Q&A with YMCA of Martha's Vineyard


Jen O'Hanlon, founder of the O'Hanlon Group of Compass Real Estate, had the pleasure to speak with the directors of the YMCA of Martha's Vineyard. As a year-round member of Martha's Vineyard community, YMCA is really important to Jen and the rest of the O'Hanlon Group. Jen has been a member since it opened, and her whole family enjoys the programs it offers.

The YMCA of Martha's Vineyard is dedicated to serving children, individuals, families, and our island community. We build strong kids, strong families, and strong communities.

Jen: Thank you so much for joining me today to talk about the Y here at the Vineyard.
Jill: Thank you for having me.

Jen: Can you give us an overview of the YMCA? The history, when it started, and then maybe some plans that the Y might have for the future?
Jill: The YMCA of Martha's Vineyard has been on the island since June 2010. It's been open for 12 years. We started off with just the core section of the Y, which is the swimming pool and the group exercise wellness center. A year later, we built the teen center. The YMCA also has a gymnasium that was slated to be built, which we have not built yet, but we do have plans for it in the future.

Jen: Any other plans besides the gymnasium, or is that?!
Jill: Well, we're in the process of trying to get some plans for kind of a field house type thing where we have multi-sports in the gym, with some space underneath to hopefully help for dance and performing arts and more group exercise space. So, that's on the agenda for the future. We also have a very large need for group exercise space for our senior programs. That's really expanded over the last couple of years. I mean, we've always been very, very active with youth and families. But the senior population has really taken on a huge... It's taken on great steam here. And so we need space so that we can do those classes. When we were going through the pandemic, a lot of those classes were over Zoom. Now, we can have people in person again, and so we need some more space to make that happen.

Jen: Hi, Kelly. Thanks for joining us today.
Kelly: Thank you for inviting me.

Jen: So, you are "the program's person," right?
Kelly: Yes. Indeed. Yes.

Jen: Can you tell me about all of the programs, really? Maybe start with the kid's programs.
Kelly: Sure. Yeah. So, we have a lot of programs going on in the building. Our youth programs start with;  I'd say our biggest ones are our after-school program and our summer camp, which are both for school-aged children. And our after-school program. We like to say, when school is out, the Y is in! So, we run programming till 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, for those kiddos after school. And then as well as school vacations. And parent days and all those kinds of things. We provide programming for the youth. And then our summer camp has such a special place in my heart. And we run that for eight weeks every summer. And we really try to make sure that we're there for our working families on the island. So our hours during the summer are 8:30 to 4, Monday through Friday. Trying to really run that full-day, full-week traditional summer camp that the Y is. So many of us have in the Y traditions of maybe where we grew up or what the Y was. That's what we try to be here.

Jen: Oh, that's great.
Kelly: Yeah. And we have our Learn to Swim Program, which is huge. And so part of that, we also have parent-child swim lessons. So, that starts kids in the water at six months old, up to three. And then once they're 3, they can be solo in the group lesson. And so, we have group lessons for 3 to 12-year-olds. And then our swim team is 6 to 18-year-olds.

Jen: Oh, okay.
Kelly: So, lots of fun stuff going on in the pool. And then we have our Teen Center. And so, our teens here in the building can come to use the Teen Center completely free. They don't have to be members, and they can use that. If they do want to be members, once they're age 14 or older, they can use the Wellness floor to participate in our group exercise classes. And then we find another place, where we really are seeing teens, is their first job here at the Y. So, employment. And we really see that as definitely a calling for us and a place to show up to educate young teens and young adults on what it's like to have a job. We really get to incorporate the four core values of the Y throughout all of our programming, which is great. And we still see our teens and young adults who are with us as employees and staff members, really as we're still growing them and being able to mentor them and stuff like that. So, that's a great reach that we have in the community and a great opportunity for teens and young adults.

Our group exercise program is fantastic. We offer so many classes, both in the pool and up in the group exercise room. From Zumba, dancing, body pump, and lifting. I'm a yoga girl myself. So, really trying to make sure that there's something that everyone can try, appreciate, and find their little spot, because really, I feel at the Y, our guideposts are connection and belonging. And so, if we can make a point of connection where you feel connected to us, whether that's with a certain program, a certain group exercise class, your child is being well taken care of after school, with yummy snacks and fun humans. And so, wherever we can build those points of connection for you, that's what we want to do. Just have this overall sense of belonging. When you walk into this building, we just want you to feel like you belong here. I think with the varied number of programs that we offer now, including the ice arena as well, there truly is something for everyone to find. And if you come in and you're not sure what that is, there's a lot of friendly staff to kind of help you find that, and to explore and to try new things. I think this building has opened up a lot of different cool opportunities for people. For personal discovery, personal exploration, and just a personal wellness journey.

Jen: Nina, thanks for joining us today. I know you've been with the Y from the beginning. I'm wondering if you could share anything that has been very impactful to the community that the Y has accomplished since the beginning.
Nina: Yeah. So it's kind of crazy to think back that it's been 13 years so far. And when I can think about what has changed in our island community because of the Y, I feel most notably creating a space for seniors to age gracefully on the island, as well as come together and socialize and build another sense of community that I've seen form at the Y, really organically. On the other end of the spectrum, giving access to a real community-based swim program. And seeing kids go from parent-child classes 13 years ago to now swimming on our swim team. And some of our first swimmers now being some of our swim instructors and lifeguards. It's an incredible impact to look back on and say, you know, I'm grateful for the Y for being able to provide that opportunity.

Jen: Like so many businesses on the island, the Y was affected during the pandemic. What were some things that you are proud of that with instructors and staff, and how do they deal with everything? And then also one takeaway from the pandemic that could be positive from that.
Nina: Obviously, the Y was closed for six months, and I was absolutely taken aback by our group exercise instructors, who swiftly said, we're going to Zoom for the members. And seeing that online community build while our doors were closed was unbelievable. And that was 100%, that was driven by our group exercise instructors. And then, when we were allowed to reopen our doors, we had to switch to outdoor classes. Seeing how our instructors were creative and our staff were creative, in order to, how do we do something that we've always done inside with all the luxury and convenience of weights being where they need to be, and mats being where they need to be? How do we do it outside? And through snowstorms, tornado watches, hot and humid days, and, you know, freezing cold February early mornings. Our instructors were outside, bringing people together even despite all the restrictions that we had. And what I think was the greatest positive for me is that we're an organization that brings people together. And there was a time when we were told we all had to be apart. And I think we really, in reflection, see that we're stronger together. We figured out a way how to do it safely and continue the mission movement going forward despite all the regulations and restrictions and challenges of the year; or the years. That would say I was incredibly proud of our staff for how they responded to that.

If you want to contribute to the Y, you can do so by contributing to our annual campaign, which benefits our financial assistance program to make Y programs affordable and inclusive for all. As well as you can contribute to our summer drive-in movie series by becoming a sponsor. And there are varying different levels of sponsorship, all of which can be accessed by going to our website at www.ymcamv.org. And there are many different opportunities to DONATE that are highlighted on our website.

Jen: Oh, that's perfect. Thanks so much for everything, for being with us today.
Nina: Thank you so much, Jen.


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