsorships from Cezary Maczynski, Nicholas Wasierski, Judy Wasierski, Ginny Thofner, Paula Schiefer and Marcia Coffey for beginning swim programs, a free teen swim sponsored by Drew’s Foundation on Wednesday evening and an end of the month free swim Saturdays for youth 12 and under by Angstman Law Office.

If interested in supporting the Lifesaver efforts PLEASE consider pick click give to Kuimarvik (a Place to Swim) when filling out your PFD. Those donations will go to the Lifesavers. Individuals are asked to contact Beverly Hoffman with the Lifesavers at 543-3239 or bev@kuskofish.com or Michelle DeWitt at Bethel Community Services Foundation at 543-1812, michelle@bcsfoundation.org or via the web at bcsfoundation.org.