With more than 1,800 members using its facilities daily, the Harris Y is a major south Charlotte fitness hub. But its members also rely on the Y for child care, kids’ sports leagues and activities such as dance and gymnastics, and more. With coronavirus restrictions in place, the YMCA of Greater Charlotte recently pivoted to online fitness classes. We asked Kelly Rogers, executive director of the Harris and Harris Express branches, about other ways the Y is adapting and serving its members during this time, including launching a homework helpline that will be open to members and nonmembers.
Comments were edited for brevity.
Are any on-site services currently available?
Currently, we are offering free emergency child care services for essential Atrium Health and Novant Health employees. We have the capacity to serve 100 children, ages 5-12, every day in this program. Extra precautions are being taken, including health screenings in partnership with public health nurses, limited adult access and low staff-to-child ratios to allow for required distancing.
The Y is partnering with CMS to provide breakfast and lunch for participants through CMS Child Nutrition Services. The children are experiencing a fun camp-like day that includes dedicated time to virtual/home learning provided by their schools. This program is currently taking place at nine YMCA branches in Greater Charlotte, including Harris.
How has the response been to the virtual classes? Are any of your regular instructors available to teach online?
The response has been great! Our YOGC (YMCA of Greater Charlotte) app has daily virtual classes with some of our local instructors. YMCA 360 gives access to on-demand classes with national Y instructors. Members also have access to a 60-day free trial with MOSSA, an international leader in group exercise and fitness, which offers on-demand classes in a variety of formats. Members have access to training on demand, which delivers a class in your inbox every day.
Our current personal trainers are still connecting with clients and training them through virtual workouts. Our personal trainers are ready to keep people healthy during this time. We are also engaging our members through our social media channels, as well —providing devotionals, workout tips, family activities and much more.
In what other ways is the YMCA continuing to serve its members?
This week, the YMCA of Greater Charlotte launched our virtual preschool program, which is allowing preschool teachers to connect with their students on a regular basis. Our parents as teachers program, which works with under-resourced families in Mecklenburg County, continues to run with virtual visits between our educators and their families. Our YOGC website has a family activities area that provides links to academic resources, activities like crafts and story time, tips for teens to beat boredom, a virtual spring break travel experience, and sports training that you can do at home.
We are reaching out to members and families in our community support programs to ensure they have what they need during this time. We are working with Charlotte Rescue Mission to provide support and meals at Camp Thunderbird for men, women and children in CRM’s recovery programs. With recent school closures, families are adjusting to a new normal. It can be overwhelming to contemplate what to do with all this new-found time. To help, we’ve compiled educational and fun resources for parents and children. You can access those resources on the website. We are also launching a homework helpline this week, which will be open to anyone, not just Y members.
How is the Y utilizing membership fees during this downtime?
We sincerely appreciate our members who are sticking with us during this difficult time. Membership fees are being used to support our staffing needs and to keep our facilities running at a minimum to make sure they are ready for members when we’re set to reopen. The facility support includes nine of our locations, which are currently participating in the emergency childcare program. Starting this month, we are automatically converting membership fees to tax-deductible charitable contributions for the remainder of the time we’re closed.
How is your staff
Our staff team members are holding up as well as can be expected. We have 655 team members at Harris and Harris Express. Only a few are able to work as we continue providing much-needed services to our members and our community. Our team is a family. We are caring and supporting one another like all families are trying to do in these difficult days. We miss each other. We miss our Y members. We miss our Y kids. The Y brings people together and, simply put, we miss being together because it’s who we are. Our team members are resilient, talented, compassionate servant leaders who are anxious to get back to serving our members and community when it safe to do so. We need our members to stay with us, if they can, so that we can be stronger and better than ever when we reopen.
YMCA of Greater Charlotte has launched an emergency staff relief fund to support its furloughed workers. The fund is designed to help furloughed workers with access to financial resources to support immediate and essential needs, primarily housing, medical expenses and transportation. It launched in March with more than $600,000 in donations from donors, senior Y leaders and board members. For more information, go to ymcacharlotte.org/mission/join-the-mission/make-a-financial-gift.