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YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles

Golden Book

The Y came to Los Angeles on January 28, 1882, with its first branch located downtown on Spring Street.  Currently, the L.A. Y’s 25 branches span over 100 miles across Los Angeles County.  The Y’s impact is felt when an individual makes a healthy choice, when a mentor inspires a child and when a community comes together for the common good.

None of that could exist without the countless volunteers who have kept the Y thriving throughout our communities for over a century.  Four of those very special individuals were recognized at the Los Angeles YMCA’s 130th Anniversary Dinner, held May 16, 2012.  Their names were inscribed in The Golden Book, a tradition that dates back to 1934.  Developed as a way of recognizing volunteers for long and remarkable service, the Golden Book of Distinguished Service now holds 324 precious names.  

Golden Book recognition comes in the form of a printed document.  One copy is presented to the honoree, another to the branch for prominent display and a third permanently bound in the Book itself.

The YMCA’s 2012 Golden Book honorees are:

Christopher Sherman
Chris Sherman is a highly motivated and strong leader who is committed to ensuring the Pasadena YMCA will be here to build healthy, confident, connected and secure children, adults and families for generations to come.  His involvement with the Y dates back to 1989, when he and his family became members of the South Pasadena San Marino YMCA. Chris and his sons joined the Indian Guides and his wife Carol taught group fitness classes.  Chris soon started volunteering for the annual fundraising campaign and, ever since, he has stepped forward to help whenever the Y has asked and for whatever the Y needs. 

In 2001 during the reformation of the Pasadena Y as a branch of the YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles, Chris was asked to serve on the Board of Managers.  He gladly accepted and went right to work on building the Pasadena Y.  It is very easy to volunteer for an organization that is doing well, but it takes a leader with tenacity and commitment to volunteer for an organization that has struggled.  Chris Sherman is this leader as he has persevered and guided the Pasadena Y through its challenges without a second thought and with a positive, can-do attitude. 

Since 2001 Chris has served as the Chairman of the Board of Managers, as well as serving on the Board Development and Financial Development Committee and chairing the Property Acquisition and Executive Committees.  Under Chris’ leadership, the Pasadena Y has reestablished itself in the community and is working to locate land for a youth and family program center.  He is the top fundraiser and one of the most generous donors.  Chris never hesitates to call or visit potential donors to share the good works of the Pasadena Y to members of the community.  He also currently serves on the YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles Strategic Planning Task Force for the Association.

Mike Arias
Mike Arias exemplifies the mission and spirit of the Westchester Family YMCA. He has dedicated his time, legal expertise and made significant contributions to a variety of Y programs over the past 20 years. Mike is “the face of the Y in our community.”  

The Arias family has been part of the Y since 1992. The whole family, including his children Stephanie and Michael, made the Y their second home. Mike played basketball and bonded with both children in Y-Guides program, family camp, swim team and swim lessons. 

Tenacity is a word that comes to mind when thinking of how Mike gets new contributors for the annual support campaign and new sponsors for the golf tournament.  Mike began campaigning for the Westchester Y in 1995 and has never let up. He was the chair for over five years raising significant dollars in the last two years of his chairmanship. He has also chaired the Golf Tournament Committee for the past 14 years.  He has also served on the Board of Managers for over 16 years with six of those as the Board Chair.

Under Mike’s leadership, the Y flourished despite a series of challenges, including a devastating fire.  Mike rolled up his sleeves, lending his considerable legal expertise and advice to guarantee the Y fully recovered from the crushing blow.  Because of Mike’s diligent efforts, the Y was able to negotiate with a woman’s club and purchase the property behind the current facility that is now the Y Annex. He helped work with community leaders to ensure the land acquisition through capital contributions of over $1.8 million from generous donors. Mike is now working with the board to develop a plan for a future capital campaign. 

