The YMCA of Eastern Ontario is trying to maintain contact online with its members and the community.
The organization announced on Mar. 15 that its facilities in Brockville and Kingston would be closed until Apr. 6 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
CEO Rob Adams acknowledged on Wednesday that it’s not realistic to expect that the YMCA will reopen at the end of the three-week period.
In these times of social distancing and self-isolation, the Y is making use of social media to stay in touch and interact with local residents. Short home workout YouTube videos by local trainers are posted on the YMCA of Eastern Ontario Facebook page weekdays at 1 p.m.
“Grab two cans of soup – anything that has some weight to it,” Tracy Vallier, team lead of adult health and fitness at the Y in Kingston, says in one video to viewers who don’t have dumbbells or weights in their home.
Adams said it is important to make use of the local expertise, and for the community to see “familiar faces” during these difficult times.
There is also a daily activity suggestion posted at 9 a.m. Wednesday’s link was Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems of the Kennedy Center; learners are invited to to draw, doodle and explore new ways of writing.
“YThrive” fitness videos of 20 to 30 minutes by trainers from across the country go on at 7 p.m.
“We wanted to make sure that we stayed connected… showing people that we still care,” said Adams. “We still want to serve the community.”
In addition to having about 8,000 members in the Brockville and Kingston areas, the local Y also has another 2,000 youngsters in licensed child care. There is an app that enables the organization to stay connected with its child-care clients throughout the day.
The YMCA has suspended membership fee collection; accounts have been frozen. The organization will look at crediting accounts for a portion of March after the facilities reopen.
Adams said he has been overwhelmed and humbled by the feedback he has received from members who were willing to have the charges continue or who offered to “take that credit and don’t worry about it.”
While taking a huge revenue hit like many other businesses these days, the Y is also seeing a drastic reduction in expenses. The CEO indicated that laying off the staff in response to the outbreak earlier this month was one of the most difficult things he’s had to do in his Y career.
A small team of staff remains in place to maintain facilities. YMCA of Eastern Ontario would have about 300 full- and part-time workers during peak operations, which Adams said some people might find surprising.
In addition to acknowledging the generosity of YMCA members, Adams is also impressed by the caring that is being shown by some of the displaced staff who are volunteering at local food banks in place of regular helpers who are vulnerable or at risk during the coronavirus outbreak.
Staffers have also been delivering groceries to members.
“We still want to serve the community,” the CEO declared.
As for how an extended closure could affect the viability of the local YMCA, Adams is hoping that the charity is given consideration by all three levels of government in whatever business support programs are made available “to make sure that we come back strong.”
The Y has no plans to close permanently, the CEO stated.
“We will all get through this.”
One thing that is likely to be in place when the Brockville YMCA on Park Street reopens is the renovated men’s change room. Much of the work had already been completed or was nearing completion when the closure went into effect. All the tiling and ceiling work is done; the fixtures and countertops are also in, according to Adams. They’re now waiting for lockers and shower partitions, which could be delayed by delivery and border issues.
“For the most part, it’s going to be ready to go,” the CEO said. The project is funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation.