"Christmas is a festive time of the year when our hearts are filled with hope and our eyes sparkle with His light. We want to wish all of our WFYR members a very Merry Christmas and a

Happy New Year."

--Kohei Yamada, WFYR Chair

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Official Newsletter of

The World Fellowship Of YMCA Retirees

Special Christmas Issue 2023 * View as Webpage

Notes from the chair...

By Kohei Yamada, WFYR Chair

Hello Craig,

This year I have been busy but enjoying the fellowship and happy faces of many brothers and sisters around the world.

As WFYR chair, I and my wife, Marlene, attended a regional gathering of Latin America and Caribbean, called AGAPE, held every four years. This year AGAPE was held in Buenos Aires, Argentina in September. From Japan, it took nearly two full days going and returning but we fully enjoyed the gathering and made many new friends.

Besides WFYR, I’m also a core member of Y’s Men International as a Regional Director of Japan East Region. It demands a lot of time and energy but is also based on fellowship of YMCA members and supporters.

This year has been eventful for our family as well. Our youngest child married in November and our family was reunited for the first time since before COVID!

We wish you all a Joyous Holiday Season!


Kohei and Marlene Yamada

WFYR Chair, 2022-2026

Thoughts from the editors...

By Len and Joyce Wilson

Season’s greetings and a most happy 2024 from your editors and Ken White, the membership and mail coordinator for Bridges. The three of us just recently celebrated at a YMCA retiree Christmas luncheon that combined fun, food and fund-raising for World Service. Our Central Atlantic Chapter sends warmest greetings to the readers of Bridges.

Photos Top: Ken White, Joyce and Len Wilson. Above: Central Atlantic Chapter of YMCA Alumni celebrate the holidays.

This special issue of Bridges is a response to a call to the WFYR leadership team to provide some greetings for the upcoming holidays and New Year.

The messages reflect a concern for the suffering in Ukraine, for families of Israeli hostages and for the toll being inflicted on civilians in Gaza. Let us hope that the coming year will bring a just end to those conflicts.

The following messages also demonstrate that love, caring, sharing and joyous celebrations with friends and families also are important as we spread the joy of the season. 

Christmas blessings and happiness in the new year.

Christmas came early for Graham Clarke in UK: Was it worth it?

Christmas came early to our village of Westhampstead this year! September in fact! The shops were decorated and Christmas lights put up for the filming of the Tesco Christmas TV Advert. 

Along with lots of others we watched while numerous takes were made of a car driving through the High Street carrying a lit up Christmas tree and as ‘Human’ Christmas Stars and Baubles walked along the pavement. We waited with anticipation for the advert’s release only to be disappointed to find that these hours of filming had produced just a few seconds of footage, leaving us to wonder, “Was it worth it?”

As we look around the world today and the suffering that humanity is heaping on each other and experience the consequences of our destruction of creation, I wondered if God looks at all he has created and asks the same question….”Was it worth it?”

Christmas and the celebration of the coming of the Saviour of the world answers the question. God is saying, “Of course it was worth it!” Despite the mess that humanity constantly makes of the world, He has not given up on us.

By sending his only Son to bring love, hope and peace into the world we see His glory and all that we can be and should be and that God wants us to be.

We cheer as we catch a brief glimpse of our village each time the Tesco ad airs, not everything ended up abandoned on the cutting room floor!

As we celebrate Christmas wherever we are, we know that we have not been abandoned and that we are not just seeing a brief glimpse of God’s love and grace but the fulness of that love and grace coming into all the world in the form of the child of Bethlehem and as we hear the choir of angels singing “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to all on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14)

I wish you all a blessed and peaceful Christmas

So, was it worth it? Cheer when you spot Westhampstead in the Tesco ad.

Greetings from WFYR Paraquay

I’m sending this greetings on behalf of our representative in the Latin American and Caribbean Regional Committee, Ms. Myriam Pedrozo, upon request of our Regional Vice- President, Ms. Alicia Sanjurjo.

I hope all goes nice and smooth while you and your family prepare for the coming Holidays.

Merry Christmas and Happy 2024!

M. Josefina Rios, Paraquay


Que la Paz, la Armonia y Solidaridad reine en nuestros corazones esta Navidad y en el Nuevo Ano 2014 se acerca.

We wish Peace, Harmony, and Solidarity in our hearts for this

Christmas and the Year 2024.

Christmas Greetings from Germany

By Günter Ozdyk

Photo Left-- Margaret and Günter in Ethiopian festive clothing; Top right: Friends who visited them in Ethiopia at the Christmas market of the German-speaking community in Addis Ababa; Bottom right -- Children in Sanaa.

When I think back to Christmas in my childhood, there was always a lot of snow and it was so cold that ice flowers formed on the windows and the lakes were frozen over. I remember the cold, clear nights and the silence in the morning when the fresh snow muted the sounds. School was often canceled because the whole area was covered in snow and the paths we had to walk were almost impassable.

Our drinking water came from a spring several hundred meters away, and when it got too cold, the pipe froze. To prevent this, we always ran some water at night.

At the Christmas markets, there were roasted almonds for everyone and spiced wine for the adults. As there were no bright lights in our village, you could see the beautiful starry sky and the Milky Way at night.

When Margret and I later celebrated Christmas in the hot days and warm nights in Africa, it was very unusual for us at the beginning and we missed the snow and the cold.

