Jason Paredes doesn’t have to travel far for his daily regimen of lifting weights and socializing with friends.
Paredes, a teaching pastor at Fielder Road Baptist Church, said the nearest YMCA is only half a block from his job.
“I decided to get in shape and lift weights. It was really easy for us to get a membership and work out. It is really convenient, and the Y has all of the equipment we need,” he said.
Paredes is among many who joined one of the Arlington YMCA branches, now called family centers, during the past year, and the growth in membership has been far greater than officials expected.
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In January 2013, Roberto Aguirre came on board as the new CEO, he and has made many positive changes since his arrival.
During the past year, membership increased by 37 percent, a much higher figure than the 5 to 10 percent growth per year forecast in the organization’s strategic plan.
“We were not anticipating 37 percent growth. It was above and beyond our expectations,” Aguirre said.
The Central YMCA branch saw the most growth, 53 percent, he said.
The YMCA did bilingual marketing and put out information that there is a program or activity available for everyone in the family, he said.
Pamela Webb, director of corporate communications for the Arlington YMCA, said that when Aguirre was CEO of the Abilene YMCA, membership quadrupled.
Since coming to Arlington, Aguirre has started a members benefit program to encourage families to participate in sports and other activities at the Y.
There are free programs for members, including youth sports, dance classes, swim team, half-day summer camps, and child care while a parent works out.
He also instituted a free monthly parents’ night out for members. Members now pay a much lower fee for before- and after-school child care, Vacation Club and summer day camp than the club had in years past.
Aguirre also worked to change the image of the YMCA from a gym where people work out to family-oriented centers where parents and their children participate in activities.
Besides Arlington, the YMCA serves people living in Pantego, Dalworthington Gardens, Mansfield and Kennedale.
Aguirre said he is also looking at the possibility of opening a YMCA facility in Mansfield this year.
Beth Lecroy, executive director of the Central YMCA, said the emphasis on affordability and the family-oriented activities has made a big difference in how the community perceives the organization.
Another noteworthy change is the expansion of after-school programs, where children can get help with homework and do crafts and other activities, she said.
Meanwhile, Aguirre said he wants people to know that the YMCA is available to everyone in the community.
“We want to become the family center for the community,” he said.
“When people move to Arlington, I want Realtors to tell them, ‘You have to go to the Y.’ ”