I AM a Child’s Perception

“Even when I look at folks helping others, they want to help from a distance.” CEO and President of the YMCA here in Rockford; Mike Brown is no stranger to helping others, and with his ability to adopt firm and sometimes controversial ideas, he recognizes the need to think outside the box. “We look at crime, and we think of what our city has been rated over the years, and we associate that with people who are poor.” Says Mike Brown. “We are naïve if we believe that in our city everybody has the same opportunities.

Mike Brown introduced a new approach at the YMCA in 2015 called ‘Project 505’, and it was not popular. The project aimed at addressing issues with teens, and getting them involved in safer alternative ways to be active rather than on the streets; by applying for the program it allows teens to commit to 4 hours of community service in exchange for a membership, rather than the usual monetary fee. It was a hard idea for the community to swallow, but Mike Brown recognized the importance of taking an unconventional approach to addressing a serious issue in the community. He also noted that YMCA could not simply do everything alone, that partnerships amongst groups seeking to make a change in a community were a necessity.

“We forget we can’t do it alone. 10% of the people do 90% of the work, and it’s relevant in our community. But if we want to get where we want to go; 10% cannot do all the work. Because then you are waiting for us to fail…and we will fail. But if 90% of the people do the work, think of how much more we can do.”