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12 New Graduates of the English Language Instruction for Parent Leaders 12 New Graduates of the English Language Instruction for Parent Leaders

Dec 3, 2014

Congratulations to the 12 recent graduates of the M. Robinson Baker YMCA English Language Instruction for Parent Leaders, who completed a 15 week English as Second Language (ESL) course on November 19th,  2014.

This is the 2nd series of the ESL courses which came about as a direct result of parents expressing a desire to have access to English language acquisition for employability and self-reliance. The two day a week course took place right after the parents dropped off their children at nearby Hooever Elementary School in West Oakland.

 Parents showed deep appreciation for their esteemed course instructor, Fabia Fuenzalida, at their graduation by cooking traditional Mexican food, sharing thoughtful gifts and sincere reflection on how the course and collegial company impacted them positively.  

Again, many congratualtions to our hardworking students!!



West Contra Costa & Hilltop Family Y Host Breakfast West Contra Costa & Hilltop Family Y Host Breakfast

Sep 22, 2014

On September 13th , the West Contra Costa YMCA and the Hilltop Family YMCA jointly hosted their annual Pancake Breakfast for the Richmond community, celebrating 58 years of community engagement

For the bargain price of just $10 for the entire family, individuals were provided with a delicious pancake breakfast complete with sausage and a beverage (coffee and orange juice) cooked by numerous Y volunteers and donors.

Quality entertainment was supplied by the Pinole Valley High School Marching Band and HULA (Hilltop Ukulele Lovers Academy). Fitness class demonstrations and raffles were also enjoyed by all.

We heartily thank our numerous volunteers, especially to the Chevron Richmond volunteer team, and donors who helped make this year’s event a continued celebration of our community. 

You Are the Difference Campaign 2014 You Are the Difference Campaign 2014

Jul 28, 2014 The YMCA of the East Bay is pleased to announce the launch of a very special collaborative media campaign, You Are the Difference. This campaign is designed to encourage and celebrate the power of volunteerism in the communities we serve. We are so grateful to our partners in this campaign, who have agreed to join us in raising up our collective voice to say that volunteerism matters!

You can follow the campaign on our social media outlets:




Thank you to our Partners:

Chabot Space and Science Center- a place for students of all ages to learn and be inspired about the Universe and our Planet Earth. Chabot Space and Science Center

Richmond Community Foundation- working to build the capacity of Richmond by serving as a Community Leader, Collaborator, and Broker, and by leveraging assets of all kinds in order to create and sustain a strong, healthy city. Richmond Community Foundation

East Bay Regional Park District- preserving a priceless heritage of natural and cultural resources open space, parks and trails for the future and setting aside park areas for enjoyment and healthful recreation for generations to come. East Bay Regional Park District

Pleasanton Community of Character Collaborative- a volunteer committee representing the Pleasanton Unified School District, City of Pleasanton, Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce and other organizations who are working together to create a community culture that is built on values. Pleasanton Community of Character Collaborative

A BIG thank you to our media sponsor:

KRON 4- KRON 4, the Bay Area’s news station, has generously agreed to help us get the word out on volunteerism in the East Bay. Stay tuned for details on a KRON produced PSA series featuring Robert Wilkins, President and CEO of the YMCA of the East Bay. KRON 4

San Leandro Cherry Festival with the Y San Leandro Cherry Festival with the Y

Jun 6, 2014 On Saturday May 31st, 2014 the YMCA of the East Bay was a proud sponsor of the 105th Cherry Festival in San Leandro, CA.

The San Leandro Cherry Festival is a long-standing San Leandro tradition celebrating the past, present and future! The first Cherry Festival was held in 1909; marking this year the 105th Anniversary. Many things have changed over the years but one thing that remains the same is the strong sense of community identity and pride the Cherry Festival brings to the San Leandro community!

Upwards of 10,000 people attend the Cherry Festival to partake in food, a beer garden, live entertainment, handmade arts and crafts, a special Kids Zone with rides and games, parade, Farmer’s Market with lots of cherries, community and City resources, and a cherry store selling everything cherry!

With over 25 volunteers from the Downtown Oakland YMCA, EM Downer YMCA and the Association Resource Center, the Y had a major presence at the festival. The Y provided much fun and joy to the community of San Leandro with 5 fitness stations, which included a sit- up station, squat station and a push-up station, a Zumba class and an information booth.

