Our inaugural story in TAP's "WHY THE Y" column features a Madison High School senior whose experience as a volunteer at the Madison Area YMCA has been as impactful on her life as much as she has made an impact on the lives of others.
Before she entered high school, Claire Schaenen knew that she wanted community service to be part of her life. After volunteering for two years at a hospital in Peapack during her freshman and sophomore years, she decided she wanted to make a difference in the community she lived in. Knowing that her younger brother, Malcolm, volunteered at the Madison Area YMCA, she began asking him about the kinds of things he did as a volunteer. She then jumped onto the Madison Area YMCA’s website and filled out a volunteer application which led to an interview with the Y’s volunteer coordinator, Melissa DeSalvo.
Claire has worked in many different areas of the Y during the hours she spends at the Family Center. She has helped out by assembling pamphlets to advertise upcoming community events, assisted with summer day camp paperwork and worked at the Welcome Center in a variety of roles.
“Each time I walk into the Y I feel that I will be able to make a meaningful contribution for an organization that I have really come to respect. There are so many different kinds of people at the Y. It’s clear as you walk through the halls that many families are benefitting from all the Y has to offer,” said Claire.

One of her favorite places to be assigned is Kids Central, the Y’s indoor playground.
“Claire had five years of experience with babysitting and loves kids so I knew that volunteering in Kids Central would be a perfect fit for her,” said Melissa. “Claire’s personality and professional attitude made her stand out. The children who visit Kids Central always enjoy spending time with her.” 
“This is such a wonderful service that the Y offers” said Claire. “It allows parents to take advantage of Y programs while knowing their children are safe and having fun.”
Mary Schaenen and her husband, Doug, moved to Madison in the winter of 2004. After joining the Y, Claire, Malcolm and their youngest child, Stuart, learned to swim and participated in several other programs. “I’ve seen how this opportunity has added to Claire’s self-confidence and maturity,” said Mary. “As parents we are hoping to raise lifelong volunteers—we want our youth to become adults who remain committed to giving back to their communities. The Madison Area YMCA meets the needs of so many people in our community. It’s a charitable organization that deserves everyone’s support,” said Mary.
“Being able to support an organization that does so much good for my town of Madison makes me feel wonderful,” said Claire.
The Madison Area YMCA held its Board and 1873 Holiday Party at the Morris Museum to honor board members and leadership volunteers for their significant contributions and generous donations that further the Y’s philanthropic initiatives throughout the year. Claire, her parents and grandparents were guests at the holiday party on Sunday, December 6, where Claire and Mary shared their Y story.
The Madison Area YMCA is a cause-driven charitable organization dedicated to strengthening community through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Generous donations to the Y make it possible for everyone in the community to experience the Y.