The Sarasota Family Young Men’s Christian Association, Inc. (YMCA) is a charitable nonprofit organization, qualifying under Section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. Tax Code. The YMCA is in good standing with the national organization, the YMCA of the USA. The YMCA of the USA exists solely to serve its member associations, currently totaling 2,686 nationwide and in over 124 countries around the world. The national office, in Chicago, offers assistance in programming, management, training, and legal services. 

The YMCA was founded in London, England, on June 6, 1844, by George Williams in response to unhealthy social conditions arising in big cities at the end of the Industrial Revolution. The first YMCA in the United States was founded on December 29, 1851, in Boston by Thomas Sullivan, a retired sea captain. The Sarasota Family YMCA was founded in 1945 by local leaders and currently has a budget of over $36 million and over 600 employees. The mission statement of the YMCA is “We build strong kids, strong families, strong communities.” Our Sarasota YMCA history is as follows:



Frank G. Berlin, Sr., President of the Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, the founder of the Sarasota Family Young Men’s Christian Association. Mr. Berlin recruited other leaders of the Sarasota Community to accomplish the objective of providing activities and programs which promote family life. By November 1, the YMCA office at 310 South Orange Avenue was completed, and the work of the YMCA began.



The YMCA held a summer program sponsored by the City of Sarasota. Other programs included marble matches, a gun club, model airplane clubs, boxing, bicycling, Jack Stones, checkers and a pet show.



The Frank G. Berlin, Sr. Branch was established for health enhancement and youth sports and activities. Erwin Gremili was the architect and C.B. Thompson, the contractor. With the construction of the Selby Pool, Sarasota County had its first indoor swimming pool.



The Stinnett Gymnasium was completed, providing 7,600 square feet of air conditioned space for activities ranging from basketball to women’s fitness classes.



The YMCA added six indoor, air conditioned state-of-the-art racquetball and handball courts.



The YMCA Foundation of Sarasota, Inc. was organized for the purpose of supporting and advancing the activities of the Sarasota Family YMCA.



Tennis Courts, the Aquatics Center and the jogging track were added to the Berlin Branch.



The Berlin Branch added the Sudakoff Gymnastic Center, an 8,000 square foot specialized gymnastic facility.



The Child Care Center was opened at the Frank G. Berlin, Sr. Branch to serve children, including infants to school age children.



A second Child Care Center was established at the City Center building on Main Street in response to the demand for quality child care in downtown Sarasota.



Health enhancement was added to the City Center building in response to demand. 

The Black Achievers Program was introduced to Sarasota in an effort to reach out to minority middle and high school age children.



The YMCA Youth Shelter, a 20-bed residential facility for runaways, truants and ungovernable youth, ages ten through seventeen, began in 1991 through community efforts and governmental funding. 

The YMCA initiated the Prevention/Outreach, a program that provides basic outreach services to communicate and connect with the community in regards to the availability of our youth services, as well as prevention activities for early intervention.



The YMCA introduced the HIPPY program (Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters), a home-based program for the educational enrichment of preschool children and for the promotion of increased awareness by their parents of their own strength and potential as home educators.



The YMCA became a Florida Community Child Care Coordinating Agency for the Subsidized Child Care Program. YMCA Children’s Services/Early Childhood Development serves three counties in District 8A: Sarasota, Charlotte and DeSoto. 

This is a program designed to provide parents access to the child care necessary to allow them to work, leave welfare, remain off welfare and to ensure that abused and neglected children are in a safe, appropriate environment with no recurrence of abuse or neglect. The program serves children
at risk of abuse and neglect, children of Work and Gain Economic Self-Sufficiency (WAGES), as well as low-income families. The program is now called School Readiness and is managed through Coalitions in each of the counties served.

The YMCA expanded troubled youth programming by adding the Triad Alternative Program (Triad), an alternative school for expelled, suspended and court-ordered students, which uses a “whole student” approach to teaching.

The Sarasota Family YMCA worked with a committee of volunteers from Hardee County on a feasibility study regarding introducing a YMCA in their community. The Hardee County Family YMCA was opened in 1993, and the facility was recently expanded to accommodate its community’s demand.



