Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Y Thai Eatery (and Betty) in the Daily Illini

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Hidden YMCA restaurant: “Thai It, You’ll Like It”

Hidden in a small room on the first floor of the University YMCA is a restaurant that thrives on personal interaction and affordable, traditional food. Though they may not be well known, the Y Eatery promises its customers: “Thai It, You’ll Like It.”

Photo on Flickr.
Although it has changed quite a bit since its start, the University YMCA has included a restaurant for many years. Originally, the eatery was located in the basement of the building and was called the K Rooms, according to Betty Earle, director of operations for the YMCA. Until about 1985, the K Rooms dished up three meals a day and served as a place for students to spend time together while getting a bite to eat.

“I know this is hard to believe, but there weren’t that many restaurants on campus, so this was a big
hangout place for students,” Earle said.

After the K Rooms closed, the YMCA decided not to continue running their own eatery, but instead to
lease the kitchen space already existing on the first floor to another restaurateur. From this, in 1985, the Y Eatery was born.

Today, Saensuk Mokaphan owns and runs the Y Eatery with his wife. The pair took over the business
together last year. The eatery’s Thai theme stays true to Mokaphan’s heritage, although he says that’s not the only reason they choose to serve Thai food.

“For Thai food, there are only two, three stores around here. We wanted to keep more choices for the
customers,” Mokaphan said.

Mokaphan explained that the Y Eatery focuses mostly on keeping their food healthy for customers. There are vegetarian options available every day, and the owners make sure there is no MSG in the food.

The eatery is also dedicated to serving students in multiple ways. Patrons get their money’s worth of food, paying small amounts for large portions, which works well with the college student’s budget. The owners also employ University students as part-time workers in the kitchen.

Students say that being situated just off the quad and right in the middle of campus makes the eatery a good place to grab a quick meal between classes.

Ben Murphy, graduate student in Library and Information Science, decided to give the Y Eatery a try this semester. He said that the restaurant’s proximity makes it a great place to go when he’s working at the library.

Although the Y Eatery may not be extremely well known on campus, it gets consistent business from
patrons of the YMCA and brings in new people and new awareness for the YMCA.

“We definitely like having it as part of the Y. It draws people into the Y, we always want more people
coming in. It also helps get our programs out into the student community, as well as the non-academic
community,” Earle said.

Being housed in the YMCA building provides an atmosphere that’s welcoming to students and non-
students alike, according to Earle. She believes that all the elements of the Y Eatery are good enough to keep people coming back.

“We still have students that, when they come back on campus, they want to come on Friday because they want to go back to the Y Eatery,” Earle said. “Its reputation is far and wide, and it’s got a good one.”

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sonia Reflects on the 29th International Dinner

by Sonia Hossain
Communications Intern
University YMCA

More photos available on Flickr.
This year I was honored to attend and be a part of the International Dinner at the University YMCA. Showing up at the event early, I noticed that even before it had started there was a long packed line of guests extending from the main lobby all the way to the back door.  

I could tell by the gathering of the crowd that community members were really eager to experience culture! There were people of all colors, ages, and backgrounds, such as children, students, professors, and elderly folks as well.

When the event had began, I made my way into Murphy Gallery and Lounge, which was surrounded by tables of various dishes of food that were brought in and made by students and different community members. 

The aroma of different spices and flavors filled the air as I walked in. Tables were divided by flags that were represented by the cultural origins by the countries of the food there. Individuals were excited as they prepared and served their foods to guests, not only educating them about the type of food they were receiving, but also about why this particular food was important to them and their country as well.

More photos on Flickr
I had the pleasure of experiencing some of these fine dishes and must say that having an international cuisine really gives you the best of the whole world in one plate! After getting my food, I made my way into Latzer Hall where I was greeted by a live local band playing and tables filled with guests eating and enjoying each others company. 

I thought it was great how this event not only gave community members the chance for multicultural experiences, but also helped them network and build connections with prominent leaders during dinner.

Along with the many international events that the University Y sponsors, I thought that the international dinner was prime example of what different organizations on campus and in society today should be celebrating. 

As a student of color, I believe it is crucial that people of all ages and backgrounds should be educated and enlightened by experiencing different cultures through food, music, dinner, and good company! 

In society today, there are so many false stereotypes that are being thrown around about members of different cultures. Instead of focusing on these negative presumed stereotypes, these events give individuals a chance to learn about the beauty of the world and also the many contributions that variety of cultures have brought to benefit not only the community, but the country as well! 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Building Update - We're Completing Phase II

More pictures available on Flickr.
One year ago, we celebrated the completion of the most extensive renovation to our building in its 75 year history.  In addition to a long desired elevator, we were able to replace the slate roof, renovate offices along the north side of the building and completely rebuild the bathrooms on the 2nd floor, thanks to the generous support from hundreds of Y friends.
But we didn't stop there.  Over the past year, we have moved forward with Phase II of our renovation plans, including:
  • Remodeling of the 3rd floor lounge and upgrading two of the dorm rooms;
  • Constructing new office space in the basement; and
  • A complete overhaul of the Student Program Office in our basement made possible with a generous lead gift from Dale and Arlene Robb.
See more 3rd Floor and SPO pictures on Flickr!

This past year we have also taken steps to help finance the maintenance and upkeep of the building by developing and implementing a plan to set aside 12.5% of our rental income to support three critical needs:
  • Operating & Maintenance Fund to pay for ongoing repairs;
  • Building Emergency Fund to cover significant, unexpected needs; and 
  • Capital Improvement Fund to help supplement future renovation projections.

