SANDPOINT — There’s something for all ages.
From activities aimed at the youngest members of the community to older adults, the YMCA has something for everyone, said Tammy Campbell and Heidi Bohall.
“I want to make sure the community knows everyone is welcome,” said Campbell, the facility’s current branch manager. “All people. So no matter your age, height, color, religion, income level, gender, it just doesn’t matter. Everyone is welcome in our Y.
“We want to make sure everyone, no matter where they live, knows you’re welcome at our Y,” adds Bohall, Director of Membership and Wellness. “We want everyone to have their place. And that’s really important to us.
Creating that sense of belonging – and the programs offered – comes through partnering with the community, with programs based on conversations with members, the community at large, and local businesses and supporters.
A Town Hall is scheduled for Feb. 22 at the Sandpoint High School auditorium to introduce the YMCA’s new CEO, Alan Lesher, and to gather community feedback on the programs people want to see at the facility. The meeting starts at 5:30 p.m.
“There really is something for everyone,” Campbell said.
“I think that’s something that sets us apart from other organizations that I really do,” adds Bohall.
While some facilities are very gym-centric, Campbell and Bohall said the Y is more of a community center that happens to be based in a fitness center. It is, they said, a safe space for everyone – from children looking for a place to do their homework with Wi-Fi to parents looking for a safe place with activities for their children. while they relax in the sauna or work.
The programs offered and how the YMCA fits into each community depends on the community and the conversations held, the two men said.
This conversation about what the community wants and needs is translated into the programs and options available for each specific community. As a result, the programs include all ages and all genders and all spectrums.
“And the other thing that makes us a little bit different, and I’ve always said that, is that we offer something for all ages,” Bohall said.
Although a parent can bring a child to their child care program on the same day, the YMCA also offers programs for children and teens and tweens and young adults and adults and seniors.
The Y focuses on three different areas: healthy living, youth development and social responsibility, Campbell said.
From very young to older adults, the Y has something for every member of the community, with programs tailored to this community, the branch executive of the Litehouse YMCA.
“We want to have programming for all of these age groups. And we want to help them become better members of society,” she said.
That’s why, Bohall and Campbell said you’re just as likely to see the YMCA participating in a food drive or a warm clothes drive – or like last year’s drive to match computers with students. locals in need.
This social responsibility component means that each YMCA works to ensure communities get what they need from their YMCA, Campbell said. If the YMCA is in a community with many active seniors, you might see more programs for active seniors. If the community has many children who need child care, you may find that the YMCA begins to try to focus on getting child care in the area.
“So we’re really looking at trying to find the gaps in our community and then building that bridge to try to make the community stronger,” Campbell added.
One example is a shortage of lifeguards due to suspension of American Red Cross certification.
“So there’s a huge shortage of lifeguards nationwide,” Campbell said. “Well, it really, you know, showed its ugly head here in Sandpoint, where we had both City Beach and the YMCA trying to find lifeguards.”
To try to address this shortage, YMCA officials will work with Sandpoint Parks and Recreation on a junior lifeguard program.
“So we want to catch these kids when they’re young and try to turn them into lifesavers,” Campbell said. “Now that’s not something we might even have considered doing until we saw the real need for it.”
Community needs are also driving the expansion of the Y’s swimming program, from swimming lessons to a swim team for youth ages 6-9.
“So we can not only educate and train our community through swim lessons, but also through the swim team,” Campbell said. “And with the swim team, you not only get a swimming lesson and learn how to swim, but you get camaraderie, you get discipline, you get to travel. So, it’s just that it’s a very good program. And again, it was just something we knew we needed. We haven’t been able to offer swimming lessons for a while, but we could offer a swimming team.
The diversity of programs is something that often surprises people, Bohall and Campbell said. That the primary goal of the Y is to fill the gaps through a variety of programs. What those programs look like — and, really, what those programs are — depends on the community.
