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Tri-Valley YMCA: Strengthening our communities

Local nonprofit among 10 beneficiaries of 2016 Holiday Fund

Colorful photos adorn the wall behind the front desk of the Tri-Valley YMCA's new Family Wellness Center in Pleasanton, catching patients' eyes as they walk into the waiting room.

The pictures of children -- some with wide grins, others more subdued -- are a fitting reminder of the nonprofit's commitment to providing vital community programs and services for youth and families.

The Tri-Valley YMCA is a beneficiary of the Pleasanton Weekly's 2016 Holiday Fund, with donations going to support low-income residents and expanded mental health and case management services at the recently-opened Family Wellness Center on Pleasanton Avenue.

"There's a big need for mental health services in the Tri-Valley," said Susan Mancino, a marriage and family therapist at the Family Wellness Center. "We're almost at capacity without a wait list so we see the need to expand in 2017."

The Tri-Valley YMCA opened its doors in 1965 as the Livermore YMCA. Today the nonprofit serves children and families living in Sunol, Dublin, Livermore and Pleasanton with the goal of strengthening these communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility.

While there's a lot new with the nonprofit these days -- their administrative offices relocated to a suite upstairs from the Wellness Center -- its family wellness services have been an integral part of its local offerings since well before the dedicated facility.

Among the services the Tri-Valley YMCA offers are case management and community resource connection services, parenting classes, social emotional learning courses, and therapy options for couples, families, teens, adults and children.

"We initially started (offering these services) for our own families' needs," said Kenny Altenburg, Tri-Valley YMCA branch operations director. "Then our board and leadership talked and said, 'We need to do more. How do we do this?' That's when we started to develop the vision for the Wellness Center."

Although its new offices are smaller than the previous site in Dublin -- 4,900 square feet altogether, down from 7,300 -- the move allowed the agency to reduce its overhead costs while creating an opportunity to expand its mental health services.

"It wasn't the right environment to offer therapy (in Dublin); there wasn't a lot of privacy to go along with it, which is what you want," Altenburg said.

Now, the YMCA has four dedicated therapy rooms as part of its Family Wellness Center. Two of them are play therapy rooms designed for specialists to work alongside children to help them express their thoughts and emotions.

In one such room, stuffed animals and puppets sit atop shelves filled with games and other toys. A poster on the wall shows children's faces expressing a variety of emotions, from surprised and excited to jealous and afraid.

"I see again and again how kids respond to being able to explore and challenge their emotions through play," Mancino said.

Besides the child-centered play therapy, the YMCA also offers parent-child interactive therapy, family therapy and short-term crisis support services.

While Mancino is currently the only therapist seeing patients at the Wellness Center, Altenburg said they plan to add a few interns to the staff next year to support its expanding services.

The YMCA will also add divorce support groups for adults and youth, expressive arts therapy, and workshops on topics such as mindfulness-based stress reduction to its slate of wellness services next year.

Financial aid is available for some of these services, as well.

Alongside the YMCA's burgeoning family wellness services, the nonprofit continues offering after-school programs at Pleasanton elementary and middle schools, a summer day camp, its Y-Guides and Y-Princesses programs, and a statewide youth and government program. The agency also remains a crucial part of helping the Tri-Valley's neediest families, serving over 3,000 low-income residents throughout the area this past year.

"With our new facilities, we're thrilled we're going to be able to better meet the needs of the community, especially when it comes to family wellness," Altenburg said. "We're still fully committed to serving the residents of Livermore, Dublin, and Sunol, and we're continuing to do outreach so we can meet their needs."

Holiday Fund beneficiaries

Along with the Tri-Valley YMCA, the following agencies will benefit from the 2016 Holiday Fund:

Agape Villages Foster Family Agency

Axis Community Health

Hope Hospice

REACH

Sandra J. Wing Healing Therapies Foundation

Senior Support Program of the Tri-Valley

Sunflower Hill

ValleyCare Charitable Foundation

Valley Humane Society

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