In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity. (Albert Einstein)
During this first two and a half months of the Coronavirus pandemic, we have come together as an Alliance of YMCAs like no other time in our history. Never have we experienced a time like this with so much uncertainty.
In response, our YMCAs have banded together to talk and learn from each other more than ever before – to share ideas, ask questions, find answers, and support each other as we face tough decisions. The benefits of the more than 68 Alliance calls – about closing and opening, human resources, feeding programs, child care, residential camp, healthy living programming, finance – have been immeasurable.
Our marketing communications staff from across the state have met twice weekly for more than two months now, and as a result, have produced our first statewide video, staff and member messaging, statewide Giving Tuesday campaign, 2nd Annual Water Safety Month campaign, Welcome Back materials and messaging, and a statewide community benefit infographic. More of this support for our Ys will be coming as we walk this journey together.
As your state Alliance staff team has convened all of these calls, we’ve asked questions, listened to the answers (and more questions!), and we’ve found or created resources to help us solve some of our greatest challenges.
During this time, I have served on two Governor’s Work Groups: one on Education and Nutrition, and one on Large Venue Reopening Guidelines. Between what I heard on these calls and one-on-one communication with DHHS staff, we produced preliminary reopening guidelines, and provided guidance to our childcare and feeding programs. We created a crisis plan template for how to manage an active COVID-19 case in your YMCAs. Nearly daily, we have posted tools and resources on the Alliance website that we have shared in daily emails to CEOs and key staff.
We have coordinated advocacy for the federal CARES Act, which, unfortunately, didn’t provide relief to our largest YMCAs due to interpretation of the 500-employee cap for the Paycheck Protection Program. We have written letters and called our House and Senate congressional leaders, and encouraged participation from you and your volunteers in Y-USA Action Alerts.
We sent letters to all 170 of our state’s legislators and the Governor, sharing the many ways the Y is serving community while describing the devastating impact of staff furloughs and lost revenue our Ys have experienced. We have continued to stay in close contact with NC leaders through our McGuireWoods lobbying team and through personal contacts in DHHS and the Governor’s office.
You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete." -- R. Buckminster Fuller
Looking Forward: Resiliency
We are all disappointed that we were not included in Phase 2 of our state’s reopening. But we are resilient, and there are many good things we can do and are doing. We are opening our pools and day camp, and offering outdoor group exercise. Residential camps are reinventing themselves to serve in new and different ways. Our evidence-based health programs have gone virtual, giving us an opportunity to serve counties we could never have served inside our Y’s walls. How could we, if we put our heads together, reinvent ourselves and build a new version of the YMCA?
As Y leaders, we should be asking ourselves these questions.
- How will the Y adapt to serve our traumatized communities?
- Who is most affected, and how do we serve them?
- How has the pandemic opened new opportunities for us to be the community anchors that we are?
- What new services, products, and relational ways of being can we deliver now?
- How can we re-envision membership to meet community needs in new ways?
We still have many unanswered questions. We still face daily uncertainty. And we still have each other, and our incredible mission. We truly are Better Together.
--Sheree Thaxton Vodicka
NC Alliance of YMCAs CEO