The YWCA has offered mission-based wellness and recreation programming since 1918, and was one of the first organizations in the area to host swimming, basketball and other organized recreational activities for women and people of color.
The YWCA facility on Third Street in Alton has been a center for all types of community, wellness and recreation activities over the years, but the community’s needs are shifting. To adapt to those needs the YWCA is redefining how the organization should contribute to the empowerment of women and elimination of racism and has commenced an organizational transformation beginning with a big move for the wellness program.
“The YWCA believes wellness is key to meeting our mission, especially looking at statistics regarding child and youth obesity and the lifelong impacts this has on a person’s health and economy,” YWCA director Andrea Lamer said. “Looking at local need and the challenges the YWCA faces to making the facility improvements required to address the need, the YWCA decided to reach out to area wellness professionals.”
Nautilus owner Vern Vanhoy offered to open Nautilus Fitness Center's doors to YWCA wellness pass-holders and programs. He and his partner, Brian Campbell, and Nautilus Fitness Center manager Susie Sweetman have made every effort to ensure clients and members feel at home in their state-of-the-art facility, Lamer said.
Vanhoy, owner of Nautilus Fitness Center, said this is a way of giving back to the community.
“We are interested in helping the YWCA recuperate and we are looking forward to exploring some new community-focused wellness programs at Nautilus that a nonprofit like the YWCA can help create,” he said.
The Wellness Center move also creates new opportunities for growth of other programs at the YWCA. The afterschool programs will be expanding, including a full-day child care program for school-aged children in the summer that features maker spaces, science, adventure play and field trips. YWCA personnel are especially excited about collaboration with The Nature Institute and the Sierra Club on projects.
The Community Café is also open for breakfast and lunch on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 304 E. Third St. Featuring a variety of meals, including healthy options for the public, local chef Brian Runge is also teaching young people to cook healthy foods for themselves and looking forward to leading a youth-driven entrepreneurial project this summer.
The YWCA at 304 E. Third St. will also be the site for some new family recreation activities realized in coordination with another Alton organization to be announced in March.