In its 110 years of operation, building a community within its home county has defined the La Porte County Family YMCA. The effort is especially noticeable in the organization’s expansion into Long Beach and Michigan City over the past 10 years, a move that connected all of La Porte County to the YMCA’s services and programs. But it’s the relationships built within the walls of each branch—including the original brick building built in 1910 on the corner of Michigan Avenue in La Porte—that continue to push forward the La Porte County Family YMCA’s goal of being a place where anyone can find their own kind of haven.
“I’ve heard so many stories over my years at the YMCA of how people have met and become friends within our buildings. For example, we have parent and child swim classes, and parents will go out for coffee afterwards or they linger in the lobby talking with a fellow parent for a while,” said Laurie Halaska, CEO of the La Porte County Family YMCA. “Every little facet of our Y provides a chance for these smaller communities to form friendships and relationships right here in La Porte.”
And right now, those relationships are more important than ever. With the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic weighing on everyone’s minds and disrupting the sense of what is normal, the La Porte County Family YMCA knows their services and programs, like childcare and summer camps, are going to be vital as the state begins slowly opening business operations to the public.
“We’ve had so many families contacting us, whether it’s because of their jobs opening back up or the need for help with childcare,” Halaska said. “Recently, a parent with a young girl got in touch with us and she relayed how important it was that her daughter be around other children again, that she needs those fun little kid activities and to be able to form those relationships that are so important at that young age.”
So, the La Porte County Family YMCA has stepped up as the state enters into its next phase of reopening and has put together a plan to open its doors to the public in order to keep staff and members safe. Social distancing efforts have been put in place, like making every other piece of gym equipment unavailable to allow for six feet of space between patrons, along with a strict sanitation policy that was already the norm at each branch. After a long hiatus, the YMCA is ready to make those connections in their community stronger by filling a need for quality services and programming, a sentiment that staff members have always shared as they go about their duties.
“We really are intentional in getting to know everyone who comes through our doors,” Halaska said. “When providing different programs and services, or different events, it’s usually coming from staff talking to a community member who really has a need for childcare in this area. They approach every situation with, ‘We need to do something to help, and we have the ability to do it.’”
With many people out of work or negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, people are looking for community institutions that understand the situation and have the solutions already in place to help.
“At its core, one of the YMCA’s missions is that we never turn anyone away because of the inability to pay,” Halaska said. “We offer a scholarship program, whether it’s for camp, for membership fees, or more. And right now, that’s going to be so much more important than it has ever been with the amount of people out of work. It’s our way of helping people and giving them a space to get healthier, to have fun, to spend some family time together, and continue to build those relationships that are so important to our organization.”
The La Porte County Family YMCA is a member of the La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership. For more information about the La Porte County Family YMCA, please visit https://www.lpymca.org/.