Transformative Generosity | Barrington Horse Country | Dig This | The Breakfast Club

Transformational Generosity

Pat and Vince Foglia of North Barrington have a history of philanthropy dating back to the late 1980s. That was when he finally was earning enough money to be philanthropic, Vince joked.

Story by Jeffrey Westhoff | Photo: Tao Zhang

As individuals and through their Foglia Family Foundation, the Foglias have supported many charities and organizations, but they are probably most linked to the YMCA of Metro Chicago. “I love their mission and their values,” Vince Foglia said.

The Foglia YMCA of Lake Zurich, which opened in May 2000, bears their family name. When Vince heard a YMCA was planned for Ela Township near their home in the North Barrington Wynstone subdivision, he got involved, donating and raising money. “We had a lot of young kids in the Wynstone area,” Vince said, and he figured a local Y would be a fine activity center for them. “They did all use it growing up,” he said. The Foglia Y serves part of the Barrington community.

More recently, the Foglias have been involved in rescuing another area YMCA. When the independent YMCA of McHenry County, located in Crystal Lake, was in danger of closing in 2011, Vince Foglia stepped in with an investment that kept the Y open and allowed it to join the YMCA of Metro Chicago. “I gave them [the YMCA of Metro Chicago] the money to buy the asset,” Vince said. “I donated it.” Soon after, the location was rechristened the Sage YMCA, taking its name from Sage Products, the Cary-based company that Foglia co-founded in 1971.

But keeping the Sage YMCA open was only the start.

The Foglias donated more of their own money and received pledges from community and business leaders to fund an ambitious, $18.2 million renovation that would more than double the size of the Sage YMCA, from 29,000 to 71,000 square feet. Additions include a new family aquatics center with an eight-lane competition pool and a preschool wing. Groundbreaking ceremonies for the renovation took place in August 2013, and work is set to finish in early December. The grand opening will be Dec. 18.

Robyn Ostrem, executive director of the Sage YMCA, said Vince Foglia would stop in at least once a week to check on the renovation’s progress. “He’s so excited when new spaces open,” she said.

Dick Malone, CEO of the YMCA of Metro Chicago, praised the Foglias for rescuing and revitalizing the Crystal Lake center. “When the McHenry YMCA was going through a challenging time, Vince Foglia recognized the need for the Y to remain as a community anchor,” Malone said in a statement. “He had a vision for what the Y could become. The Foglia family’s investment in the Sage YMCA is making what was already a great place even better for the community.”

Humble Roots

When Vince Foglia grew up on Chicago’s Northwest Side, there was no YMCA close to his home. He remembers taking a bus to play basketball at the former Sears YMCA, located near what was Sears Roebuck’s headquarters in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood. When Pat and Vince Foglia bought their first home in Des Plaines, they and their two children became members of the Lattof YMCA. Vince Foglia knew that Y’s namesake, Nick Lattof. “He was a very generous guy.”

Pat and Vince Foglia grew up on Chicago’s Northwest Side. She attended Cardinal Stritch High School, and he attended Austin High School. “I’m a product of the Chicago public school system,” he said. The couple met in Chicago after Vince returned from the Navy to attend the University of Illinois. He graduated in 1960. The Foglias have been married for 51 years. In addition to their two children, Kymberly and Vinnie, they have three grandchildren. “Not enough,” Pat said.

The Foglias were inspired to take up philanthropy from the examples of close friends “who are very charitable,” Pat Foglia said. In 1990, the Foglias donated a library to St. Ignatius College Prep in Chicago. The library is named for Vince’s parents, Gabriel and Rena Foglia.

“That was the first thing we did,” Vince Foglia said.

“That was the first big thing,” his wife added.

The Sage YMCA is the latest big thing. The original building was completed in 1966. Although a gymnasium and fitness center had been added in the meantime, Vince Foglia believed as early as the 1990s that the building needed a major overhaul. “The only reason we left the old one up and went around it is we didn’t want to lose the membership,” he said.

The early learning center, expansive lobby, and gathering area have been built onto the west side of the existing building. The competition pool, the building’s second pool, has been added to the north side, and a new fitness center to the south. Only one feature of the old Y, a racquetball court, has been removed. It was replaced by a laundry and a public restroom.

Other new amenities the Sage Y will feature when renovations are finished include a new family locker room, a new whirlpool and sauna, a hospitality room connected to the competition pool, an enhanced outdoor playground for the preschoolers, the latest equipment for the fitness center, Wi-Fi Internet access throughout the building, and a café in the gathering area. The café is already occupied by a Tropical Smoothie. “It’s good food!” Vince Foglia said enthusiastically.

Ostrem said she is pleased with – and relieved by – the Y members’ perseverance during the 15-month renovation. “We have tested every ounce of their patience, and they have been amazing,” she said. “They have really embraced the positive changes around here.”

The Crystal Lake Y had fewer than 1,000 members before it came under the Metro Chicago umbrella in 2011. Since the changes, membership has more than doubled and Ostrem expects a further jump in enrollment in the near future. “I think it will grow exponentially more when this project is completed and we can really showcase it to our community.”

