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Whittier YMCA kicks off Christmas season with prayer breakfast

WHITTIER — When Gail Ramjan moved to California five years ago, she had no friends or casual acquaintances. No one she could meet for coffee and friendly conversation. 

 

That changed when she joined the East Whittier YMCA. 

 

Ramjan was one of several speakers at the 40th annual YMCA of Greater Whittier Christmas Prayer Breakfast held Dec. 6 at the DoubleTree Hotel. Several hundred people attended the event — themed “Celebrate the Joy of Giving Back” — including YMCA supporters and civic leaders. 

 

According to Ramjan, the YMCA isn’t just a gym and daycare facility; it’s a place where found acceptance and new friends. 

 

“We shared illnesses and injuries and births and deaths and hard times and good times,” she said. “The sense of community and friendship that I found at the Y is really special to me. And one of the reasons I value it so much is when I think about the people that I’m in this room with, the people that I see constantly throughout the week, we all come from really different backgrounds. We’re different cultures. We’re different age groups. 

Gail Ramjan shares her YMCA story at the 40th annual Whittier YMCA prayer breakfast on Dec. 6. Photo by Eric Pierce

 

“One of my really fun experiences of this past year was going to a 90th birthday party for one of my friends from the Y. So there is this beautiful thread, when you take all these people with really varied backgrounds, and there’s this thread that sort of weaves through us, and that thread is the Y. 

 

“East Whittier Y is part of my life, it’s part of my family’s life, and it’s part of my community. And I’m really thankful to be a part of it.

 

“I really try to make a conscious effort, when I see somebody new to East Whittier, where I hang out, I try to say hi to them and smile at them, and really pass on that open heart and welcoming that I felt when I came to the Y because you never know the difference it can make.”

 

Another speaker was Ryan Gomez, a single father to a 10-year-old and 4-year-old twins, sharing custody with his ex-wife. 

 

“When you’re looking for a kids daycare and after school program, you want nothing but the best. The best is what I found,” said Gomez. “I found a home away from home for my children. 

 

“The Y is so soothing for my children, they wake up and ask, ‘Daddy, is there school tomorrow? Tomorrow or another day?’ And then they ask for church.”

Ryan Gomez speaks at the Whittier YMCA prayer breakfast on Dec. 6. Photo by Eric Pierce

 

“The Y has also blessed my family,” Gomez added. He said the Y provided financial support last year when his 10-year-old son wanted to play football.

 

“And the twins were not left out,” Gomez said. “At Christmas time, there was a gift for each and every one of them.

 

“I just want to say it’s been a pleasure. My kids will continue going to the Y.”

 

Other speakers at the prayer breakfast included Kirby Nellis, a YMCA donor who spoke on social responsibility, and Curt Skotnicki, president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Whittier. 

Curt Skotnicki, president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Whittier, speaks at the Y’s prayer breakfast on Dec. 6. Photo by Eric Pierce

 

Rev. Msgr. Tim Nichols of St. John Vianney Church in Hacienda Heights provided the invocation and benediction. 

 

Entertainment was provided by the Whittier High School Cardinal Choir — under the direction of conductor Jesse Meza — and the mariachi group Las Colibri.

 

The prayer breakfast is a fundraiser for the YMCA and is organized by a volunteer committee. This year’s breakfast committee was comprised of Wayne Campfield, Ellie Bewley, Billy Velez, Susanne Mendoza, David Gonzalez and Jess Montes. 

 

“On behalf of the board leadership and our entire staff at the YMCA of Greater Whittier, thank you for making this occasion possible,” said Skotnicki, the Y president and CEO. “We hope you leave today inspired with a full heart ready to give back to our community just as the Y has done for 104 years. We are pleased to build upon the foundation of our organization and share the morning in Christian gratitude with you.”

Berta Leon, board chair of the YMCA of Greater Whittier, speaks at the Y’s prayer breakfast on Dec. 6. Photo by Eric Pierce

Rev. Msgr. Tom Nichols delivers the invocation at the Whittier YMCA’s prayer breakfast on Dec. 6. Photo by Eric Pierce

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