The YMCA of Greater Montgomery strengthens the foundations of our community in a number of different ways, according to Gary Cobbs, President and CEO. “The big part of our mission is, ‘we’re for all.’ Through the Y, we meet people where they are no matter their background—rich or poor, black or white. It doesn’t matter. And we don’t turn anybody away due to their inability to pay,” Cobbs said. “We’re here to provide programming to build a healthy spirit, mind and body for all.”
With 15 locations around the area, members have a lot of options to tap into programs designed for youth and adult sports, fitness, summer camps, senior activities and much more. The Y also provides services to address health disparities and food insecurities. The community benefits as well from swim lessons and other related programs to combat drownings.
Childcare is among the wide variety of programs that support families and children. “Childcare is workforce development, and it has a direct impact,” Cobbs said. “Many parents couldn’t work without the programs and services we provide.” These include pre-K programs, afterschool care and early learning programs. Gene Crane, Executive Vice President of River Bank and Trust and chairman of the Y’s Metro Board, said that businesses support the Y for no shortage of reasons. Some grew up attending Y afterschool programs, playing in youth sports or being involved in Youth Legislature, for example. Over that time, Crane said, “They developed a passion and an appreciation for the what the Y does in the community and just stay engaged with it.”
Others recognize the positive results for youth and the workforce. “It strikes me that most anything good going on in our community, our Y seems to have its hands involved in some of that,” Crane said.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic had an impact, the Y adjusted as needed and continued to serve. “We were not unlike any organization or business in our community,” Cobbs said. “We lost lots of membership units. We lost program participation, the whole nine. We had to be very creative in how we did our work.” As with other businesses, the Y also learned to be flexible and creative. “While we had to close some of our physical doors to our YMCAs, we just delivered our mission to our community in a different way,” he said.
For example, the Y provided childcare to essential healthcare workers in the area. As Crane explained, “We were well positioned last year when essential workers had to be at work, and they didn’t have many daycare options.” The Y improvised to provide childcare alternatives. “That was a real proud moment for us because we knew how mission-critical it was for the community,” Crane said.
Staff and volunteers also worked with children who needed help as their schools went virtual. “The children had to learn how to do Zoom and Schoology for the first time, and many of these children were five, six years old,” Cobbs said. “We had staff and volunteers helping those children when they came to the Y.” Through this Virtual Learning Academy, held during the school day at several sites in Montgomery, children received support as they logged in and listened to and interacted with their teachers. This summer, the Y continues its efforts by providing programming to support community learning loss initiatives.
The Y also helped meet the needs of children who rely on school meals. “We ramped up our Brown Bag Bus, and we started going to 22 different sites,” Cobbs said. The bus is outfitted with healthy meals and travels to different areas in Montgomery to serve lunch to those in need. Even during a typical year, the bus provides 500,000 meals.
“We served about 1,000 kids every single day, lunch and snack, during the pandemic that might not get a meal because schools were out,” Cobbs said. “We were thankful that we could do that for our community.” Now that the pandemic appears to be loosening its grip, Cobbs hopes to see members return. “We would love for all of our members that were members to come back to the Y,” he said. “We appreciate all our community members for their gifts and donations to our Y.”
We’re For All
“We’re here to provide programming to build a healthy spirit, mind and body for all.” - Gary Cobbs