Healthy Kids Day 2014 Healthy Kids Day 2014

May 1, 2014 More than 1,200 Y members, volunteers and community participants celebrated Healthy Kids Day® on Saturday April, 26th. With a series of community events at our Oakland, Richmond and Fremont/Newark branch locations, kids and their families enjoyed a day filled with fun and educational learning opportunities to help them stay active and healthy throughout the summer. The flow of the day consisted of a variety of activities ranging from rock climbing, family fitness classes, circuit exercises, a move-a-thon, health fairs and much more.

Community partners included Lifelong (who performed blood pressure checks), Oakland Children’s Hospital, The Oakland Museum, East Bay Regional Parks, YMCA Camping Services, the Oakland Library (with a book giveaway), Fremont Healthy Start Initiative, Tri-City Health, Kaiser Permanente, and Master Gardener (with a tomato plant giveaway).

Branch highlights of the day included: families at EM Downer Y receiving tomato plants from the Master Gardeners of Contra Costa and information about future family engagements at the YMCA garden, family fair with activities provided by Oakland Museum Rover at Downtown Oakland Y, medals earned by youth who participated in the move-a-thon at Hilltop Family Y, and a ceremony at Fremont/Newark Y celebrating the youth and their families who have been attending bi-weekly classes on learning how to eat healthy, shop wisely and workout correctly.

The day ended with all the families making a pledge to building a healthier, happier community.

Thanks to the efforts of all of our participants and volunteers, we amplified participation and provided a healthy, fun and educational experience for our East Bay communities. We are very pleased with the increase in attendance this year, drawing over 50% more participants.

The M. Robinson Baker Y Hosts Oakland Job Fair The M. Robinson Baker Y Hosts Oakland Job Fair

Apr 30, 2014 The M. Robinson Baker YMCA was proud to host and support the recent City of Oakland Job Fair, on Wednesday, April 24th. Over 200 residents from various parts of Oakland not only attended this event but were also able to utilize the computer room to print and/ or edit their resumes. The attendees interviewed with over 24 employers like Target, Manpower, Oakland Police Department and Job Corps. A special thank you to Devry University, for providing food and refreshments to the job seekers.

M. Robinson Baker Y was pleased to learn from residents how much they appreciated the Y for having this resource in their area, and to learn from Mayor Jean Quan how grateful she was for the Y’s support.

At the Y we continue to be so much more!


Apr 22, 2014 There’s a place in the Coronado neighborhood—a gathering place—where basketballs bounce and friendships are formed; where young campers frolic away the lazy days of summer; where holiday toys await children in need; where families socialize over special dinners; and where a community convenes to strengthen its common bonds.

The EM Downer Family YMCA on South 20th Street in Richmond—and especially its gym—is many things to many people. Now, thanks, in part, to strong community connections formed at For Richmond and the generosity of The Coca-Cola Company, it will continue to be.

Last year the YMCA saw a need to increase the community’s access to safe places to gather for physical activities. Vice President of the West Contra Costa YMCA Don Lau—also For Richmond’s Steering Committee chair—turned to the Centers for Disease Control for funding through a Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) grant. Accompanying the YMCA’s grant proposal was a support letter from For Richmond, which was thrilled to help bolster the health and well-being of community members via the YMCA.

The YMCA received the grant, as well as an additional helping hand from Cola-Cola, courtesy of Dora Wong, director, public affairs and communications—one of Lau’s associates on For Richmond’s Steering Committee. Wong happened to be seeking community funding opportunities, so Lau invited her to see the YMCA’s gym.

When Wong first set eyes on the gym floor she was dumbstruck by its condition; the wood floor had buckled, giving the impression of “ocean waves,” said Wong, “As a company, we’re always looking to work with organizations that encourage children and families to live healthy lifestyles,” and the gym clearly presented “a great and immediate need” for funding.

At first, Coca-Cola supported the YMCA’s gym floor refurbishment project with a $5,000 gift. When the project’s cost turned out to greatly exceed the original estimate, Coca-Cola stepped in with another $5,000, funding $10,000 out of the overall $17,000 expense. The gym floor took three weeks to complete. Today, thanks to community connections and generosity, it has regained its former glory as a bee-hive of activity.

Lau called For Richmond “the glue” that helped the gym floor project come to fruition.

“For Richmond provided a bridge between a community agency and our community to get the floor done and has been a great partner,” he said.

The YMCA welcomes anyone who’d like to check out the revitalized gym—or the YMCA’s many other life-enriching programs and activities—to stop by for a visit. The perfect opportunity will be a “Healthy Kids Day” from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 26, which will feature fitness activities and food for all.


Apr 3, 2014 At the Y, we work with local leaders to address societal needs and give more community members, regardless of age or background, the chance to live healthy, safe and secure lives.

