When the going gets tough, as the old adage goes, the tough get going. And few local organizations have taken that message to heart in recent months quite the Goochland YMCA.
From the first day the facility was forced by the ongoing threat of COVID-19 to close its doors to the public, the local branch leadership team quickly began mobilizing to find ways to serve the community in whatever way they could.
“I was important that we close” to help keep the community safe, said Goochland YMCA Executive Director Jan Kenney, “so what we have done is to continue to serve the community in a very different way. What has remained constant, however, is our mission.”
As Kenney explained, it quickly became apparent that there were plenty of needs to fill, from providing emergency childcare for essential workers to hosting a summer camp — Camp Hope — that is currently serving close to 1,000 children. Social distancing is maintained, Kenney explained, and children who might otherwise have to remain cooped up in the house all summer get to engage in healthy activities and spend time with their peers.
It wasn’t just children, of course, who needed support, and the Goochland Y team quickly realized that many of their senior members had suffered a true loss when the facility closed its doors. To help reduce the risk of social isolation, Kenney said, they reached out to every single member to offer support and encouragement, and to let them know they were missed.
Throughout the early days of the crisis, the team continued to feel its way along, looking for innovative ways to offer support through an ordeal no one had ever been through before. “That’s what I love about the Y,” said Kenney. “It’s not about the Y, it’s about the community. And we pivot to take care of the community and make sure their needs are met.”
That meant partnering with other community groups on a food drive that brought in over 1,800 pounds of food for local pantries. It meant organizing blood drives, free online activities for families to do together at home, and group exercise classes that could be done safely outdoors.
It was through those exercise classes, as well as the swimming pool “blocks” that families could reserve in order to get some time in the water, that Kenney was able to see — and hear — just what kind of impact a place like the Goochland YMCA can have.
“The people who are coming in will say ‘Thank you so much, thank you for being open — this has saved my life,’” Kenney said.
Kenney said that is also why the organization continues to fundraise and to provide financial assistance to anyone who might not otherwise be able to become a member.
Simply put, “Everybody deserves a chance,” Kenney said. “We want to ensure that everybody has that opportunity.”