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Feb 5

Local Y heroes respond to the pandemic – Wicked Local

Gerald MacKillop, Jr.| Wicked Local

On the evening of the Biden/Harris inauguration, the presidents team produced a celebrity-filled, primetime TV special in lieu of the traditional celebrations due to the pandemic. The 90-minute program, titled "Celebrating America," featured remarks from the president and vice president, but it also prominently showcased everyday citizens such as frontline workers, teachers and health care professionals, who were characterized as American heroes.

As a video clip of a UPS driver flashed across the screen, the president underscored the importance of the essential workers who carried the rest of us on their shoulders these many months: The grocery store clerks, the delivery drivers, the folks on the assembly line.... too often overlooked, giving their best to their country.

Taking a cue from the president, I would include the Lynch/van Otterloo Y staff, and in particular, the childcare and summer camp teams, in the presidents litany of indispensable workers who continued to critically contribute to the communitys wellbeing as the country slowed to a near halt.

Early in the shutdown, the Y staff, seizing the opportunity to address essential, pandemic-created needs, contributed both time and money to hand-make facemasks that were donated to the Marblehead Council on Aging through the Rotary Club of Marblehead, and organized two blood drives to address a potentially dwindling stockpile as most residents stayed homebound this past spring.

As soon as state and local regulations allowed, and proper precautions were instituted, the LvO Early Learning Center (ELC) implemented its reopening plan rooted in safety and sanitization, allowing us to provide emergency childcare for those children whose parents cannot work from home, solving a crucial dilemma for working mothers, fathers and guardians. This past summer, the ELC safely opened its classrooms for all, delivering the nurturing environment that forms the foundation for a lifetime of learning, and the necessary supervision for children while parents are working.

Likewise, the Y-owned Childrens Island day camp and the LvO-based youth camps -- led by an enthusiastic, fully prepared staff -- securely operated this past summer, providing the enriching experiences of a normal vacation season for North Shore youth, despite the pandemic.

A recent HuffPost article on exercise during the pandemic noted that moving your body can do wonders for your mood and mental health; thats why its important to find ways to sweat safely is guidance that we take very seriously.

Our staff quickly mobilized to support our members mental and physical health through the virtual Y. Daily workouts, fitness classes, swimming, and recreational play as we knew it -- obviously needed to be modified once the Y was allowed to open, but once the proper safeguards were installed, in-building opportunities resumed, and numerous safe alternatives were launched to re-engage our members, such as outdoor spin and group exercise classes.

As of September, the aquatics, gymnastics and group exercise programs are all operational, and now, with the addition of the former Boston Ballet space, the Y has broadened the number of offerings in our well ventilated, socially distanced environment, each directed by committed and passionate instructors. And despite the financial challenges posed by the pandemic to the organization, no one was ever turned away from the Y due to an inability to pay the membership fee.

As we head into 2021, the Y is firm in our commitment to deliver positive change in our community, undaunted by an epidemic that has threatened our health and disrupted all of our lives. But in the face of all that adversity and uncertainty, the LvO Y staff, echoing rapper Drakes lyric, I learned working with the negatives can make for better pictures, converted crisis into opportunity, and effectively responded to local needs with an indefatigable spirit, canny innovation, and remarkable generosity.

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Local Y heroes respond to the pandemic - Wicked Local

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