Commitment to Community Celebrated at Annual Breakfast

Table centerpiece at the 2020 Community Breakfast


Nearly 200 Door County YMCA members, board members and staff, along with a number of business partners and community members braved arctic temperatures and came together to celebrate the Y's mission to strengthen community and review its successes over the past year at the 2020 Community Breakfast.  Held at Stone Harbor Resort and Conference Center on Thursday, February 13, centered on the theme of "Achieving Our Dreams Together." 

Following the breakfast, Y Board of Directors Chairperson Ryan Hoernke gave both opening and closing remarks, and three Y members highlighted how the Y has had a profound impact on their lives and strengthened community.  Door County YMCA CEO Tom Beerntsen provided the morning's keynote address provided an update on the Y and also centered on the overall theme of this year's event.  The transcript of his remarks are as follows:


Good Morning and Thank You for choosing to join us for our Annual Community Breakfast.  And an early Valentine’s Day greeting.

Many of you know that I have been involved with the YMCA for many years.  I have worked for the Y for 29 years and took off 20 years in the middle of my career to own and operate our families chocolate business in Manitowoc.

During my years in business from 1984 – 2003 I stayed involved in the Y, like so many of you, as a volunteer.  I was fortunate to serve on the local Manitowoc Y Board of Directors and a variety of State and national YMCA committees and the National Board.  As an officer on the National Board I traveled as a volunteer between 80 and 100 nights per year and spoke at Ys across America and around the world.

I can tell you that for the past 49 years there has not been a day in which I have not thought about the Y and the important role it plays in communities here and in more than 100 distant countries around the world.  Many of you know our Y is in its 32nd year of service in Door County.  The founders of the Y here would be amazed to know that last month our Y reached a record high 8,916 members in a county of 27,000. One in three residents are members of your YMCA.

There is a Brazilian Proverb I found in my notes which says, “When you dream alone, it’s only a dream.  When you dream together it’s the beginning of reality." I know for fact there were many here who believed Door County was too small to support a YMCA program, much less two full facility YMCAs.  As a matter of fact the national organization was hesitant to endorse the chartering of a YMCA here. But our local volunteers were not to be deterred and today we have a Y program of which I hope you are proud.

What has been interesting as I looked back over nearly 50 year of materials is, that while so much has changed, the basic needs for what the Y does each day has remained constant.

  1. There has never been a greater need for a mission-driven, values-based organization, like the Y, than there is today.  The Y’s core values of Caring, Honesty, Respect and Responsibility have never been more relevant and important.  The need to develop character and leadership skills has never been greater.   Elijah Cummings, the Maryland Congressman who recently died said it best, “Our children are our messengers to the future we will never see”.  Our job is to make certain our children are well prepared for the future.

  2. The importance of putting heroes in the lives of young people, and adults for that matter, cannot be overstated.  Hank Aaron, Bart Starr, Warren Spahn, etc.

  3. The Y has been and must continue to be welcoming and available to all without regard to financial ability.  Each year we raise about $500,000 dollars to honor our promise to serve all.  Today over 1,200 of our members are quietly fee assisted.  While today is not a fund raising event, there is subtle connection between this event and the envelops on your tables.    

  4. Our Y facilities have been and truly are community centers which are as much about social connections as it is about health and wellness.  What I do not think our founders anticipated was that over 40% of our membership would be over 60 years of age and growing.

  5. And, of course, the importance of remaining well and healthy has never been more important.  Good health allows us to enjoy our daily lives more.  It allows us to stay in our homes longer and be independent.

One of my greatest frustrations I have had for all of these years is that we have always had difficulty telling the story of the positive impact we have in the community.  Our programming engages the youngest of our children at the Barker Center to the oldest of our seniors and every age in between.  Our membership is large and our parking lots are filled.  Our apparent success has led many to take us for granted and not understand the need for continuing support. This is why today’s breakfast is so very important because three individuals will tell you about how the Y has impacted their lives.

As I looked through my files, I found this little piece of paper that said, “Wisdom is divided into two part, having a great deal to say, and not saying it.

So I conclude where I began, “When we dream alone, it’s only a dream, when we dream together, it’s the beginning of reality."  My wish for our YMCA today is that we continue to dream about a better tomorrow for our kids, our families, our adults and our seniors.

Thank you for joining us this morning and have a great Valentine’s weekend.


Category: News