A Safe Haven for Everyone

When we build our YMCA Centres of Community, we consider how every detail might make the space more dynamic and community-oriented – but what we had never considered was how the spaces would be used during a global pandemic.

Like many businesses, the YMCA had to work hard to orchestrate a safe reopening of our centres that took into consideration evolving Public Health Orders, specialized safety measures for kids and youth, and members who were incredibly eager to return to routines that supported their social, physical, and mental wellbeing. As we learned from Shannon Gill, the Membership Experience Manager at the Tong Louie Family YMCA, “some of our members told us that they had been struggling with their mental health during the pandemic and that our centres reopening meant the world to them. They call the YMCA their safe haven”.

YMCA Members entering with masks on.

The reopening of our centres and ability for members to resume the classes and programs that bring them comfort isn’t the only way that the YMCA has been acting as a safe haven. When the 2021 Pacific North Western Heatwave hit Greater Vancouver in July, the Chilliwack YMCA, at that time very close to reopening to public, allowed staff and volunteers to bring their pets to the centres where there was air conditioning, so they could have a big space to keep cool and run around. Also during the heatwave, the Tong Louie Family YMCA welcomed a summer day camp program that was running at the park across from the centre, to use their air-conditioned gymnasium for their programs so that everyone could stay safe and cool.

The benefits of having dynamic centres didn’t end with members, pets and kids, the reopening and flexibility of spaces also made our membership staff teams stronger than ever. Our membership teams told us that when planning their reopen, there were endless opportunities to learn more about each other under these new circumstances, including each other’s different expertises and new skills that each staff brought to the planning. As Shannon told us, “the reopening brought our team closer together; everyone was so supportive of each other”. On behalf of the Y membership teams, we are so excited to welcome you back!