Meet the Gentlemen of the Y

Every morning at 4:30 a.m. Stephen Sloan arrives at the YMCA in Castle Hill. It’ll be a full day — there’s a pool, weight room, yoga and spinning classes.

But it won’t be complete until his buddies arrive — a handful of fellow retirees who trickle in as the sun comes up, an ad-hoc fraternal organization known as the Gentlemen of the Y.

You know the Gentlemen have arrived in numbers when the locker room gets loud, laughter snaps sharply, like a towel, and guffaws and backslaps fill the room, issued by men with nicknames like International Superstar, Ice, Mack Daddy, and Frank Sinatra. The list goes on.

“It makes my life so much easier, says Sloan, aka International Superstar. “Everything’s accessible to give me plenty of help. And the Gentlemen of the Y has been very supportive and helpful to me — for me it’s a brotherhood, a family, we go through a lot of stuff, whether it’s good, bad or ugly.”

Adds Tony Lawrence, aka Mack Daddy: “We all stay in contact with each other. If we don’t see each other for a while we’ll make a cold call to find out what’s going on.”

The Gentlemen of the Y look out for more than each other. They sponsor neighborhood barbecues for families and children, for example. “We do a lot of things to incorporate people from the outside,” said Mack Daddy. “We enjoy giving back to the community, and the Y works with us to make that happen.”

With help from Capital One, the Y is able to facilitate these activities. Nicole Connell-Clarke, Market Manager at Capital One, was born in Barbados and was raised in the Bronx. She envied her classmates who were able to afford membership to the Y. Now she sits on the Castle Hill YMCA (formerly the Bronx YMCA) board of managers and is able to give back to her community in multiple ways — with support from Capital One.

“We’re focused on making true impact in the communities we reside, for the Y, we’ve done a lot of work with financial education, hosting workshops and working directly with their members,” she said. “We participate in their back to school drive where we help them pack bookbags. We engage with members of the community and talk to them about the importance of savings and understanding their money, how it works, teaching them how to be safe online, and we work to educate them about safety and security using our online banking.”

Connell-Clarke says that since seniors are targets of online scams, much of their outreach is geared to that age group. “We know that sometimes seniors are targeted, so we go through different techniques and training that helps them understand the scams that are out there so they can bank online safely, and even learn how to pay bills online.”

Capital One is focused on making real and lasting change, relying on a vast network of nonprofit organizations and local leaders who enhance educational opportunities, provide job training, build safe and affordable housing, deliver financial education and promote small business development. Capital One has worked with the YMCA of Greater New York for the past twelve years, supporting the Y’s Teens Take the City initiative, a civics education and leadership training program that gives teens the opportunity to roll up their sleeves and get involved in issues affecting themselves and their communities.

Middle schoolers in the Y Afterschool program have also been involved in the Capital One Coders program. Capital One Coders is a 10-week program designed to teach students introductory software development skills in a fun and engaging environment. Tech volunteers from Capital One, like software engineers, meet with students to help teach them how to design and build their own applications.

“If I can bring volunteers in from Capital One, to help pack some bookbags and host seminars, we’re all for it,” she said. “You know, it’s not just the recognition and prestige of sitting on the board, but it’s also doing the work that comes along with it that’s rewarding.”

Connell-Clarke feels a sense of pride and accomplishment, returning to the neighborhood that shaped so much of who she is today. “I feel like when you can actually see the work that you do, when it becomes so tangible, the desire to give back and when you’re able to do so and you have an organization that’s behind you and supports it — it’s empowering”

As for the Gentlemen of the Y, they appreciate the support, too. “Let’s say we want to have a barbecue,” says Mack Daddy, “If you go to any other place you have to pay for the place. But here at the Y, they let us have use of the barbecue grills in the backyard. We don’t have to put up any money to use the backyard and grills, and what’s better than that?”

To learn more about Capital One visit www.capitalone.com/about and follow them on twitter @CapitalOneNews

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