Lake County YMCA staff often hear from members how the Y is like a second family.
This is something that Kelly Penzenik, executive director of the West End YMCA in Willoughby and director of marketing and communications for the organization, has taken note of.
“Not just the other members, but they see the staff as part of their YMCA family and how they’re impacting their lives, whether it’s through conversations or through the program they’re teaching,” Penzenik said. “There are so many aspects of the staff here that just make it different.”
For the past few weeks, the Y has been hosting holiday get-togethers and socials for those who want to come, spend time with others, and talk about what they’re doing for the holidays.
“We had a group of volunteers and staff put together a Thanksgiving dinner at the West End Y,” Penzenik said. “That was freely available to anyone in the community. We had our 5K Turkey Day here (Central in Painesville) with over 1400 runners.”
Located at 933 Mentor Ave., the Central YMCA is undergoing renovations to create a more welcoming environment, something you might not see in all places, Penzenik said.
“Here they welcome you with a smile and with your first name,” he said. “How many other gyms can you go to and they know you by name?”
Also, what makes the Y different is that it never turns anyone away for not being able to pay, Penzenik said.
“Everybody, regardless of who they are, what they do, is welcome here,” he said. “There is room for them, and ultimately every employee here works here because they understand that the people who come here are looking to write a better story.”
Whether it’s youth in Y’s programs learning to swim or becoming leaders, as well as adults seeking social interactions, all members are trying to write better stories for themselves, Penzenik said.
“Every staff member here wants to help drive those goals and they understand why members are here and help them achieve what they seek to do,” he said.
When people walk into the Y, those they see walking the aisles can be amazing, Penzenik said.
“You’re surprised,” he said. “In the West End, you have older people playing basketball with young people coming from school or teaching them tricks from the ’80s and ’90s. You see this multi-generational intertwining and it’s great to see that. It is a place for families. What gym is a place for families?
Since drowning is one of the leading causes of death for children under the age of 12, the Y partners with school districts to offer a program called Water Safety where second graders can come to the Y at no cost to learn about security. abilities.
Another popular activity for seniors at the Y is pickleball.
The Y continues to develop classes for people with arthritis primarily through aquatic classes because it is low-impact and is building programs around members’ health needs, Penzenik said.
“We are concentrating on programs that will help them stay active, but without perpetuating a medical condition,” he said. “For busy moms and dads, you can bring your kids to swim lessons and have time to yourself, but we also have mini programs including small group training classes, interval cardio classes, and cardio interval classes. high intensity where you can go in and out. 30 minutes.
“We also have personal training if you’re really trying to focus on something. What we’re really seeing on the rise right now is yoga and that spans generations as well.”
Regarding membership, this year has been fun to watch, Penzenik said. From membership to programs to kids at camp, the Y serves 25,000 to 30,000 people a year.
“We are not back to where we were in March 2020, however, we will get there,” he said. “We are creating our goals right now on how to get there for next year. We had just opened our Willoughby location in September 2019. We had a lot of momentum there and lost it a bit. The Lake County YMCA has been in existence for over 150 years. We don’t plan on going anywhere, so we have a great group of people who are fighting to get our people back as well as keep us fiscally responsible so we’ll be here for another 200 years.”
People keep coming back to the Y not just because it’s a safe space, but because of the personal relationships that are created there, Penzenik said.
“The Y is Disney World for Lake County or any community,” he said. “It’s the people, the programs, our staff, the listening ear and the team. We’re always trying to make sure we stay on top of the latest equipment and invest to make sure our people have what they need to stay healthy, whether it’s from a mental or athletic perspective.”