Participants in a Peoria YMCA potluck before the pandemic represent the organization’s myriad activities and broad constituencies.
By Vernon Smith Jr.
Adapting is something we all had to experience this year. A lot of changes had to be made in order to life a safe and healthy life. That is exactly what the Greater Peoria, Ill., area YMCA, and hundreds like it around the country, had to do.
Alyssa Johnson, Peoria’s director of member experience, said her YMCA never completely shut down when the pandemic hit.
Although many YMCAs nationwide did close, a few permanently and most of them temporarily, Johnson said Peoria’s was “fortunate” not to. This was because, she said, “Our facility was named ‘essential’ due to the essential worker childcare we offered during the quarantine. Our facility is marked as a local food site for families. We have been open since June with modified hours and continually changing things month by month as we slow re-open to a somewhat ‘normal’ gym.”
In crises, individuals, corporations and organizations look for guidance on what to do and what actions should be taken in order to facilitate a safe environment. The Greater Peoria YMCA looked to the national YMCA headquarters for advice and also investigated what other local Y’s were doing.
“All members are required to wear masks upon entry and exiting the facility,” Johnson said. “Everyone entering the facility must have their temperature taken. Members are allowed to take masks off once they have reached their destination in the gym.”
She detailed how the workout facility works, specifically what precautions are being taken in that area. “For example, if a member has signed up for a Zumba class, they will come in with their mask, have their temperature taken, head up to the correct studio, then take their mask off,” Johnson said.”
“We have a station in the entry way lobby to wash hands with germ-X, pick up a clean sanitizing spray bottle and towel,” she added. “The spray bottles and towels are returned to a bin in the lobby once members have completed their workout. The spray bottles are cleaned with a disinfectant fogger before being placed back on the table with all the other clean spray bottles. The towels are cleaned in the washer and dryer every day and folded to be put back on the table for members. We ‘fog’ (special spray gun) the entire gym twice a day (once at noon and once when we close for the night).”
Something new that has come out of this pandemic for this YMCA is its EGym app and all the ways the Peoria YMCA has been using it. “We have also utilized our new app with EGym which allows us to require members to sign up for group fitness classes they wish to take,” Johnson said. “Each class has its own capacity and we have cut capacity in each room in half. For example, the capacity in Studio #2 is 20 so we will allow 10 participants to register for that class. She explained, “Each group exercise room is marked with an ‘X’ where the participant is to stay for the entire class session to safely practice social distancing. We plan to continue on with the
registration process on the app to practice sage social distancing so we never have to worry about exceeding max capacity in the group classes.”
Johnson said local YMCAs all over the country have been communicating with one another to discuss how to handle situations like this and what they can learn from one another. “It is wonderful to be a part of the YMCA because even though we are our own branch here in Peoria—we have friends in all the YMCA’s all over the country. We have a webpage called ‘Y- Exchange’ for all CEO’s and directors to utilize and communicate with other YMCAs across the US. We share positive and negative feedback we receive for various things like membership and fundraising, etc.”
She said that an upside of such traumatic times is that everyone can better learn how to plan for the future. “This pandemic has really educated us on how we could better prepare for huge road-blocks like this global pandemic,” Johnson said.
“We are working our way through this pandemic every day and though it seems like the world is constantly changing day-by-day—we now feel like we can overcome just about anything with our great members and board members and partners who continued on with their membership dues during the time of our closure.”