You know that moment when someone just puts it out there for you. That happened to me a few weeks back.
Joanne, a fellow YMCA Child Care team member stopped by to see me and made me an offer I could not refuse. She asked, “I wanted to know if you wanted to join me and some other staff on Mondays. We are going to help each other with our weight.”
BAM! There it was right in front of me. The fact that I have 70+ pounds to lose, was not the “news”. It was that the offer was made– and it was one I really did not want to refuse. I often worry about taking care of others and don’t prioritize my own care… it was time to be part of a smaller community of support which I needed.
Fast forward to today. During the past few weeks there has been check in calls, new friends made in Aqua Zumba, accountability, a new found appreciation for each other and support! Joanne has been the key relationship builder in this process- even asking members to join our special network. One night after class, Joanne introduced herself to member Debbie and now Debbie gets a call from Joanne.
I absolutely believe in a community of support and know the YMCA is the best community in which to give AND receive it. I wouldn’t work for the Y and ask people join this community if I didn’t believe. I just have to remember or be reminded (Thanks, Joanne!) that the same great programs, services, staff and culture are here for me, too.
A few weeks ago a new member casually asked me about when she could use the pool. After introducing myself and answering her question, she continued to asked several questions about the Y. I knew at that point that an orientation tour would be helpful. On that tour, I introduced her to 3 other staff and 1 member who was getting ready to get in the pool with the Live Strong group. We spent 15 minutes together and I could tell that she felt more comfortable.
When I saw this member entering the locker room a week later, I said, “Hi, Mary Beth.” and she replied, “Wow- you remember my name?”
“That’s impressive,” she added. I felt good that she felt good and special.
Now when we see each other, we talk and every time Mary Beth makes a point to call me by name. (Even when I am heading out the door without my name tag on.) By calling me by name I know that she’s taken the time to remember me.
This weekend at our monthly staff meeting I am offering a challenge to my Welcome center & Amazing Kids/Child Watch staff. I am going be watching and listening more than ever and….measuring their name usage!
Y staff are good at connecting and using names, but I want to share their specfic successes. I am going to encourage them to work on the art of using and retaining names. Dale Carnegie wrote that using someone’s name is the sweetest sound someone can hear. Hopefully the staff will realize that by providing that sweet sound, our members will know we care and in the process, they will make new friends!
Today while at a local restaurant, Lauren, a welcome center representative, held the door for a woman in a wheelchair. The woman saw Lauren’s Y shirt and struck up a conversation with her.
The woman asked, “Do you really have a wheelchair ramp in your pool?” Lauren answered, “Yes!” and proceeded to tell her more about the Y. Lauren shared details about membership and the facility. Lauren invited her to try out the Y.
Lauren has been “Living the Cause” with Indian Valley for more than six years- in Child Care, the Adult Literacy program, Amazing Kids/Child Watch and now the Welcome center. Lauren is someone who “wears her heart on her sleeve” in a great way. YMCA members can see and feel her love all of the time and today by wearing her heart on her sleeve and her Y shirt, she was able to share the story of the Y with a new friend.
“Tuesdays with Morrie”, a well known book taught many people to cherish the simple things in life and how important a relationship can be. A new book could be written by the Indian Valley Family YMCA staff about their experiences with a special family. “Fridays with the Woottens” would chronicle the amazing relationships built almost every Friday night for almost 2 years.
Back in 2010 when the Wootten Family joined the Y, they immediatley became connected to branch staff, especially the Amazing Kids and Child Watch staff. Mary and Nathaniel utilized care when in the Y, but seized the opportunity to attend the Friday Kids Night Out program. More than 25 Friday nights, the staff and the Wootten kids played, laughed, learned, crafted and bonded. Even welcome center and wellness staff knew the family!
During the past year, they had treated our the Amazing Kids and Child Watch staff team with a catered lunch– really just their way of saying thank you . The Woottens attended and spoke at our Annual Dinner to tell their story… to say how much the Y meant to their family.
It’s Friday night and there are 9 kids in the Kids Night Out program…none of the Woottens because the family has moved to another state. When word was out that they were moving, branch staff expressed sadness and immediately expressed the desire to throw the kids a little party on their last night. On that last night, a cake was presented, photos were taken, photos of the kids here at the Y were given as momentos and many hugs were shared.
While the Woottens may have moved onto another Y family, their impact was far reaching and lasting. The YMCA staff family learned from the simple pleasure of caring for the Wootten children each and every Friday night. Our staff saw the kids grow, ran with them in the fields and shared lots of laughter. What we have learned from this family is how families like the Woottens are to the health of our Y family.