That was something Vince Foglia had envisioned when he took an active role in designing the new Y. “I wanted a first-class facility that would draw people,” he said.

A flagship YMCA

Foglia believes the Sage YMCA will be a flagship center not just for the Chicago area, but the country. He and the project’s architect, Jeff Lietz of the Naperville-based Charles Vincent George Architects, visited three newer YMCAs in Atlanta for ideas.

The highlights of the new Sage Y are the early learning center and the competition pool. The early learning center now offers half-day preschool, and the Y has applied to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services for the license to offer full-day care. The preschool has three classrooms and an indoor play area in addition to the outdoor playground. The early learning center has a separate, secure entrance with a dedicated driveway for dropping off and picking up children.

The YMCA’s mission of child care is closest to the Foglias’ hearts. They believe a local YMCA is more than a place to swim and work out. “It’s about

child development, character development, and it’s great reinforcement for the kids,” Vince Foglia said. “Socialization is the biggest thing,” Pat Foglia said.

During his visits to the Y, Vince Foglia enjoys checking in on the preschoolers. Recently, he was moved when he heard a class of 3-year-olds recite the Pledge of Allegiance. “I loved it,” he said. “It was very heartening and moving.”

The 25-yard competition pool will allow spectators to view local and high school swim meets. The management hopes the pool will become home to the District 155 high school swim teams (none of the district’s four high schools – Cary-Grove, Crystal Lake South, Crystal Lake Central, and Prairie Ridge – has a pool). The Sage Y’s existing six-lane pool, where District 155 teams currently practice, will remain open and will be used for youth and senior classes and for open family swim.

The new pool also will be home to the Sage YMCA Piranhas Swim Team, which is open to competitors from ages 5 to 21. Ostrem said enrollment in swim classes has grown since Ed Richardson, who coached the Palatine High School girls swim team for 32 years, joined the program. The competition pool will have a raised seating area with bleachers that can accommodate 350 spectators.

The competition pool was donated by Sage Product’s other co-founder, Paul Hills, and his wife, Barbie. The couple lives in Barrington. A plaque by the pool entrance bears their names.

Vince Foglia said Sage Products’ involvement in the McHenry County YMCA dates back more than 30 years. “We’d been involved with the Y here since the company, Sage, moved here in 1980,” he said. That’s the year Sage, which manufactures health care products, moved to Cary from Elk Grove Village. The company relocated to Crystal Lake in 1991, then moved back to Cary in 2001. Through the years, Sage executives and employees participated in the annual Corporate Challenge to raise funds for the McHenry County Y. “We had a lot of participation, all kinds of events,” Vince said.

When Foglia was raising the initial investment needed for the current renovation, Sage workers joined in. “A lot of Sage employees anted up,” Pat Foglia said. “They were terrific.”

When Sage moved to McHenry County in 1980, it had 200 employees. Now it has more than 700. Vince Foglia, who remains the company’s chairman of the board, said that investing in the local YMCA was Sage’s way of repaying the community where the company prospered. “We’ve done so well in this community, I wanted to give back to this community,” Vince Foglia said. “And we did.”

“Absolutely,” Pat Foglia said. She added that the Sage name is a trusted one in McHenry County. “The people around this area, they know Sage. They know we’re stable. They know we’re not going anywhere.”

Members of the Sage Y appreciate the Foglias’ activism, Ostrem said. “Longtime members are grateful for the Foglias’ investment,” she said. “The people are very, very grateful for the enhancements that have been made.”

The initial investment from the Foglia family, the Association representing the Y, and from community and business leaders, covered 90 percent of the $18.2 million needed for the renovation. The Sage Y has conducted a capital campaign to raise the rest of the money. As of mid-October, the balance was down to $900,000, Ostrem said. “Your last million is the hardest to raise,” she said. When the newly renovated YMCA opens to the public, the drive will switch to a community campaign. “We’re hopeful we’re going to raise the money by the end of the year,” Ostrem said.

Raising funds requires the YMCA to overcome some misperceptions, Ostrem said. “Most people do not know the YMCA is a not-for-profit, and not just a ‘swim and gym.’”

Vince Foglia said he appreciates the YMCA’s mission for fitness and wellness, but he is greatly attracted to four values the YMCA professes. “They’re core values that everyone [at the YMCA] buys into: honesty, respect, responsibility, and caring about other people,” he said. “That’s the kind of stuff that gets me excited.”

A photo of the Foglias surrounded by children is featured in the Sage YMCA’s vestibule, just opposite the new welcome desk. Vince Foglia appreciates that his family and company name will be associated with the Y. “Now Sage has a legacy that will be there for a long time,” he said. “That’s what I wanted to make sure I left the community.”

Ostrem believes future generations of Y members will continue to acknowledge the Foglias’ legacy. “Their gift to this community and this Y is incredible,” she said. “Their gift will allow kids to grow up in a Y and for families to experience all the Y has to offer for many, many years to come.”

Sage YMCA is located at 701 Manor Road in Crystal Lake, Ill. Telephone: 815-459-4455. To contribute to the Sage YMCA Capital Campaign, contact Robyn Ostrem at rostrem@ymcachicago.org.

Jeffrey Westhoff is a regular contributor to Quintessential Barrington.