Monday, August 8, 2022

From the Magazine: Building Community

Peter Blum has a lifetime of civic involvement under his belt—including his beloved Y of Boca Raton

Peter Blum and his family came to Boca Raton from Peoria, Illinois, when it was still just this side of a sleepy resort town. It was 1962 and there was no IBM yet, FAU was still an idea and Lynn University was still the College of Boca Raton. But all that would change soon, and it’s fair to say Blum had a hand in many of those changes.

The Blums opened what was then a small furniture store in Boca, and, like many, began investing in real estate. (“If you move to Florida and don’t get into real estate, you’re a fool.”) Along the way, he began a lifelong involvement in the community that would change it forever.

Now 92, Blum says the business was successful from the start, and the family had a “wonderful life.”

That life included starting the Boosters Club at Boca High, being a Boca Raton Community Hospital trustee for 20 years (chairman of the board for nine), a seat with the FAU Foundation, work with the College of Boca Raton and much more. But the achievement of which he is most proud is the founding of Boca’s YMCA, first in a tiny downtown storefront and now commanding the sprawling campus of the Peter Blum Family YMCA of Boca Raton near Boca Del Mar.

Why the Y: “I grew up in Peoria, and when I was a little boy I lived at the Y—I played all the sports. They had a swimming pool, and I learned to swim. When I moved to Florida there was no YMCA in Boca Raton, and I said, ‘We ought to start a YMCA.’ People back then said Boca is a small town—there are no kids—what are you going to do with a YMCA? But I knew it was going to grow.”

How he got it off the ground: “Everything just happened—with a lot of hard work and a lot of money out of your pocket. I was a fundraiser who went out and picked peoples’ pockets to raise money for the Y. [Financial advisor] Bill French, [Boca pioneer and historical society advocate] David Ashe helped, [insurance magnate] Gene Lynn came along—he was a good friend, and he kicked in a good amount of money. We opened in 1972.”

On the importance of the Y: “Last year we had 10,000 members, and it’s not a YMCA anymore—it’s a Y—boys and girls. There are fitness programs for elderly people; we give swimming lessons to babies starting at 6 months old. The Y has probably saved 100,000 lives teaching young people how to swim. We just welcome everybody. It’s a safe place, it’s affordable, it’s a family center. It’s more than I ever thought.”

Why he did it: “It makes me feel good; it’s a lot more fun to give than to get. My father was a giving person. It’s just something that’s born in you.”

This story is from the January 2022 issue of Boca magazine. For more like this, click here to subscribe to the magazine.

Marie Speed
Marie Speed is group editor of all JES publications, including Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Worth Avenue, Mizner’s Dream and the annual publication for the Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce. She also oversees editorial operations of the company’s Salt Lake City magazines. Her community involvement has ranged from work with the Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce to a longtime board member position at Caridad Center. She is also on the George Snow Scholarship Fund review committee. She is a past officer of the Florida Magazine Association and a member of Class XVII of Leadership Florida. In her spare time, Marie enjoys South Florida’s natural world through hiking and kayaking, and she is an avid reader and an enthusiastic cook.

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