YMCA salutes community volunteers

During National Volunteer Week, April 19-23, the YMCA recognizes the work of two volunteers, as well as the commitment of 600+.

"Volunteers are not paid - not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless."

I encountered that saying not long ago. There was no mention of the author, nor was there any further explanation. But as I pondered it, I realized quickly how true this quote is.

Now here we are today during National Volunteer Week and the quote applies so aptly to all the volunteers I work with at the YMCA. There truly is no way we could pay our volunteers for all they do. Their donation of time, resources and expertise is beyond price, beyond our reach, and cannot be sufficiently thanked.

I am pleased to profile two of our very dedicated volunteers, and publicly acknowledge them for their outstanding loyalty.

If you come often to the YMCA for the pleasure of our swimming pool you may have noticed the name that adorns the window over the pool observation area, the Samuelson Aquatic Center.

Named for the generosity of the Samuelson family, I and countless other Y Board members are pleased to have Reid Samuelson carrying on the tradition of the Samuelson family that was originated by his father, Jack, and his uncle, Bob.

Reid Samuelson remembers coming to the Y as a young boy and participating in numerous adventures in the Y Indian Guides, a program now referred to as Y Tribes. When questioned about exactly when he started at the Y, he simply responds, "My whole life." One senses the memories he still carries with him about those times at the Y and the numerous amusements he participated in while enjoying Y Tribes, a program that remains popular today for the opportunity it provides for children and parents together to appreciate activities and adventures.

Even as a youngster, he remembers his dad, who was instrumental as a major leader in starting the Crescenta-Cañada Y, making "?me go around and get petitions signed that it was okay to have the Y there."

Samuelson stayed with the Y as a member and later as a father bringing his own two children, Todd and Lauren, to the Y. He moved into the world of real estate and development, while his father and uncle stayed in the construction business. He admits having spent most of his life in finance. Born in Burbank, he attended Occidental College, then received his graduate degree from UCLA. Over the years Reid Samuelson has spent time on the board of directors of the Crescenta- Cañada Y, and has continued to provide expertise.

But today Samuelson is most committed to the new Verdugo Hills Family YMCA project. Each Thursday morning one can find him at the construction meeting, offering insights, providing financial expertise, and like his father and uncle who are both still strong supporters of the Y, checking out the construction progress and even the equipment. He estimates he spends about 20 hours per month on YMCA construction business, an estimate that CEO Larry Hall feels may be too modest.

He does not consider his contribution of time and expertise a big deal. Rather he credits the people who donated for the project with the true spirit of giving. When he talks about the project he says how important it will be for the community. "I always root for the underdog. The Verdugo Hills Y can provide such a great service to the community. The community demographics are much different than the Y in La Cañada. Daycare we provide is essential. Verdugo Hills Y has to be an outreach. There are numerous teenagers who need the Y."

When asked how he can give so generously of his time to the Y, he speaks with pride of one single point. "My major support is my wife Joyce," he proclaims. He also compliments Y CEO/President Larry Hall, stating, "It's a real pleasure to support an exec like Larry."

When not working, not attending a Y meeting, or not checking out the construction, Samuelson can be found on the Y's racquetball court, a place he tries to get to three-to-four times each week.

Sometimes volunteers come to the YMCA through strange routes. One such volunteer is Jim Netto. Netto has had a varied and interesting life that began back in Louisville, Ky. He speaks with a soft drawl and ready smile as explains how he came to be a volunteer at the Crescenta-Cañada YMCA.

He had been a member for about two years, working out and minding his own business. During the fall of the second year, when the Y closed for its annual clean-up week, he was asked by Cindy Elgin, his personal trainer, what he was going to do during the closure. "Well, I am going to come in and help with the clean-up!"

"Good, see you at 9 a,m.!" Elgin responded. To her surprise, he showed up the next morning and has been volunteering ever since. Once he got done with cleaning, painting and anything else that needed doing, he decided to do something more fun.

This time Elgin asked him to be a team captain for the community support campaign and once again he found himself saying yes. He cornered three friends and two others to be on his team and got to work. After a successful campaign, he was ready for another challenge.

Roseanne Malogolowkin, director of the physical education department "roped him in" for her committee and from that he became a personal trainer for the 12-week personalized fitness program.

In his life outside the Y, Netto is a distributor for a company that sells golf course irrigation systems. A former golf pro and full time golfer, he came to California after hurting his back, want-ing to be "somewhere warm." He was director of golf at River Road Country Club in Louisville and while there, played on the PGA Tour part time for about 10 years.

After landing in this area, he was again roped in by a friend who asked him if had he ever played bingo! Much to his surprise he found himself at a bingo game the next night. He and his friend looked around and their brains started ticking. There was a potential business here! Thus began his career as a "gambling" businessman. After running a successful professional bingo game for a couple of years, he and his friend were approached by representatives from the Pasqua Yaqui Reservation in Tucson, Ariz. They wondered if he was interested in running a casino! The answer was yes and he found himself in Arizona as partner and general manager in the Indian Management Gaming Company for two years. He is now back in California, happily running his distribution business and living in Montrose.

As a child, when Netto's mother became a single parent, she was at a loss with what to do with her 6-year- old son after school. His neighbors introduced him to the Y and for much of his time as a young Y member he was a direct recipient of the largess of the Y.

He spent his summers at Y camp and is a firm believer in the Y and what it stands for. He has made a lasting commitment to the Y and demonstrates that by his avid volunteerism.

To Reid Samuelson and Jim Netto, thank you on behalf of the YMCA. And to the other 600+ volunteers who help with everything from coaching to swimming to raising funds, thank you for your generosity. You are all a priceless resource to our organization!

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