For nearly half of the year, YMCAs across the state closed their indoor facilities as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. That meant no more runs on the treadmills, pushing for an extra set of squats in the weight rooms, dropping off the kids for a quick workout in the middle of the day, or even catching up with friends in the lobby. But that didn’t stop the Y from serving our community.
And during those six months, staff at the YMCA of Northwest North Carolina found ways to serve the community during a pandemic. But they also looked at how Ys will pivot to find new and creative ways to serve members, families, and communities in the near future.
“Looking ahead, we know there is no such thing as going back to the way things were before COVID-19,” said Stan Law, President and CEO of the YMCA of Northwest North Carolina. “In a world of new normals, we’re going to have to adapt to make sure we’re still here to serve our members, their families, and the communities who rely on us the most.”
It’s no surprise that Ys would have to reinvent themselves, not only during the shutdowns, but that they would have to find ways to adapt to the new norms and practices taking place all around, when indoor gyms across North Carolina were able to reopen with some restrictions in early September.
Annual events held by the Ys have forced staff to think creatively to keep them afloat, because many of these events directly benefit the communities the Y serves.
For example, the annual Mistletoe Run on the first Saturday in December brings in tens of thousands of dollars each year to Y programs that address childhood obesity—such as summer camp, youth sports, and more. In 2019 alone, more than $71,000 was raised. The Mistletoe Run is a holiday tradition that has brought thousands of runners together from all over the Winston-Salem area and beyond, every year for nearly four decades.
And for the first time ever, the Y is hosting this race virtually. There are still the Fun Run (1 mile), 5K, and half-marathon options. But this year, runners will complete the race on their own time during the set race dates, which are Saturday, December 5th, until Sunday, December 13th, for the 37th Annual Mistletoe Run.
“Making the race virtual for 2020 made the most sense, seeing other races across the state and country going virtual this year,” said Joe Peele, a District Vice President at the YMCA of Northwest North Carolina. “Regardless of going virtual, there’s still a great opportunity for friends and families to train together before race day.”
Currently, Ys in the area are operating with different hours and limited member capacities, both to help ensure a safe return to the indoor fitness facilities and try to limit any further spread of the disease while maintaining the highest level of cleanliness.
During the temporary closure, the YMCA of Northwest North Carolina was able to provide nearly 67,000 free meals to families from March through August at the Winston Lake and Fulton Family YMCAs.
The YMCA offered Emergency Childcare to parents and guardians who worked in essential and front-line jobs. More than 140 youth were in this service early on in the pandemic.
And as families wondered what they would do for their students in a school year filled with the uncertainty of virtual classes and making sure their children were in a safe, nurturing setting during the workday, the Y again stepped up to provide E-Learning Academies. E-Learning Academies are still going on across the YMCA of Northwest North Carolina association.
Since March, virtual fitness classes have been available on the Y’s website and YouTube page. And to date, more than 200 virtual classes featuring instructors from the YMCA of Northwest North Carolina have been created and uploaded for anyone to enjoy in the comfort of their home—as individuals or together with family.
“Whatever the challenge or need has been this year, the amazing staff at our Ys have stepped up and gotten it done,” Law said. “In a year of challenges, firsts, and more unprecedented moments than I can think to recall, the Y still stands firm and ready in its commitment to serve.”