“We want to keep creating programs because we don’t want to come in and train, you know, on a treadmill, that’s really not…yeah, that’s our building, that’s what our building does for us. But that’s not what our people do,” Campbell said. “That’s not what our staff do and that’s not why we’re here.
“We’re not here for people to come and run on a treadmill, just. Of course, this is only a small part of it. We have a much, much bigger picture than that. At some point we want to offer school-age child care programs, we want to be in schools offering after-school classes, you know, so we really want to be a lot bigger in the community than we currently are not. The only way to do that is to show up in front of community members and other businesses and let them know what we’re doing.
Now in its third year – the Litehouse YMCA opened on December 1, 2018, the facility has had its programming somewhat derailed by the pandemic. Although he has made great strides in getting his lineup back on track, it has been difficult at times. Staff and member safety is a priority and the facility is working hard to maintain healthy conditions for everyone.
In many ways, the couple said the Y is more of a community center that’s housed in a gymnasium than a gymnasium that offers an occasional community program.
Each YMCA is unique and the programs it offers are based on community needs and what community members want to see offered.
“So the needs here in Sandpoint might be different, obviously than the needs in Spokane and so just like [Tammy] saying, it’s not like a cookie cutter recipe,” Bohall said. “So each YMCA, regardless of the community the YMCA is in, essentially builds its programming to meet the needs of that community.”
If someone has an idea, like a leadership program for high school students, the YMCA will work with the community to try to make it happen. A YMCA elsewhere in the country may have offered a similar program that the Sandpoint facility can adapt or it could be something totally unique to the community. What it looks like, what it entails, really depends on the community, the couple said.
“So we’re open to these new ideas and we encourage people to contribute them,” Bohall said. “Because, I mean, we can’t always come up with all the ideas. Like, we really want people to bring us, you know, different topics and different things to see if that’s something we can implement.
But, Campbell said, the funds have to be there for that to happen. Although the YMCA is not just a gym, its membership base funds the majority of its bills and operations.
For new programs to be implemented, the Y must have the funds to make it happen. Otherwise, the establishment will have to charge more than they want for a program and that is the last thing they want.
It is important that the YMCA be accessible to anyone — and anyone — who wants to participate in its programs. The Membership for All program helps community members who want to join the Y and who otherwise could not afford it, Campbell and Bohall said.
The ability to pay should not prevent those who wish to join from preventing them from joining. The program helps with that, the couple said.
“We sincerely believe that having a YMCA in a community strengthens the community,” Campbell said. “Not just because we have programs, not just because we have a gym and we have a swimming pool, those are just facilities, anyone can run that type of facilities program. We believe that we do something a little deeper than that. We help your mind, body, and spirit. We truly want to create a place where everyone can learn, grow, and thrive.
Some of these funds come from staff, some from members, and some from community members who simply believe in what the YMCA is or who have been touched by the Y at some point in their lives. Other funds come from local businesses that want to make a difference.
This year, five companies stepped up their major giving – Schweitzer, Litehouse Foods, Miller’s Country Store, Finan McDonald and Farm Bureau Insurance.
“And so, as staff, and as our Y wanted to thank them more formally for really acknowledging all the things we do as Ys and all the things we hope to do as Ys for the Sandpoint community,” , Bohall said. “Because without those dollars, we can’t do anything that Tammy mentioned.”
Campbell said YMCA staff want these businesses — and really, anyone who’s donated to the organization — to know they’re grateful and grateful for their support, that their money is “absolutely making a difference.”
“They are making a direct difference in the community that they could see just by walking into our Y or attending one of the programs or watching one of the programs unfold,” she added.
The strength of the YMCA lies in its community, with every donation making a difference in the lives of everyone in the area. Whether individual donations, staff members or local businesses, each donation represents something greater.
Campbell and Bohall said they are grateful to the community, staff and his company for their support.
“[Their support] really makes our community stronger, and those dollars will make our community stronger,” Campbell said.