Member Spotlight: Eliezer and Fiordaliza Rodriguez
Eliezer (Eli) and Fiordaliza (Lisa) Rodriguez are both members and supporters of the Bronx YMCA. Eli has also been a board member for five years and now chairs the Bronx Y board.
Finding the YMCA With Mr. Bronx
Eli: I first set foot in the Bronx YMCA about 10 years ago. I had a personal experience with someone who was a big supporter of the Bronx Y who took me under his wing.
His name was Elias Karmon. He took a liking to me and started nurturing me. Every elected official knew him and called him Mr. Bronx. He earned the name because he represented the Bronx wherever he went. He died at the young age of 97. The Bronx Y indoor pool and basketball court are named after him.
He always quoted Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz: "If you are looking for your heart's desire, there is no need to look further than your own backyard." He gave the Y all of his love. He said to me before passing away, "I'm leaving the Y in your hands."
Lisa: The first time I learned about the Y was at an event that Elias Karmon invited us to. And we were so impressed by the presentation and so moved by the stories that were shared that we ended up sponsoring a child for summer day camp.
Tae Kwon Do Program Gives Back to Kids
Eli: Now we help mentor children with the Tae Kwon Do program. The master of the Bronx Y Tae Kwon Do program goes far beyond what is expected, even teaching kids how to protect themselves from bullying.
My sons, 8 and 11 years old, are now black belts in Tae Kwon Do. They have grown up in the YMCA system-after school programs, baseball and even those Tae Kwon Do classes. The instructor would have me speak to the children about bullying in other areas-to show how this transferable skill from the defense of the body can help them behave in school and get better grades.
At the Y, I have observed a sense of freedom for kids. They gain a sense of independence and confidence, especially when they start achieving something. They start to find out who they are. They realize that they can do that kick or block, that punch, and they see they have more skills than before they walked into the YMCA.
The Heritage Society
Lisa: It's wonderful. We see the benefit that the Y has and the impact it has on our children. That's why we have no problem encouraging our friends to participate with the Y, and supporting programs such as The Heritage Society. We want our children to continue benefitting from the Y, even after we've passed on.
Still Going Strong
Eli: People want to know why our kids are so engaging, why they are so involved in things, where they get their energy. It's because they realize the things they can do-things they've learned by participating in Y programs. The Y really, really works. A hundred and sixty years later, it is still going strong.
Once you believe in the Y, you want to see that it lives on. That's why we support the Y through The Heritage Society-to ensure that all of these wonderful programs, values and skills are available to the next generation of New York kids.
We get a lot from the YMCA, so belonging to The Heritage Society doesn't feel like we are giving them something. The Y is giving us so much more.
To read the stories of two more longtime friends and members of The Heritage Society, as well as detailed information on our endowment and planned giving program, click here to see our 2012 Endowment Annual Report.