Story by Karen Iwamoto on 08/24/2017WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD The Armed Services YMCA, here, celebrated its 100th anniversary on Thursday, Aug. 17, with food, family activities and a traditional Hawaiian blessing.
In addition to being a centennial celebration, the event was also an opportunity for the community to experience the Wheeler ASYMCA's newly renovated facilities.
Col. Stephen Dawson, commander of U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii, was among those who attended. He said he was glad to be there to mark the anniversary and reflect on the YMCA's past and future.
"Over this past century, the Armed Services YMCA has evolved to serve Soldiers, too, and their families," said Dawson. "This provides Soldiers a peace of mind when they deploy that their families are well cared for."
USAG-HI provided the Wheeler branch of the ASYMCA with resources to obtain new flooring and newly painted walls in both of its buildings. Funding to renovate the kitchen and bathrooms came from private donations.
The renovations cost over $100,000 and took approximately nine months to complete.
"I think (the renovations) are wonderful," said Therese Szatkowski, branch director of the Wheeler ASYMCA. "It was a great partnership between USAG-HI and the ASYMCA and allowed us to come together to give kids and their parents a good space to experience our programs."
Lorraine Horton, a veteran and Army spouse who has been on island for about nine months, brought her daughter, Talia Horton, to the celebration.
"It was a great opportunity for everyone to see the newly renovated buildings and we had a lot of fun," she said. "(Talia) got to play mini-golf and jump in the bounce house and play ring toss."
Lorraine and Talia participate in the ASYMCA's Parent Partnership Program, which lets parents participate in preschool classes with their child. This helps the child adjust to a school environment for the first time.
"We thank all of our Wheeler families for showing their support by attending the event and are humbled by the widespread support we were shown by other community members," said Faith Carrabis, regional director of the ASYMCA. "We look forward to another 100 years of serving Hawaii's Army Soldiers and their families."
Long history in Hawaii
The Armed Services YMCA traces its roots back to 1917, when the first Army Navy YMCA in Hawaii opened its doors on Richards Street in Honolulu, according to the Armed Services YMCA website. The facility included sleeping quarters for 500 men, a gym, a music room, a pool table, laundry and cleaning services and entertainment. It was estimated that more than 4,000 servicemen had passed through its doors by 1921.
In 1926, it relocated to the building that currently houses the Hawaii State Art Museum in downtown Honolulu. Like its original location, this one included sleeping areas for men, a gym, a music room, a writing room and a cafeteria. It was so popular that even when staff set up extra sleeping quarters in the gym, they couldn't keep up with the demand.
The renamed Armed Services YMCA continued serving Oahu's military personnel during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
Carrabis noted that during this era, the ASYMCA helped service members and their families secure temporary housing when they arrived on the island.
In 1987, it moved locations again, this time opening separate branches on Wheeler Army Airfield, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and Marine Corps Base Hawaii.
Serving military families
The ASYMCA continues to serve military families in the Aloha State. The ASYMCA provides the following services to help Hawaii's military families. For more information, contact the Wheeler branch of the ASYMCA at 624-5645.
Children's Waiting Room
Parents in need of a safe and professional environment for their children while they attend medical appointments can turn to this service, available at Tripler Army Medical Center and the U.S. Army Health Center-Schofield Barracks. Reservations strongly recommended. Call 433-3270 (TAMC) and 433-8410 (USAHC-SB).
Early Learning Readiness
A precursor to preschool, this program offers two-hour structured learning for babies to 5-year-old children and their caregivers.
This social event strengthens the bond between fathers and their daughters by providing an elegant evening of dinner and dancing. This year's event is scheduled for October.
Food for Families
The ASYMCA of Honolulu provides free emergency food and groceries via the food pantries at its three branches.
Operation Holiday Joy
This program provides commissary gift cards and food items to help military families have Thanksgiving and Christmas meals.
Home School Program
This educational service supplements the education of home-schooled children. Each child is guided, supported and encouraged to work at their own pace.
First-to-sixth graders experiencing challenges at school get one-on-one after school tutoring and mentoring that promote social responsibility through team-building activities.
Operation Kid Comfort
ASYMCA of Honolulu volunteers make custom-made quilts and pillows for children whose military parents are deployed. The quilts and pillows are designed with photos of the children's deployed parents.
Parent Participation Preschool
This program allows parents to work alongside their child's preschool teacher to help their child transition into a structured learning environment with their peers.
This program is for infants to 5 year olds and promotes social skills, literacy, creativity and motor skills.
Educational and Summer Camps
These are hosted several times a year. Contact the ASYMCA for more information.
Additionally, the ASYMCA also hosts mother/son events, Healthy Kids Day activities, Military Child Day celebrations, Easter events, Kids in the Kitchen classes, Cookies with Santa, Mother's Day teas and other activities throughout the year.