“The Y” has always been a second home to Mary Schiechl.
A member since 1984, the Auburn woman has embraced the Y’s many programs, becoming a volunteer and blossoming as a swim instructor.
“It served me every stage of my life,” Schiechl told an audience gathered for An Evening with the Auburn Valley Y at Bogey’s Public House on the Auburn Golf Course last week. “It had a role for me every step of the way.”
Schiechl, a social studies teacher and yearbook instructor at Kent’s Mill Creek Middle School, no longer works at the Y but continues to be a part of it with her active family. She was invited to speak at the Oct. 25 gala, an occasion for Y leaders to share updates on programs and projects and thank board members, staff and supporters for their work.
According to Jason Berry, the Y’s executive director, the facility is looking to expand to meet the needs of a growing community. Each year the Y serves about 22,000 South King County people on about a fifth of its 17-acre campus on Perimeter Road.
Schiechl, for one, has seen the Y grow – as a student, wife, mom and volunteer. In that time, the YMCA has been re-branded as “the Y” to broaden and carry on its mission to help and serve people, regardless of background.
“The Y has something for everyone, no matter what age, shape, gender, ethnicity, your socioeconomic status,” she said. “… You can’t pick your family that you are born with, but you can find your home where people love you, honor you, and they treat you kindly. For me, that place has always been the YMCA, and I think it will be for many years to come.”
Schiechl often brings her children and their friends to the Y. One thing she appreciates is the Y’s tiered payment policy that makes its services accessible to all. Over the years, the Y has responded to its community’s needs by providing scholarship help for those disadvantaged families and children to be a part of its culture. She also appreciates the welcoming staff that represents many cultures and languages.
Teaching at a diverse school with limited resources, Schiechl understands the needs and challenges of her students. The Y, she said, does too, and accepts them.
“I cannot tell you how much that has meant to me … the honor and respect we show children at the Y is pretty remarkable,” Schiechl said. “It’s literally that simple to help a child feel valuable. … (The Y) make kids feel like celebrities … makes them feel like they are something special.
“When we send kids a message: ‘You’re important, you have value, we believe in you,’ then they believe in themselves.”