The staff at the Y are wonderful! The thing I like best is that everyone is always quick to smile and say hello. It really makes me feel at home. I love that they all seem to know my kids and I. I’ve had many wonderful experiences with the Y staff. Some that stand out are: when it was pouring rain my son was in an infant carrier and I had my 3-year-old with me, and one of the staff offered to help me out to the car with my kids. Another time, Deb searched high and low for my daughter’s doll’s shoe even after we left and found it. The most special relationship I have though began to develop when my son was an infant. Terri in child watch was the only one that seemed to be able to soothe him. At the time we didn’t realize all of his cries were due to a painful infection. We just thought we had a fussy baby. I was at my wit’s end at home and to be given some “me time” at the Y was a saving grace. Terris continues to be my son’s favorite. Also during this rough patch, Michelle rocked him in his stroller for an hour to keep him sleeping while I took my daughter to swim lessons.
I’m taking you back…. to Thanksgiving 2006. 1 year of college under my belt and actively shopping at Aldi (along with other places created for college students). 2006 was the last time I made it home for Thanksgiving.
Fast forward to present day: In my 2 years as a Y professional, I have learned so much. This past year, I became a part of the Trendsetter movement where we talk about building relationships, sharing stories and establishing life long bonds. These are things that I try to make happen in my work as well. The conversations that I have with so many parents praise the level of growth their child will have during the 2 weeks of summer camp. For whatever reason, it seems much easier to be optimistic with parents than my own family. As far as applying these necessary skills to my personal life, I’ll admit, I struggle.
Back up to summer 2011: my youngest brother (Hazard) flew from Saint Louis to be a camper at Jewell for 6 weeks. My mom had some issues with his unenthusiastic efforts in school and thought he could use a bit of perspective. Hazard’s grades were not reflecting his abilities and he caused distraction with a constant flow of “witty” comments. In the weeks leading up to camp I began to dread his arrival. 2011 was my first year as an Assistant Camp Director and I’ll be honest; I did not want his antics to reflect poorly upon me.
Upon Hazard’s arrival I began to realize the great kid he had grown into. He is smart, considerate, and even has a hint of my sarcastic humor. As it turns out that I did not really know him at all. This past summer he participated in our LIT program, the Jedi program and a session of Ranch camp. Younger campers looked up to him and he set a great example. In those 6 weeks I learned more from him than I would have ever imagined.
My time with Hazard made me realize that I had not been practicing what I’d been preaching. I was so eager to give complete
strangers, my campers at Jewell, the benefit of the doubt and yet I dreaded spending time with my own brother because of preconceived notions. The Y provides loads of opportunities for families to grow closer together yet this has not been on the front burner for me. My pre New Years Resolution is to remember to apply what I learned to everyone.
So after years of missing Thanksgiving for various reasons, I finally made it back to St. Louis. Sharing stories and building relationships applies to Hazard too!!!
Assistant Camp Director
YMCA of Greater Hartford
Throughout high school and college, I attended the annual, 5 mile Manchester Road Race every Thanksgiving morning. As a student, I would go to the race with my friends, and then return home to eat myself into a turkey induced hibernation. I stopped running when I married and had children, but returned to my sport, about seven years ago. Once I had regained my stamina, I also returned to the Manchester Road Race…the best way to kick off my favorite holiday. There was a problem however, I went to the race alone. I love my husband and kids, but they are not runners. My husband likes to tell people that if they ever see him running, they should get out-of-the-way, because there is something chasing him!
I didn’t like going to the race alone, but I had no choice. It’s a terrible feeling to be in the middle of 25,000 people and feel lonely. None of my friends were runners, and it’s hard to get anyone to come out and watch you in the cold, sad weather of deep November. I didn’t want to go by myself again. Well, thanks to the Y, I didn’t have to.
I’ve been working at the Y for just over a year, and in that short time, we have created a running club that meets twice a week. It’s been such a pleasure watching a new community form: newbie, veterans, seniors, teenagers, moms, dads… We even had a race of our own: The First Annual Indian Valley Spooktacular 5K! For many, this was their first competitive race, and everyone leftlooking forward to next year.
As the leaves began to fall, the standard question started to circle through our running community: “Are you running Manchester this year?” It was a challenge, but the memories of all the fun we have had through the summer, pushed several of us to plan a car pool and order matching shirts for the big race.
I woke up bright and early this past Thanksgiving morning. Dressed in my stylish, new Indian Valley Family YMCA Running Club t-shirt, I warmed up the trusty mini-van and waited in the driveway for my Y family to arrive. And they did…first one car, then another. Thanks to my Y, I didn’t go it alone this year, I ran with my family!
Robin, Alit, Dave and Heather at the 75th Annual Thanksgiving Day Manchester Road Race, 2011.