AUSTIN, Texas — March 25, 2020 — If the recent experience at the YMCA of Austin is any indication, shelter-in-place mandates and social distancing practices are no match for the human drive to form communities. Across metropolitan Austin, new YMCA virtual communities are springing up after the recent call by local, county and state authorities to close facilities and limit gatherings to under 10 people.
Popular Y exercise instructors are leading Facebook Live classes for groups of 100 or more at a time. Y Youth leaders are conducting virtual storytimes, sports clinics and crafting activities for families. Senior groups are organizing “socials” using free teleconferencing services, while Y staff members are calling those older adults who are shut in and isolated just to talk and ensure their wellbeing.
Meanwhile, Y members are streaming literally thousands of pre-recorded exercise classes in an effort to keep active and relieve the stress and anxiety that comes from an unprecedented situation like that posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Y is a relationship organization bringing people together – large numbers, from all backgrounds and circumstances creating personal connections,” said James Finck, YMCA of Austin President & CEO. “That doesn’t stop just because we have to close our doors. We’ll mobilize every resource we have to connect with people any way we can.”
A quick sampling of virtual offerings includes:
Yoga classes hosted by Y instructor Scott Roskilly
Senior exercise class hosted by Renee Deeter
Easter Chalk Bunny art activity hosted by Mayra Arredondo
Storytime with Suzi Ziegenbein (reading to her donkeys!)
Kids’ DIY fitness game led by Matt Dove
Finck emphasizes that, as a volunteer-led nonprofit, the Y exists to serve all members of the community, and he invites anyone looking to maintain their health or connect with others to participate. The YMCA of Austin home page, www.AustinYMCA.org, has been reconfigured to serve as a one-stop resource with streaming exercise classes, information and classes tailored for seniors, activities for kids and families, kids’ educational resources, spiritual & emotional support, nutrition resources and tips, links to community information as well as ways people can volunteer and give back.
Back in the physical realm, the Extend-A-Care YMCA has teamed with local healthcare providers to offer child-care for healthcare workers at the Southwest Family YMCA. Y staffers are offering the service daily from 7am to 7pm. The service will continue even as citywide restrictions are tightened.
Throughout its history, from the Civil War to both World Wars to our current crisis, the Y has adapted to provide vital community services. Additionally, like so many other organizations, Finck says the Y’s resources are being stretched their limit, and donations are greatly needed.
“The virtual experience is part of what the Y has always done,” Finck said. “We’ve stepped up in hard times and continued to serve. We’ve been here for more than 60 years, and we need to make sure we’re here to serve those who need us most in the years to come.”
The YMCA is a nonprofit organization that has served the Austin community since 1953, providing health and wellness, aquatics, youth sports, day camp, childcare, youth leadership and family enrichment opportunities for more than 100,000 members and 30,000 program participants annually. More information on the YMCA of Austin is available atwww.austinymca.org.