Finally, using the Principles of Stewardship developed by our Building Committee and adopted by the Board of Governors, we are looking to the future with a major emphasis on sustainability.  Working with students enrolled in the University’s LINC (Learning In Community) program, we are exploring new initiatives that will provide a blueprint for future projects.  
Each semester University students work in teams to research and develop proposals that we can implement as resources become available.  Last semester students investigated installing a green roof and solar panels on our roof and making the space more usable.  This semester students are examining the use of our parking lot and implementing policies to encourage more sustainable modes of transportation.  
Future projects include renovating Latzer Hall and reducing water/energy consumption.
As always, none of this would be happening if not for our friends and supporters.  It is your generosity that makes this all possible and we greatly appreciate it!  

To donate to the building fund, please visit our Support Us page.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Huasteco Music comes to the Y

Over the weekend, WILL AM 580 was on the radio (as usual) and suddenly, I realized I was listening to the beginning of a short on huasteco music. I recognized it instantly, considering myself a bit of an enthusiast...

You see, on March 2nd the University YMCA hosted a huasteco performance -- rare in the Midwest although intensely popular in the La Huasteca region of Mexico. Alex and his Chicago trio, Los Condenados Huastecos, regaled the 150 people in attendance at the Caritas art opening and huasteco performance.

Los Condenados Huastecos perform at the University YMCA at the U of I as part of an art and culture event celebrating immigrant life and raising awareness about immigrant rights. More photos on Flickr.
Dr. Alejandro Lugo of the Department of Anthropology introduced the trio with great aplomb, emphasizing the formal aspects of the music and jokingly providing several translations for the word "condenados," which literally means "condemned" but also mischievous and reprobate. With laughter and applause, the music filled Latzer Hall, including a banter-filled song called "El Querreque." In between improvised fiddling and impossibly high falsetto vocal stylings, Carlos GarcĂ­a's poetic interventions held the audience completely captive.

Brave attempts at dancing, by stomping to the difficult huapango rhythm. Learn how to dance it on YouTube.
By the end of the evening, a large group of people were attempting to dance to the difficult duple and triple meters, largely failing, but having a wonderful time doing it. A small child climbed on stage to be serenaded by Juan Rivera and his virtuosic violin. (I hear the toddler was born to an ethnomusicologist... it only makes sense that he'd be drawn to this humorous and heartwrenching form of traditional Mexican music.)

Juan Rivera of Los Condenados Huastecos serenades a smiling toddler.

Review: Cosmo Coffee Hour - Palestine

by Eleanor Turek
Communications Intern
University YMCA

Photo by Eleanor Turek.
Cosmo Coffee Hour was much different than I thought it would be. I kind of expected a small group of people sitting around, drinking coffee and chatting about life for an hour or two. I could not have been more surprised when I attended the March 8th Cosmo Hour featuring a presentation and cultural learning experience on the topic of Palestine.

The campus group of Students for Justice of Palestine presented a short PowerPoint presentation along with vibrant music and delicious traditional Middle Eastern food. Shout out to Nyro's Gyros for providing the delectable meal to everyone.

The presentation consisted of a few photographs on the geography of Palestine but most importantly, it showcased the culture of the people of Palestine. Traditional apparel, dances, music, and food were all shown as part of the presentation.

The president of the SJOP said that they want to "raise awareness on the situation in Palestine and the conflict by occupation of Israel but emphasize the culture of Palestine."
Photo by Eleanor Turek.

Treasurer Jeremiah Prichard shared a personal story about his visit to the west bank and the cultural event he witnessed that was eventually shut down by the local authorities because it was thought to be anti-Israel. That experience drew some sort of inspiration for the event.

About 45 students and community members joined together to eat food, listen to music, and most importantly culture themselves about the State of Palestine. Davide, the president of Cosmo Coffee Club for three years was present as a semi-director of the event but the Students of Justice for Palestine led the Hour and captivated the attendees with their food, presentation, and most of all their activity.

After the picture presentation came to a stop, the music started up louder and we were all asked to join in on a workshop to learn a traditional Palestinian dance, the Dabkhe. Naturally, hesitation was present for the first few moments but after a while everyone was enjoying the traditional dance. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Spring Fund Drive: Consider a gift of $50

The University YMCA is kicked off its Spring Fund Drive on March 1st!

You can support the many student programs and work of the Y by making a pledge or donation during the entire month of March. Our goal for the Spring Drive is $85,000. With participation from our Board of Governors, Board of Trustees, Students, Staff, and Friends, we started with $42,000 already pledged and donated this year! Now, we've hit $65,000. So close!
You can pledge or donate online, and even use PayPal.
You can also become a member by mailing a check made payable to:
The University YMCA, 1001 S. Wright St. Champaign, IL 61820
Consider a Gift of $50...
$50 sponsors two student lunches at the Annual Volunteer Recognition luncheon!

provides 150 posters for the "Do I Look Like An American to You?" racial profiling awareness campaign.
$50 sponsors one incoming student to attend the overnight leadership retreat, Alternative Orientation.

$50 sponsors a screening of an award-winning international film as part of the Global Lens series.
$50 provides a Maria Somma scholarship to a student with financial need to go on an ASB trip.
Want to Kick it Up?
$100 sponsors a leadership workshop for YMCA student leaders and Bailey scholars. 

$250 provides live music for an International Student Reception.

$500 makes printing one issue of the Green Observer possible. 

$1,000 sponsors an exhibition in Murphy Gallery through Art @ the Y.

$3,000 allows the Y to bring visiting scholars as part of the Friday Forum series, such as Richard Arum, author of "Academically Adrift" in Fall 2011. 
$5,000 helps the Y hire several student workers to assist staff in daily tasks, which helps them get through college!