Group of YMCA volunteers laughing while standing outdoors during a food drive

First Friday Message

Look for the Helpers

After spending almost half of my career in Pittsburgh, some things were bound to rub off on me. And while I never developed much of a passion for pierogis, fries on my salads, or Pączki (pronounced as “pownch-key”…Polish donuts filled with all of the beltloop-busting goodness you can imagine), my time in Pittsburgh reacquainted me with a fond childhood memory of Mister Rogers and his beloved neighborhood. Fred McFeely Rogers was from Pittsburgh and remains larger than life there today. The puppet set he used was based off of the hills and valleys of Pittsburgh and he truly was a pure soul who deeply cared for children and wanted them to grow and excel in nurturing communities. Now I know many of you have the “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood…” song ringing in the back of your heads or you may be bold enough to sing it aloud (extra points for doing it at your desk or while on the treadmill at the Y!). But aside from his infamous puppets, the trolley, and that RED SWEATER, Mister Rogers is also known for a story he recalled of himself and his mother.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news,” Rogers said to his television neighbors, “my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”

Fred Rogers

I couldn’t help but think of Rogers’ words over the last few days as we all hunkered down to weather Hurricane Ian. This was my family’s first named storm and, frankly, we were blessed. We suffered no wind damage and no flooding, and aside from the loss of power for a couple of days, we were unaffected. But that’s not everyone’s story, is it?

So many of our friends and family, whether here, SW Florida, Puerto Rico, or Cuba, etc. have sustained losses and many are still dealing with power loss, flooded streets, and properties, or worse. The City of Orlando, through its Instagram account (@thecitybeautiful), has shared shocking aerials over the past few days of the Lake Davis and Lake Cherokee communities near downtown and I know there are areas like Blanchard Park and other neighboring communities and counties that are still flooded and struggling to get back to “normal”.

In times like these, we must all do what we can to help our neighbors and friends while looking for and PRAYING for the helpers. Our first responders put themselves and their families second in order to help us come back together as a community. That is selfless leadership at its core.

To help our community recover from the impact of Hurricane Ian, we have opened select YMCA family centers for our neighbors to rest, recharge, and refresh. In some cases, that may simply mean coming in to charge a phone, cool off in the AC, take a shower, or just to get a physical break from the water surrounding your home. More info can be found at

Catastrophe has a way of bringing us together– we’ve seen it in times of war, natural disaster, and countless unnecessary tragedies in far too many communities across the country. And while I now feel much more connected to my new Central Florida family through the shared experience of this storm, I pray that we’ll all continue to support each other long after the waters recede.

Until next time… 

Kevin Bolding, President & CEO
YMCA of Central Florida

The Y. For a better us.®