Finding healthy food options and feeling safe while outdoors can be a struggle for residents who live and work in underserved communities. Through the Healthier Communities Initiatives, hundreds of Ys take on these challenges by collaborating with schools, hospitals and other organizations to create change and improve opportunities for healthy living.

The YMCA of the East Bay’s West Contra Costa branch in Richmond , has been collaborating with local leaders and groups for decades to bring healthy lifestyle options to area residents. In 2013, it was one of 16 Ys nationwide selected to participate in the Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) program, an initiative funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to promote health and wellbeing in African-American and Hispanic/Latino communities.

“ It's important to us to partner with and be a part of our community. We don't want our Y to be confined by its walls.” - Don Lau, Executive Vice President West Contra Costa YMCA

Through the program, the Y is building on its longtime efforts to meet the mental health needs of young people in Richmond. High rates of neighborhood violence and unstable home environments can make it difficult for youth to feel safe while commuting for school and to concentrate once they arrive. By expanding partnerships with schools, the city and other organizations, the Y is improving students’ emotional wellbeing and increasing their sense of security by supporting student counseling services and safe routes to schools. REACH is also enabling the Y to focus on reducing obesity rates and decreasing tobacco use among area residents.
“Without the efforts we are putting forth, folks would not feel as safe, they would not be as engaged with their neighbors and they would not have the opportunity to take part in physical activities going on in the community,” said Don Lau, Executive Vice President, West Contra Costa YMCA.


Mar 12, 2014 Two of Richmond’s strongest advocates for children, families, education and health recently met in Washington D.C. where For Richmond’s chairman Don Lau presented 20-term Congressman George Miller with a career achievement award.

Don Lau, Executive Vice President of YMCA of the East Bay, flew to Washington last week to honor Congressman Miller with the YMCA of the USA’s “Lifetime Achievement Award” for his decades of service championing health and education initiatives and for his support of the YMCA. Miller will be retiring after 40 years of faithfully representing Richmond and surrounding cities in Congress.

“Congressman Miller has been a longtime champion of children and a friend to families. He has always been there for his community, the Y and the nation,” Lau said. “We are fortunate to have elected officials like Representative Miller who share our passions.”

Despite leaving Congress soon, Congressman Miller remains the lead sponsor of the recent Strong Start for America’s Children Act, which gives low and moderate-income families in communities such as Richmond access to high quality pre-K programs to ensure kindergarten readiness. Research has shown early-childhood education to be an important indicator of future educational success.

During the ceremony, Lau highlighted Miller’s support of the “Strong Start” act as another example of his commitment to improving the lives of youth in Richmond and across the nation.

For Richmond joins Lau in recognizing Congressman Miller for his contributions to the East Bay community, and congratulates Lau for being selected to deliver this prestigious honor

Empowered Youth Today, Brighter Future Tomorrow Empowered Youth Today, Brighter Future Tomorrow

Mar 5, 2014 On February 14th, 2014 the YMCA of the East Bay sent 80 teen delegates to the 66th California YMCA Youth & Government's Model Legislature & Court Conference. Guided by the organization’s motto “Democracy Must Be Learned By Each Generation,” California YMCA Youth & Government builds values-based leadership and civic engagement in California’s youth in order to strengthen participation in our democracy.

Olivia Ajiake, Senior High School Student, delegate for Fremont/Newark YMCA and Conference Chaplain, shares her perspective on this amazing experience:

“Democracy must be learned by each generation,” is the motto of the California YMCA Youth & Government program, but it has meant much more than that for me. When initially asked to participate in a program about government for high school students, I was hesitant. I became involved in Youth & Government as a junior, although many of my peers had been involved for a few years. Initially, I was overwhelmed by all the information bestowed upon me. I felt out of my league, but that did not stop me from making the best out of the experience. Listening to the candidates’ speeches, joining in for chants, and observing the presence and popularity of the youth governor, I was in awe. However, it was the inspiration provided by the statewide chaplains that moved me the most. The motivation they supplied through their invocations and benedictions invigorated me.

As one of the statewide chaplains, I am humbled that I have been given the platform to speak to over 3,000 young Californians at conferences. I want others to be inspired just as I was inspired, not necessarily because I am a source of inspiration, but because I can remind others of the power they possess. Not only have I found my niche in Youth & Government, but I have learned to appreciate my own value as a person. I have never felt such a sense of belonging and love.

