When I became a member of the Newburyport YWCA in 1986, I had no idea what an important role this organization would play in my life over the next 35 years. In the beginning, it was a place for me to swim laps in the pool every day at 5:45 AM so that I could get a bit of exercise and clear my head before going off to work. That goal was certainly met, and the habit continues to this day. But, as the decades presented inevitable challenges, I found that the YW had so much more to offer than just a pre-dawn swim lane. The YWCA evolved with the times, and continues to be a constant source of support to me, to its other members, and to the greater Newburyport community.
When the “new pool” was constructed in 2008, the YW was rejuvenated in a number of ways with wonderful staff and outstanding management. Not only did I continue with my daily pre-dawn swim, but I became a consistent participant in a variety of fitness classes. I attended inspiring MLK breakfasts and Engaging Communities Luncheons. The YWCA made me more aware of local social issues such as affordable housing and homelessness, the need for cancer support, gender and racial equality, and child care needs. And above all, I made lifelong friends at the YWCA — one-stop shopping!
Then came COVID! At best, it has been an uncertain and stressful time for everyone. I am definitely not a fitness freak, but, like many people, daily exercise is important to my physical and mental well-being. When the bottom dropped out of the world we all took for granted, the folks at the YW stayed in constant communication with supportive updates. It wasn’t long before they were holding remote Zoom fitness classes that we could share with friends virtually, and feel engaged. Through remarkable lobbying at the Nbpt Parks Dept, and dedicated instructors, a hardy group of us were able to continue our HiiT sessions in the safety of well-distanced, masked, outdoor classes in scenic Atkinson Common. ( Some of the autumn days were breathtakingly glorious; some of the snowy days were insane… but all have been mood-boosting) . The Aquatics Center reopened with very strict rules, and I dove right in because I couldn’t have felt safer. I began using the Fitness Center as well, which was re-organized to ensure 14’ distancing with only two people allowed in the room at one time. As with the pool deck, a staff member comes in and disinfects the workout area in between time slots.
Throughout this crazy time, the staff, lifeguards, and fitness instructors have been amazing. I don’t really know how they have greeted us daily with patient smiles on their faces, making us feel like family when the situation cannot be more difficult.
What this past year has shown me about the YWCA is that it isn’t about swimming laps, lifting weights, or doing jumping jacks. It is about staying healthy in all the different ways— maintaining good habits and personal relationships, taking care of one another, and sharing smiles behind our masks. The YWCA has kept us grounded while the world changes around us. Thank you, all of you.