Today we sometimes miss this experience. Our visitors at Christmas also found it interesting to meet Santa Claus in Africa and experience Christmas in a completely different climate.

In this season of Advent, our thoughts are also with all those people who cannot celebrate because war and terror are preventing them from doing so.

Our thoughts are with people in Palestine and Israel, in Ukraine and Belarus, in Russia and Syria, in Armenia and Azerbaijan, in Sudan, in Yemen, in Myanmar, in Afghanistan, in Somalia, in Eritrea, in Iraq, in Libya, in Mali, in the Central African Republic ...

In particular, we think of all the many children whose childhood is being robbed by all this misery. And we are praying especially for Sierra Leone.

General Secretary Christian Kamara has informed us of an attempted coup; we do not yet know what will happen next. People are very worried and the curfew is still in place.

Margret and I wish you all a blessed Christmas season, wherever and however you celebrate.

May God bless and protect you all!

'Let there be

peace on earth'

By Jean Carmichael,


As a member of a small senior show choir that performs at area nursing homes, assisted living facilities and senior centers, one of the greatest joys is seeing how our audiences respond to music.

We always include a few “sing along” pieces, especially at Christmas time. It is truly remarkable to watch their faces transform into smiles and see them tapping their toes or clapping their hands. Music transforms us all.

At the end of every performance and each of our practice sessions, we sing “Let There be Peace on Earth”. If only all mankind could follow these simple words:

“Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me. Let there be peace on earth, the peace that was meant to be. With God our Creator, neighbors all are we, let us walk with each other, in perfect harmony…”

During this special time of year, all your colleagues and friends from YMCA Alumni in the United States join me in wishing you a blessed holiday season and peace on earth.

Argentina, Latinet and Columbia send Christmas greetings


A group of retired Argentine YMCA professionals, laymen and, as you can see, even grandchildren, celebrate friendship and share the best wishes for 2024. All the best from Daniel La Moglie and Alicia Sanjurjo.

We are happy to share pictures from last year’s Breakfast with Santa at the Centennial Hills YMCA in Las Vegas Nevada! The Kiwanis club sponsors the event, at which about 15 volunteers prepare and cook breakfast for 200 families. -- Cristina von Lindenberg, Latinet Treasurer.

We wish with all my heart much joy this Christmas season together with your family and thank you for keeping us united and informed through Bridges. Rose Mary Becerra, Coordinator Group of Retirees“Jubilosos” YMCA-Colombia.

Christmas at the Y in Canada

By Franco Savoie

Photo left -- Serving Christmas Dinner at the Edmonton Y; Photo right -- Franco Savoie with Santa’s helpers preparing to serve Christmas dinner.

What are your YMCA Christmas Holiday memories? As Alumni, we spent at least 30-40 percent of our lives at the Y. Christmas was always a special time in the Ys in which I worked. Here are 3 top-of-mind memories:

Playing Santa at the Christmas staff family party at the Toronto Y: Staff, spouses and children gathered at the new North York Y in the early 1980s for the staff family party. As always there was lots of food, candies and sweets. Each child was given a gift presented by Santa. 

That year I volunteered to be Santa. Our son, then 4 years old, came and sat on my lap to receive his gift. He was somewhat nervous as he kept looking at me, as he took his gift.

As we were driving home after the party, he asked, "You were Santa weren’t you?” I did my best to indicate that he had truly met Santa and it couldn’t have been me…adding that if he didn’t believe it, it is likely he wouldn’t get any presents on Christmas Day. That seemed to satisfy him but I will never know if he was really convinced.

Opening the new Y on Christmas Day: The new Walker Family YMCA branch opened in May 1994. As we approached Christmas that year, in discussion with the Board and staff team, we felt that for people living by themselves Christmas could be the loneliest day of the year. 

Together we decided that we would open the Y from 10-4 on Christmas Day for anyone in the community. My dear wife Barbara baked some traditional Christmas cakes and cookies. One of our board chairs hosted a reading of the Christmas story in the lobby. Board members and staff volunteered to host and provide supervision. 

More than 400 people attended that first Christmas in the new Y. It became a tradition…and the number grew each year up to 700. It became a tradition for one family…after they opened their presents the whole family came to the Y for a Christmas swim.

Christmas Dinner at the Y: The Downtown Branch at the Edmonton Y had 130-plus small rooms, initially to house young people when they came to the city to work. One of the residents became a successful businessman and restauranteur. To show his gratitude for the Y hosting him when he first came to the city, he offered to prepare and host a Christmas for the those living at the Y. This became an annual event.

When he passed away he left the Y a small endowment to continue the tradition. In my 12 years as CEO of the Y, I was privileged each year with 20-30 volunteers to host the dinner for the 80-100 plus people living at the Y: turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, vegetables and all the trimmings served on china dishes…and yes Santa appeared with presents for everyone. A former resident took the role of Santa for a number of years.

Christmas is a special time of the year in the community and at the Y. What are your memories?

Craig Altschul and Peggi Simmons from Craig Altschul + Associates -- your BRIDGES production team -- send Christmas greetings from Tucson, Arizona to our friends across the globe.

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BRIDGES is published with the support of YMCA Alumni of the USA. Editors: Len and Joyce Wilson. Mailing lists by Ken White. Production by Craig Altschul + Associates, Tucson, Arizona, USA