With its new mission focused on education, The Belk Foundation recently awarded the University City YMCA with a $100,000 grant for its youth learning programs. The Y used the grant to create The Belk Foundation Youth Development Center, a new space that opened this fall with new classrooms for preschool and after school, and restrooms custom-made for kids. Having previously run the program in temporary modular units, the Y is aiming to reach even more children through the program, where 40 percent of preschoolers and 60 percent of after-school participants receive financial assistance. Katie Belk Morris, board chair of The Belk Foundation, says the grant reinforces the foundation’s longtime connection to the YMCA. Why did the foundation decide to award the $100,000 grant to the University City YMCA? The Belk Foundation has a long tradition of supporting YMCAs both across the southeast and here in Charlotte. We believe in their mission. This grant to support the Youth Development Center, where so many children come after school, is a combination of both the foundation’s past and its future. How will this grant help the children of the University area? Education should not stop when the last bell rings. After-school programs like the YMCA are providing structured, productive programs to help children continue their learning and development. We believe that the YMCA is a positive place for kids, and that is apparent as soon as you walk through the doors of the University City Y. Today, the first thing the children in the after-school program did was work to complete their homework. The second thing was to get that homework checked by a counselor. How are you, personally, connected to the YMCA? I remember learning to swim at the YMCA! I also came to the YMCA for after-school classes. My family’s involvement in the YMCA goes way back to my grandfather, William Henry Belk. He was a member of the Metropolitan Board in the 1950s and was involved in the opening of the Johnston YMCA and in the early days of Camp Thunderbird. Over three generations, we have had the wonderful opportunity to work with all of the people who have helped the YMCA grow and thrive in this region. The University City YMCA is located at 8100 Old Mallard Creek Road.