Once I became more involved in the program, the doors of opportunity began to open for me. I decided to join special programs that Youth & Government offers such as FLIP, the Secretariat program, and the Future Leader Campaign. As a female with a statewide position, I was encouraged to apply to be a FLIP (Female Leaders in Power) mentor. I also was selected to be a secretariat for the MUN (Model United Nations) program this year. As a Future Leader Campaign volunteer, I spent my time in Y&G this year helping to raise money for the program. I am very grateful that the program has not only given me so much, but has given me opportunities to pay it forward."

YMCA of the East Bay offers new support group for pre-diabetics YMCA of the East Bay offers new support group for pre-diabetics

Feb 3, 2014 Sidney Glass, 66, a retired public defender, spent years on a “pill regime” for various ailments having to do with his weight and diet and was recently diagnosed as pre-diabetic by his health provider.

Told by his doctor that he was “an obese African-American male with a stressful job as a public defender and there will never be a time when you are off medicines,” Glass received a loud wake-up call.

Glass is no stranger to Type 2, or adult-onset, diabetes, the most common form of diabetes and a leading cause of heart disease, stroke, eyesight and kidney failure and poor circulation in limbs that may result in amputations.

Adult-onset diabetes is caused by a combination of lifestyle and genetic factors, and rates of Type 2 diabetes have rapidly increased in the past few decades alongside rates of obesity in Americans. The disease is most easily prevented by adopting habits that increase overall health, like eating healthfully, reducing body weight and exercising regularly. Pre-diabetics, or those living with elevated levels of blood glucose, stand a good chance of developing the disease within 10 years unless they make preventative lifestyle changes.

With numerous instances of diabetes in his near and extended family, it seemed inevitable that Glass would one day develop the disease.

“I had an aunt who died of diabetes and I had an uncle who had a leg amputated,” said Glass. “My family has around-the-clock care for my mother-in-law to make sure she takes all of her medicine and gets her insulin shot, and my wife is diabetic. It’s an epidemic,” he said.

For Bonnie Fergusson, 70 and semi-retired, diabetes posed a similar threat, despite a lifetime of education and career in the medical field as a phlebotomist and HIV/AIDS counselor. Fergusson has several close family members living with the disease along with being “older and overweight,” she said.

Working in healthcare all her life gave Fergusson a clear picture of what happens to someone when they develop diabetes, with elevated risk of heart attack, stroke, and infections leading to amputations.

“It’s a very debilitating disease,” Fergusson said. “It’s a long, slow death where they chop pieces off of you and you become increasingly debilitated until you die.”

With the help of a new prevention-based support group at the YMCA, Glass and Fergusson are starting to make some of the necessary lifestyle changes to lower their risks of developing Type 2 diabetes.

The YMCA’s national Diabetes Prevention Program – recently launched at the Downtown Oakland Y – was developed in partnership with the Center for Disease Control and is supported by the Diabetes Prevention and Control Alliance.

Lauren Hendler, Associate Health and Wellness Director at YMCA of the East Bay, is currently leading the program’s first peer support group of which Glass and Fergusson are a part.

“Diabetes is rising across the country and it’s rising pretty steadily in our area,” Hendler said. “Diabetes and prediabetes can affect people across all diversity lines and a lot of people that I’ve talked to in our community just accept that they are going to get this disease and even die from this disease.”

The support group is made up of 8 – 15 East Bay residents who meet, together with a lifestyle coach, regularly over the course of a year. The participants are working to reduce their body weight by 7% and increase their exercise to 150 minutes a week.

“That small change has been shown to greatly reduce the risk of diabetes,” Hendler said. “Our goal is to prevent people from ever developing the disease.”

Hendler explained that the group works together to create goals and make changes that are sustainable for the rest of the participants’ lives, using the support of the peer group to find solutions and overcome challenges as they arise. So far, the initial group has seen success.

“People are losing weight for sure, and they are finding solutions that work for them,” Hendler said. “It’s challenging – people are doing things they’ve never done before – but they’re really responding to the support of the group.”

Renaming of the Coronado Community YMCA Renaming of the Coronado Community YMCA

Jan 20, 2014

The Coronado Community Y was renamed the E.M. Downer Family YMCA at a dedication ceremony on May 10. The building dedication celebrates Edward M. Downer III, Chair emeritus of the Mechanics Bank Board of Directors for continuing in the Downer Family legacy of philanthropy and civic involvement.  The event marked 20 years of the Y providing services to the community.
A lobby display at the facility depicts the history of the Downer Family and Mechanics Bank in the community.
Over 150 guests attended the dedication event including Downer and wife Yoshimi, son E. Michael Downer and his daughters Allie and Katie, nephew Rick Nelson, Congressman George Miller, a representative from State Senator Loni Hancock’s office, Assembly member Nancy Skinner, Supervisor John Gioia, and City of Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin.

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