Health and wellness, swim programs and remote learning are open
WESTFIELD – As organizations across the country are struggling to survive the coronavirus pandemic, the YMCA of Greater Westfield is here to stay says its Chief Executive Officer Andrea Allard.
“We have been open to serve the community throughout COVID,” Allard said. “When everything shut down, we provided emergency childcare, then we opened our day camps, then we opened for health and wellness and we now offer remote learning space.”
Allard said while some organizations and businesses have not survived the pandemic, the YMCA — both locally and nationally – has adapted to changing guidelines and comfort levels
“We have been in Westfield for 132 years and we are not going anywhere,” Allard said.
Despite her positivity, Allard did say that membership is down and they cut the YMCA gymnastics program.
“It was a very difficult decision,” she said, “but we can’t do everything right now.”
The gymnastic equipment had been set up and taken down multiple times each week in the shared large gym, but the space was needed to keep fitness programs going.
Allard said to open up for members, they had to think differently about how space was being used. The large gym is now being used for group exercise classes and cardio equipment was moved into another gym.
“We reimagined the Y within our space. Everything is 14-feet apart, so according to guidelines that means people don’t need to wear a mask when they workout,” said Allard.
Although closing the longtime gymnastics program was a tough decision, Allard said it allowed them to loan gymnastics equipment to Westfield High School when it was seeking more equipment.
Allard said reopening for wellness was a priority.
“Our members wanted to come back,” she said. “The ‘Quarantine 15’ is real and people wanted to workout for their physical — and mental – health.”
Allard said exercise equipment is cleaned multiple times with each use.
“Members have to wipe everything down before they use it and again after they use it, then a staff member also wipes it down, so everything is cleaned three times with a single use,” Allard said.
In the large gyms, members have the option to workout without a mask because of the 14-foot distance between everyone, but in smaller rooms, such as the weight rooms, masks are required.
Allard said last week the swim program opened, offering swim lessons as well as the popular family swim.
“Families have to register for swim times and up to six family members can swim in one lane,” Allard said, adding that the YMCA swim team is also back.
Allard said the YMCA is such an integral part of Westfield that she wanted to be available however possible during the pandemic.
“When you shutdown the community, you kind of rip our heart out,” she said, which is why it was so important to the YMCA board and staff to offer emergency childcare for essential employees when they had to close its other programs.
Allard said nationally, YMCAs assisted with childcare as well as food programs. In Westfield, the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Westfield stepped up and joined forces with the Westfield Public Schools to serve meals, something Allard praised.
“The Club really did a great job with its food programs for young people,” she said. “And now, like us, they are offering remote learning. It’s a great partnership between us, parents, the school department and the Boys & Girls Club.”
At the YMCA, there is remote learning space for 50 students in grades kindergarten – 6.
“We have staff here to help them through their day,” Allard said. ‘We’re supporting their education and parents are really appreciative.”
Allard said that on a state level, YMCAs are collaborating, as always.
“We have pulled together to share ideas,” said Allard.
All YMCAs are facing the financial strains of COVID. Allard said memberships are down as people remain cautious about going to public places and the Westfield YMCA’s premiere fundraiser was canceled and its annual cycling fundraiser, typically hosted in November, was also canceled.
“The fundraising needs are still there, and we have to sharpen our pencils, but we are here to stay,” she said.