The mission of the YMCA of Greater Kalamazoo is to help communities learn, grow, and thrive through youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility. While its ability to provide indoor fitness is still limited, the organization has been able to adapt to provide for the needs of the greater community because of the support from its members and board.
During the government-mandated closure of the fitness facilities, YMCA members were asked to continue paying their dues to support the organization and the greater community. “Less than 10% of our members dropped that first month,” said CEO David Morgan. “It was amazing how many have stuck with us and made sure that their membership dues were going to a good cause. They’ve recognized the greater growth that their monthly membership dues could do to support the community.”
When the organization closed its doors in March, the team immediately got to work identifying gaps in the community they could help to fill. Based on the staffing capabilities and funds, the YMCA was able to organize food distribution, blood drives, virtual fitness programming, and childcare services. Partnering with Sherman Lake YMCA, the teams make and distribute about 1200 meals a day at local apartment complexes. The facility’s tennis courts were adapted to host frequent blood drives and about 70 fitness classes are offered through either zoom or outdoor programming.
To better support essential workers, childcare and camp programs were also developed to provide support for about 170 kids a day, both on-site and in local neighborhoods. In partnership with 1st Source Bank and the United Way of Battle Creek and Kalamazoo, the YMCA will host a free week-long virtual Healthy Kids Camp beginning August 24 “If we want to open the economy, people need to work,” said David. “And if they need to work, in many cases they also need childcare services.”
At the Kalamazoo locations, there are 300 part-time employees and 45 full-time employees that were asked to adapt or reinvent their work. “The employees understand the challenges that the Y and the community are facing and they’re very proud to be part of that work to support our community,” said David.
Without the support of members, community organizations, and especially its board the YMCA wouldn’t have been able to step up in the magnitude of ways it’s done.
“We have a wonderful board of directors that’s allowed us flexibility and freedom. Our board of directors committed to paying our staff because they wanted to make sure our staff was supported,” said David. “One of my board members, John Broschak actually attended a virtual staff meeting to share the board perspective. I thought it was really comforting for my staff to hear how supportive the board is of their work.”
Board member and Vice President of Generation Operations at Consumers Energy, John Broschak explained why the board was determined to continue to support the YMCA and its employees. “The Kalamazoo YMCA has always been more than just a place to exercise or swim – it is a vital support resource and network for Kalamazoo impacting many lives! When the dire impact of COVID-19 became clear, the Kalamazoo YMCA team did not close their doors – they quickly adapted and innovated to remain a relevant support resource. The Board encouraged the leadership team to lean in on this crisis and we were inspired and energized by their response during some of the most challenging periods of this pandemic.”
While the future of fitness facilities availability is still unknown, one thing is certain: Kalamazoo’s YMCA will remain true to its mission, no matter the circumstances.