AGAWAM – A year after its grand opening, the Agawam YMCA Wellness and Program Family Center is still evolving to meet the ever-changing needs of the community, according to Director of Marketing and Communications of Greater Springfield YMCA Alysia Cutting.
With a gym, large multipurpose rooms, fitness classes and programs for kids, Cutting said people in Agawam and beyond have started to realize the YMCA is there in their neighborhood, ready for anything.
“Everything that we do at the YMCA is always about community partnership because that extends the reach, and it’s very communal. While we would never profess that we meet every single need in the community, we partner to be able to expand the reach and serve as many people as possible,” Cutting said. “We could never do it on our own, but it’s always to bring the strengths that we have to build the specific needs of the community.”
By recognizing its own shortfalls, the staff at the YMCA has been able to seek community support where it is needed. The Agawam facility does not have a pool, for example, but because there was a need for swimming lessons in the community, the YMCA partnered with the Agawam Junior High School to offer programs at its pool.
Cutting said the organization has members who have found a home at the club, from a man who lost 200 pounds with help from his YMCA support system or the woman whose only social interaction comes from her daily visit.
“For some it may be that widower, or it might be that bonding, that friendship and forming small groups around things that we might not have a program about, but if you find that you have shared common interests with other people you find that this is your social outing,” she said. “For others, it’s about making a 180 turnaround with your health.”
Nick Haenchen, vice president of human resources and leadership development, said community partnership is a major aspect of their work. By bringing outside organizations into the facility to provide for its members, the YMCA has been able to heal and connect the community, he said.
“Everyone that comes into the Y, no one comes in perfect. We are all broken in some way, including our staff,” Haenchen said. “We all come in looking, needing something. Whether it’s physical therapy, whether it’s a getaway from the family because you’re a stay at home mom or dad and you need those few moments of sanity, we’re here.”
Specifically in Agawam, there has been a focus on youth development. With the opioid crisis looming, Cutting said it is important to provide youths with a safe, fun place to go. This includes dodgeball programs and a partnership with Stick Time Sports.
“Interestingly enough, YMCAs across the world are focused on three things – youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Everything we do falls under those, everything,” Cutting said. “While our mission might be individualized for community, here in Agawam we’re more focused on building youth programming … When we have that focus and then we realized there’s a constant need based on what’s going on in the news, a lot of things happen and you want to make sure that you’re able to help families and support families. That’s what the YMCA is all about. We’re all about supporting families and supporting the community and partnering with the business community.”
Though the Agawam YMCA has been open just more than a year, Cutting said she is proud of the work that has been done and hopes the facility continues to grow as times goes on.
“It’s a threshold, and we just really want to continue to build with the support of the community to help meet the needs of the community,” she said.
The Agawam YMCA Wellness and Program Family Center is located at 63 Springfield St. For more information, visit www.springfieldy.org/family-centers/agawam-ymca-program-and-wellness-family-center/.