The YMCA Without Walls on Martha’s Vineyard

Jen Hawkins O'Hanlon, REALTOR®


I interviewed Nina Lombardi, the Director of Operations for the YMCA of Martha’s Vineyard to hear about the virtual classes being offered and how the Y is supporting the Island community during this pandemic.


-Hi, I’m here with Nina Lombardi the Director of Operations for the YMCA of Martha’s Vineyard. I am Jen O’Hanlon, real estate agent at Compass Martha's Vineyard and we are here today to talk about the YMCA and it’s a huge part of our community and Nina, can you tell everyone how many members there are and just a little bit about the Y and what it’s been like since I think it’s been five weeks since you’ve been closed.

– Yeah, we closed on the same day as schools closed on March 13th, and on March first, we had 4,117 active members that were using the facility daily and weekly in addition to numerous program participants from swim lessons, after-school program, the teen center.

– I didn’t know that number was so big. I mean that is what, almost a quarter of the year-round population here.

– Yes, yeah, yes.

– Wow, okay and how have you all been handling your work from home and some of you have kids? I know you do.

– Yes . So you know it’s definitely been a learning curve for us. We’ve switched to a completely virtual platform in terms of taking classes, meetings and it’s definitely been adapting to a new platform. I mean we’re a direct service organization. We’re used to personally connecting in person, all the time, everyday, with everything that we do. So we’ve switched to a virtual platform and we’re happy to be able to still connect with people that way.

– Great. For me yeah, I know when it was announced that it was closed it was really kind of a big deal and not just for me because I do use the Y and I go to exercise classes, but just knowing about what that means for the whole community for the Y, it sort of just made it all very real for me personally. I did jump on and take a few classes. I took Estelle’s steam class. I took part of it I should say. Didn’t quite finish. How are the classes being offered now virtually?

– I couldn’t be more grateful for our group exercise instructors. They were the first people to respond immediately in the first week of our closure to just wanting to connect with our members and jumping on and doing Zoom. I mean it was just an amazing thing to see and now five weeks later I’m so honored to say that we’re offering 45 virtual classes on a weekly schedule, with over 15 staff participating and it’s just been amazing to see that come to light. In addition, we’ve been building content on the Martha’s Vineyard YMCA YouTube channel. So people can access group exercise classes for adults, as well as children, any time that’s convenient for them if they can’t make it to a virtual class.

– Okay and are those, is there a charge?

– No, we’re offering this free entirely to the, all island community. Anybody that wants to access this, they can go to our website or follow us on social media or search for our YouTube channel and it’s open, free to everybody and no ones being charged.

– Oh great and then the difference between, did you say they’re doing like a Zoom? Has that started yet, like the sort of live version of the classes?

– Yeah so classes are being offered. It’s based on the instructor preference. A lot of them have taken to Zoom as a platform. Some instructors do live Instagram and some other instructors are doing the YouTube content until we’re able to upgrade them with technology so that they can start doing Zoom classes. We all jumped into this new world with whatever laptop or device we had at home and so everybody’s delivering on the medium that works best for them right now and we are working really hard to get technology to all the instructors that need it.

– Great okay. So just go to the website to see about when the classes are and how to get to the YouTube channel or whatever. Just search. Okay and what about other, you know there’s the elder population, the kids and what other things are you offering?

– Yeah so we’re calling this whole new way of life that we’re living the Y Without Walls. So just in addition to going to our website you can look for our new page that’s being created where all of this content is going to be in one landing place on our website so everybody can access it from one location. We have our amazing Healthy Aging Coordinator, Betty Robie, who has been having our Sit to Be Fit classes virtually via Zoom. I’m so excited and happy that she’s been able to help a lot of our senior population navigate the technology platform and their connecting to continue the Sit to Be Fit classes as well as connecting socially, which is just so important at this time. She’s having personal TED talk Zoom conversations.

– Ah that’s so great.

– Classes are seeing up to 20 people at a time. So it’s really amazing.

– Yeah I think were at the point now too where it’s been five weeks where people have been hunkered down and I don’t know if anybody’s like me, but I’m getting to that point where I’m like ah, this is getting hard.

– It is, it is.

– So let’s see what else? Oh, the kids stuff.

– Yeah so we are also creating a weekly youth activity schedule. We’re gonna be doing movement breaks. So with these kids that are doing at home learning, we know how important it is to just take 10 minutes and do a movement break or do some stretching. So we’re gonna be introducing that as well as we’re gonna be having an after school program as well as all Kid Y kids that want to join pajama party next Wednesday so we’ll be rolling information out about that. We’re doing camp skills on YouTube, we’re doing a lot of creative little things to add some fun to the kids days and yeah.

– What is the Instagram? I know so many people go on Instagram to get their info these days.

– Yeah, we’re YMCAMV on Instagram.

– Oh easy, okay. Great.

– Yeah. Might be YMCA underscore. Let me double check that.

– So a few comments coming in saying, “thanks for everything you’re doing Nina.” “Love the Y and can’t wait to get back there.” So I think there’s just so many people missing the Y and because I just saw we’re sort of rolling out when people can get back to work and the gyms are gonna be not the first so it does sort of seem like we’re in this for a little while without our gym.

– Yeah and you know what, we will still continue to offer whatever we can and more creative new platforms and when we are able to open our doors again, we will do so adhering upmost to the CDC guidelines and industry professionals and the government. Everybody about how we can open safely.
– Okay. Do you have any camp updates? Do we know anything about that?

– Yeah so the American Camp Association, Y National and the CDC are all working together to figure out if camp will happen this year and if it does, what it look likes. So again, we’re relying on the industry leaders to guide us and we will follow their recommendations.

– Great and then a big question. Money. Everything’s shut down and I know that my membership was frozen, which is pretty amazing. We had Grace doing after school program and I think there was sort of an automatic charge that went through, it was refunded. So how can the Y do this? It’s amazing, but what’s the story?

– You know as many, many other organizations and people, we’ve been financially impacted by this pretty hard. As soon as we made the decision to close, we decided to freeze all memberships. We gave members an option that if they wanted to donate their membership, they could do so and we got an incredible response from that which was really great, but membership makes up 45% of our revenue and with our programs and operation in hibernation mode, that’s another 20% of our revenue and this is gonna be a financial impact that is gonna be felt for a long time. It doesn’t cure itself when we open back up our doors so we have started an emergency relief fund for the YMCA of Martha’s Vineyard which you can find additional information for on our website at and there’s a donate button there.

– Okay, that’s great. So that’s really helpful and I’m sure any donation in any amount helps.

– It does, it really does.

– Okay, I think that that was all my questions. Did you have anything else that you wanted to add?

– I just think I’m so grateful for the positive response that we’ve gotten from the community. I’m grateful for you for giving us this opportunity to share what we’re doing. It’s been a hard time for everyone so to see the resilience in our staff and in our community responding to this crisis, I’m just so grateful and honored to be apart of this amazing community From the Y and beyond throughout Martha’s Vineyard.

– I agree. It is a great community and I’m happy to do anything to help because I love it here too and I know that everybody helps everybody and we just can’t wait for this to all be behind us. That’s for sure. All right, well thank you Nina so much for coming on with me and hopefully we helped a lot of people with some good information.

– Yeah, thank you so much Jen. I appreciate it and bye everybody.

– Hi and bye.

– Bye.


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