The YMCA of Okanagan was established nearly 40 years ago as a cause-driven charity with a mission to build healthy individuals and communities. The organization provides a wide range of programs and services for all ages, abilities and backgrounds, and all stages of life. This week, we (virtually) sat down with the team at the YMCA of Okanagan to learn more about how they're inviting guests back to their centres, and what's on the horizon.
How has the YMCA of Okanagan approached the recent pandemic, and how are you welcoming guests back?
We are lucky to be able to continue making a positive impact on our community throughout this pandemic. Like most organizations, we had to close our doors for a period of time, but our teams were quick to adapt our programs, delivering them virtually to ensure those who depend on our services could access them. We provided child care to essential service workers and offered free online resources focused on personal development, and mental and physical health, such as virtual fitness classes, youth employment and mental wellness services. We were also able to provide food hampers and lunch-and-learn kits for our young parents and some of our most at-risk families isolated at home.
Since reopening our centres in June, we have made the safety of our staff, members and participants our number one priority and have welcomed back many of our members — though there is still room for more. It is incredible to hear how happy our members are to be back. As a community hub, there are many who rely on us for social connections, rehabilitation, routines and their overall physical and mental health.
What is something our readers might be surprised to know about the YMCA of Okanagan?
We’re so much more than a gym and swim – Last year, our YMCA distributed over $1 Million, providing financial assistance to those in need and funding vital programs that would not run without donor support. Not everyone knows this, but 100% of funds donated to the Y go to those in need, and as a charity any revenue we earn goes back into building a healthier community. You can feel good about being a part of the Y — whether as a donor, volunteer, member or participant. And our programs and services encompass much more than fitness; they help young parents graduate from high school, aging adults prevent and manage chronic disease, and young people not only prepare to enter the workforce but also support their mental wellness.
What is the team at the YMCA looking forward to/planning for the future?
I think we are all looking forward to putting this pandemic behind us and returning to a bustling, social and connected community once again. We also cannot wait to welcome back more of our valued members and program participants, many of whom call the YMCA their second home. In the near future, we will be working on enhancing our virtual service options for our Y community members, and we look forward to opening two new child care sites located on Dilworth Mountain and in Lake Country, in partnership with Central Okanagan Public Schools, that will serve nearly 200 more families needing care for their children while they work hard to keep our economy stable.