The YMCA added the Transitional Living Program, which serves older, homeless youth ages 16-21 by providing shelter, life skills training and support services for a smooth transition to self-sufficiency and to prevent long-term dependency on social services.

The YMCA expanded its family programs once again in the Evalyn Sadlier Jones Branch YMCA with David Tichenor as architect and Kellogg and Kimsey as contractors. The YMCA collaborated with Sarasota County Parks and Recreation to provide tennis, outdoor basketball courts and a fitness trail on grounds adjacent to the facility.

YMCA Children’s Services was awarded the contract to offer Child Care Resource and Referral for Sarasota, Charlotte and DeSoto counties. Child Care Resource and Referral is a program designed to serve parents and children by educating parents about quality child care and referring them to quality child care in their area. The YMCA was also awarded a one-year contract for Infant and Toddler Development. This program was designed to develop, through education and no-cost loans of equipment or small cash loans, high quality infant and toddler family daycare homes in the Newtown area of Sarasota.

YMCA Children’s Services/Early Childhood Development was awarded a planning grant from the Department of Education to develop collaboration among early childhood service providers in order to maximize funding, develop a network of services, reduce duplication of services and to fill in the gaps in services.

A planning grant was awarded for DeSoto County, and the YMCA again was the lead agency in developing this child care collaboration.



A major non-residential service expansion occurred with the addition of YMCA Family Management Services. Family Management Services consists of family consultants located throughout the county serving Children in Need of Services and Families in Need of Services (CINS/FINS). The major goal of this special counseling program is prevention of behaviors leading to running away, being ungovernable or being truant.

A coalition of ten agencies was formed to respond to a Sarasota County Grants-in-Aid RFP developed by the Children and Youth Services Advisory Council (CAYSAC) and directed at providing services to adolescents. 

The mission of this coalition of youth and adults is to provide innovative programs that offer positive alternatives to using alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. The name of the program is Community Youth Development.

Project Safe Place, an outreach service that addresses every school student in the Sarasota County School system and has over 100 identified local sites to connect runaway and homeless youth with the Youth Shelter, was introduced to the community.



The Sarasota Family YMCA formed YMCA Children, Youth & Family Services, Inc. in support of its social service programs. YMCA Children, Youth & Family Services, Inc. received its 501(c)(3) status and formed a volunteer board of directors.

The YMCA opened a 16-bed delinquency, rehabilitation program called Character House. The YMCA Character House is a residential juvenile justice commitment facility for female offenders who have been categorized as low and moderate risk to public safety (commitment levels four and six). The most unique aspects of Character House are the acceptance of pregnant teens and the housing of their newborn children in order for bonding to occur while parenting skills are taught. The program expanded to 20 beds in early 2000.

The Homeless Youth Education program was introduced to provide and coordinate educational services for homeless youth in Sarasota County and to work closely with the YMCA Youth Shelter, Salvation Army, SPARCC and other homeless shelters in Sarasota County. It also provides community awareness on the plight of homeless youth and in-service training for school personnel who work with homeless youth.



The YMCA became the lead agency of a coalition of 12 community agencies in the privatization of Child Welfare/Foster Care and related services in Sarasota County. The mission of the Foster Care program is to provide comprehensive services to children and families needing foster care or at risk of needing foster care through a collaborative effort that unites resources; holds all parties accountable to specific standards of care; evaluates performance and distribution of resources based on specific and measurable outcomes; holds permanency of the child’s living arrangement and the continuity of relationships for the child as the primary goals; and provides these services through an inclusive and informative relationship with the community and state. The services provided include foster parent recruitment, training and licensure; adoptions; foster care; protective supervision; and voluntary family services.

Truancy Intervention Program (TIP) was initiated as a partnership with the Sarasota County School system, the Department of Juvenile Justice and the YMCA to address the problem of truancy. The program’s strong intervention keeps youth in school by focusing on solutions to each child’s problems.

The Sarasota Middle Alternative Resource Team (SMART) program was developed to provide a school within a school for disruptive students at the Sarasota Middle School. The primary goal of this program is to modify behaviors and remediate learning problems in order to re-integrate students back into the middle school program or to pass into a high school program. The SMART program has been renamed Character Schools.

