That’s part of what inspired the West Chester businessman and YMCA board member to donate what will be known as Alex and Matty’s Helping Hands Resource Closet to the Oscar Lasko YMCA and Childcare Center.
Gobel and his sons were part of a dedication for the new space, which will provide member families with a wide variety of household and living items they might need.
“There were a bunch of reasons why this was important,” Gobel said. “The first was I’m very grateful to the Y and what they mean to our community. This was an opportunity for me to make a gift and say thank you.”
Another reason was to fold a new element into the branch’s Believe & Achieve after-school program.
Students in the program come from low-income and working-class households, sometimes headed by single parents, at other times grandparents or even foster parents.
Students in the program strengthen their academic and social development through tutoring, mentoring, and exposure opportunities provided by the YMCA. The program comes at no cost to their families, funded by donations to the YMCA’s annual campaign and other corporate support.
Believe & Achieve’s older students – the Gobel Scholars – will manage the new Helping Hands Resource Closet, “almost as if they’re running a business,” said Steffani Witmer, Director of Operations for the Oscar Lasko YMCA.
“We’re trying to develop some more leadership skills for our Gobel Scholars and do some service learning types of projects,” she said. “We thought this was a really good way to do that with a hands-on program, rather than just going to volunteer for a day.”
The YMCA welcomes people of all backgrounds and economic levels. In 2016, about 13,000 families and individuals received financial assistance and support from the YMCA. This space helps to take that support one step further.
The space will stock a seasonally rotating selection of items that many YMCA families sometimes find themselves without, Witmer said. For example, summertime stock might include beach towels, bathing suits, and drawstring bags for summer camp participants.
“This past summer we had five kids from one family who didn’t show up on the first day of camp because the kids were too embarrassed that they didn’t have swimsuits,” Witmer said. “We take those things for granted, but something like that means the world to a kid who doesn’t have it.”
The program’s Gobel Scholars will survey members to determine what will be stocked, then market the project to the community and solicit donations.
It’s one of the major initiatives designed to help middle schoolers in Believe & Achieve to increase their skills.
“The YMCA teaches us leadership by teaching us to be responsible, and kind,” said 12-year-old Julia Hulsey of West Chester.
Fellow Gobel Scholar and West Chester resident Aaliyah Collins, 13, agreed.
“Leadership is being responsible and having time to help others,” she said. “We do that here.”
Next month, both girls and their colleagues are set to collaborate on a STEM project with their counterparts at the YMCA of Peru via e-mail and Skype.
Combined, the projects will better position them for future roles in the 21st-century workforce.
“I was very moved by Steffani’s vision for developing a leadership development program for teens, so it was a way for me to be a part of something that I felt was important,” Gobel said.
He also sees it as a way to share with his children the importance of philanthropy and giving back to the community. The space is named after Gobel’s two sons, Alex, 11, and Matthew, 2.
“Hopefully I’ll be able to incorporate them into this program and help them see the importance of activities like this,” he said.