Mike is very forward thinking. His vision of what the future of the Y might look like — and how to prepare for that future — keeps other volunteers and staff thinking and preparing for action.  Mike pushes the envelope when others hesitate and never fails to accomplish what he says he will do.

Ray Frew
Ray Frew has put his heart and soul into the YMCA over the past 14 years. His leadership as Chair of the Building for Tomorrow Capital Development Program and major gift contributions are an inspiration to many.  Like many fathers, Ray’s YMCA story starts when he joined the Torrance-South Bay Y Guides parent-child program. Then in 1998, he took on the challenge of leading the Y’s third capital campaign.

Over the next five years he oversaw the planning, recruiting and fundraising of a $4 million capital campaign. Ray personally called on dozens of donors as the campaign progressed and reached a critical point in November 2001.  The campaign was $300,000 short of its goal and facing a deadline to qualify for a matching gift from the Weingart Foundation for $350,000.  Challenging the Board of Managers and the community to reach the goal, Ray re-doubled his efforts to secure new donors and asked the Board to increase their pledges by the deadline.

Ray’s perseverance and passion to ensure the Y was on the forefront of building healthy, confident, connected children and families in the South Bay motivated others to step up and the goal was accomplished.  Not only was the $4 million goal met, the campaign exceeded $4.6 million. 

While leading a capital campaign takes tremendous volunteer commitment and effort, Ray then took on an additional leadership role to become Chairman of the Board of Managers from 2000 to 2002.  He led the Board admirably during the critical “Finish the Job” phase of the campaign and construction of new facilities.

Ray and his wife Vivian are also proud members of the President’s Club, which helps ensure a strong YMCA for future generations.  Ray’s other volunteer leadership roles include: Finance Committee Chair, Major Gifts Campaigner and Team Captain from 1995 to present, Board Member from 1995 to 2011.  Ray also chaired the Board Development Committee from 2005 to 2011. 

Recently Ray orchestrated a partnership with the Y and USC to develop a Military Family Support program.  In the true Y spirit, Ray spearheaded this innovative partnership to support the men and women who serve our country and their loved ones.

Cathy Hession
Cathy’s Y story began more than 40 years ago when she gave a speech on behalf of youth at a Community Support Campaign Kickoff event for the Westside Family YMCA. She worked summers as a day camp counselor while she was in college, and after graduation, became a full time program director, recruited by her mentor, Lew Stroh, then Executive Director of the West branch.  Cathy was an extremely effective youth director, developing the summer day camp program into the largest in the nation.

Those early Y experiences helped shape Cathy’s life-long dedication to philanthropy and desire to lead others to do the same.  She joined the Board of Managers in 1979 and served for a decade before taking a break to focus on motherhood. From the start, Cathy and her husband, Ed, allowed the Y to influence their daughter, Natalie, in all the Y programs, and she went on to become a member of the Youth & Government delegation. Now a young adult, Natalie continues to volunteer as a counselor at Camp Whittle every summer.

Cathy rejoined the board in 1998 and has continued to be an inspiration to all those around her. She is a shining example of a dedicated board member who can always be relied upon to fill in at the last moment and participate in extra-curricular board projects.  Her leadership extended to the Community Support Campaign, Community Operations Committee and Board Chair in 2004. 

As a dedicated fundraiser and through many years of selfless devotion and connections in the philanthropy community, Cathy has donated and solicited hundreds of thousands of dollars for the benefit of the Westside Family YMCA programs and its new facility.  Most recently, Cathy has been an integral leader for the Building a Healthy Community Together Capital Campaign to build a new facility on the campus of University High School. She was involved in the project early on as a member of the Capital Campaign Cabinet. In addition to that role, she chairs the Community Gifts Committee and is involved in engaging Y members, the community, and University High students, faculty and alumni.

The name of her father, James Collins, was inscribed in the Golden Book of Distinguished Service in 1977, and so Cathy has the added distinction of being the very first daughter of a Golden Book honoree to receive this fitting tribute.