The Adventure Based Challenge Program (ABC) was added as an action-oriented, experiential program designed to teach problem solving while improving the self-concept of the participant. Through group activities conducted in a challenging outdoor environment, the participant learns to accept personal responsibility, expand communication skills and develop confidence.

The YMCA opened the Kalish House, a group home for male foster care adolescents up to the age of 18 with six residential long-term beds and two emergency shelter short-term beds. Kalish is designed as a behavioral change program. This program addresses behaviors that are counter-productive to success in social, academic and job skills.



The City Center health enhancement center relocated to Main Plaza to accommodate membership growth. Funding was obtained to establish the Greater Newtown Street Outreach, which provided education and prevention services to runaway, homeless and street youth who have been subjected to or are at risk of sexual exploitation or abuse.

The Toddler Shelter/Grammy’s House was opened to serve as an emergency shelter for toddlers in the foster care system. This shelter has been realigned to serve toddlers to pre-teens. This was also the beginning of the Community Coalition for Children. Corporations, churches and individuals donate money, resources and time as they serve as children’s advocates.



The YMCA, along with eight collaborative partners, expanded Foster Care privatization into Manatee County.

Renaissance Ranch opened to serve girls in foster care. This residential program is a consistent, highly structured program aimed at behavioral change, life management skill building and positive values development.

The Triad Alternative Program (Triad), an alternative school for expelled, suspended and court-ordered students, expanded into South Sarasota County.



The Administrative offices, the Early Childhood Development Branch and the YMCA Foundation moved their offices to the newly constructed Kane Plaza. The move to Kane Plaza allows the YMCA to deliver services more effectively and efficiently, ensuring our ability to reach more individuals and families. This move also opened space in residential programs, previously utilized for office space, to provide more beds for homeless teens in the Transitional Living Program and girls and their infants in Character House.

The Lazarus Training Center was opened to provide training for staff, volunteers, foster care parents and partner agencies. The Gold Seal Accreditation program began with a goal of improving the quality of early childhood education in Sarasota County by guiding child care providers through a quality improvement process. Using nationally recognized accreditation standards, CDA training for teachers and on-site technical assistance, all components of a program are assessed and improved. An additional focus was added in 2001 to provide support and training to teachers working with children with special needs and challenging behaviors to identify delays or social-emotional issues and provide early intervention services.



The YMCA After School Program expanded its services into more elementary schools, bringing the number of schools served to ten.

The YMCA, along with collaborative partners, expanded Foster Care privatization into DeSoto County, completing the tri-county judicial circuit.

The YMCA Character House expanded its program from 16 to 20 beds.



The YMCA Achievers Program expanded from Black Achievers to also serve Hispanic Achievers.

YMCA Children, Youth & Family Services, Inc. merged with the parent company, Sarasota Family Young Men’s Christian Association, Inc., allowing for administrative cost savings.

The Main Plaza Branch was dedicated as the Babe Weiller Branch YMCA in honor of Babe Weiller, a supporter of the YMCA and a member of the YMCA Foundation Board of Trustees.



The Frank G. Berlin, Sr. Branch YMCA opened the doors to its new 80,000 square foot facility.

The Bari Brooks Center opened to provide a safe environment for teens and families.

The Boards of the School Readiness Coalitions in Sarasota, Charlotte and DeSoto counties made the decision to provide services themselves and the YMCA discontinued its School Readiness services on June 30, 2004.

Kalish House was expanded to add four additional beds, going from 8 to 12 beds, for boys in Foster Care.

The YMCA expanded its support of children and families in Child Welfare/Foster Care to Pasco and Pinellas Counties.

Construction was completed on the expansion of Bowman Ranch, formerly known as Renaissance Ranch, going from 8 beds to 20 beds for girls in Foster Care.



The Josephine Lofino Splash Pool, an addition to the C. J. Lofino Family Complex, opened.



Y-Reads!, an after school mentoring and literacy program for first and second grades, was introduced to students from two elementary schools – Fruitville Elementary and Emma E. Booker Elementary.

The Welch Family Center, at the C.J. Lofino Family Complex, opened for services.

