Member Profile: Mary Elizabeth Wendt
Sustaining the Future
MARY ELIZABETH WENDT goes by the name Ma'lis. She has been a member of the Prospect Park Y for 30 years, as well as an annual donor and a member of our President's Council of regular contributors. She joined the Heritage Society in 2012.
I have been going to the Prospect Park Y in Brooklyn since 1985 for its 60-foot pool. Cost and convenience made it right for me. Later, when I retired, I realized I could go lap swimming every morning. I'm looking forward to the new Olympic-size pool that will open soon.
The Y is always welcoming. The family activity, the swim lessons for young kids, and the youth programs - these are important for this or any neighborhood. I started my career as a young adult librarian so I know the importance of programs for teens and children.
At some point about 10 years ago I started contributing to the Strong Kids Campaign which has now morphed into the Annual Campaign. I like to donate to institutions and programs where I can see results. The Annual Campaign in particular appealed to me because it supported programs for kids.
Y programs empower kids. One of the reasons I contributed was to help kids attend those programs. Many families in Park Slope can't afford to pay for youth activities - it's a diverse neighborhood economically as well as racially and culturally.
During kids' formative years, they need programs that attract them to exercise or otherwise be active so they're not just hanging out and being unproductive. Not every kid needs to be engaged all the time, but in New York it's very hard for kids to just play around in the neighborhood. The Y gives kids the chance to try different things.
A number of my neighbors participate in water aerobics which really helps to keep them moving. I also know the Y does citizenship work and even offers residences for those who might need a place to stay.
I especially like that the Y is local. It never occurred to me not to support the Y, particularly since I was using the facilities myself.
The Y personally invited me to a nice reception and presentation, where I discovered I was one of a very small percentage of people that had given regularly to the Y over a period of time. This just amazed me, so I began to give a little bit more each year after that.
The fact that the percentage of people who give is small surprised me, knowing Park Slope. The people I swim with in the morning come regularly - almost every day. These are the people who use the Y over a long period of time. Granted, we pay membership, but I was surprised that there was such a comparatively small number of people who had given consistently.
Annual giving sustains the services and programs of the Y. For an institution like the Y, it's easier and more effective to count on regular donors than it is to be actively seeking new donors all the time. Of course we want new donors, but we also want more people to be involved at every level.
I became a member of the Heritage Society when I made a gift to the Y's endowment, which creates financial sustainability. With an endowment, you are saving toward the future - building a nest egg that funds important programs. That's why I give to both the Y endowment as well as the Annual Campaign.