Operation Graduation opened to provide a comprehensive academic after school enrichment program for struggling and minority students.



The University of South Florida invited the YMCA to manage its preschool program. The USF Campus Kids program provides child care for the children of USF staff, students and the community.



The YMCA transitioned Child Welfare/Foster Care in Pasco and Pinellas Counties to a community agency.

The YMCA is participating in a collaboration with the Sarasota City Parks and Recreation to develop a community center in the Newtown area.

The YMCA discontinued residential services for Foster Care boys at the Kalish House on August 4, 2008.



The YMCA discontinued residential services for homeless youth at the Transitional Living Program located on the Buzzelli Campus February 28, 2009.

The YMCA discontinued residential services for girls in Foster Care at the Bowman Ranch on March 30, 2009.

The YMCA discontinued services at the Character House, a residential juvenile justice commitment facility for female offenders who have been categorized as low and moderate risk to public safety, on April 30, 2009.

The YMCA closed the USF Campus Kids program June 30, 2009.

The YMCA transitioned fiscal agent responsibilities of the Community Youth Development program to the local Girl Scouts program in Sarasota.

Carl Weinrich, CEO of the Sarasota Family YMCA for 32 years, retires June 30, 2009. Theresa White, Chief Financial Officer for 21 years, retires May 18, 2009.

Paul Smith from the YMCA of Greater Kansas City joins the Sarasota Family YMCA as President and CEO September 1, 2009.



The YMCA, working with the Sarasota County School Board, expanded the Triad Alternative School program to serve 130 students and moved to a new location, the former Cyesis program location on Beneva Road.

The YMCA added a mentoring program to its youth development array of services under the Operation Graduation Continuum. The program identified as “Mentoring Mile” under the Senior Friendship Center joined with the YMCA in August to add one-on-one mentoring services, now called Y-Mentor, to at-risk and disadvantaged youth in Sarasota County Schools.



The YMCA, in coordination with the YMCA of the USA and YMCA’s around the county adopted a new brand strategy, new logo and marketing campaign that focus on three pillars: Youth Development, Healthy Living and Social Responsibility.

The YMCA’s Safe Children Coalition program responded to an invitation to negotiate (ITN) by the Florida Department of Children and Families to continue providing foster care and related services in the Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto communities. 

The YMCA was selected from two responders to the ITN and was awarded a 5 year contract effective July 1, 2011. 

The YMCA was asked by the Sarasota County School Board to expand the Triad Alternative School program to serve students in South Sarasota County.

Paul B. Smith, President and CEO, resigns from the YMCA.



The YMCA collaborates with residential service provider Everyday Blessings to renovate and occupy the former Transitional Living Program facility located on the YMCA’s Buzzelli Campus to house sibling groups in the foster care system.

Kurt Stringfellow, President and CEO from the YMCA of Georgia’s Piedmont joins the Sarasota Family YMCA as President and CEO on November 1, 2012. 



After a rigorous on site visit by Council on Accreditation (COA) Peer Reviewers in March of 2013 Sarasota Family YMCA, Inc. received reaccreditation. COA is a national accrediting organization which evaluates programs (like those offered by the Sarasota YMCA: Achievers, HIPPY, Family Management Services, Adventure Based Counseling, Sarasota YMCA Safe Children Coalition, Independent Living Services, School House Link, Youth Shelter, YMCA Adventure Club). The current accreditation is valid until June 30, 2017.



The Sarasota YMCA completes Y-USA's certification for brand compliance in October 2014.



Kurt Stringfellow resigns as President and CEO in July 2016. Laura Gilbert named as interim President and CEO of Sarasota Family YMCA, Inc. on September 30, 2016.

The YMCA Foundation of Sarasota, Inc. ceases operations September 30, 2016. 

Downtown Babe Weiller Branch consolidates with Frank G. Berlin, Sr. Branch on October 7, 2016.


Paul Bowman, former chair of the YMCA Foundation, is named Association Board Chair of the Sarasota Family YMCA. 

Laura Gilbert is promoted to President and CEO of the Sarasota Family YMCA on March 16, 2017. She is the first female President and CEO in Sarasota YMCA history.