Laurie Halaska is the CEO of LaPorte County Family YMCAs. Her top priorities are accessibility and staff that values the community as much as she does.
“Great things are happening for our YMCA right now, our membership is climbing exponentially,” Halaska said with pride. “About four years ago we had about 7000 members. And right now just last month we ended the month with about 8700 members. So that's a record high for our association and our association is 112 years old. It really attributes to our staff doing a phenomenal job and programming, but really listening to the community and what the community needs are for programming.”
LaPorte communities have embraced the YMCA’s new efforts. Member input and new programming mean that programs that are utilized and desired will happen.
“This summer, for instance, we're going to be running our camps,” said Halaska. “We run a summer day camp that goes from Kindergarteners through eighth grade. We're running a variety of sports camps. And sports isn't only defined by your traditional basketball or soccer, we do those but we're also running fun family events.”
There are activities of interest for all types of children and families at the Y.
“We have a Nerf League where the kids go to our Andrew Avenue location and it's really turning into a wonderful family event where the families are bringing lawn chairs and socializing while their children are enjoying themselves out there,” Halaska said. “You know, we have dodgeball nights at both branches. So we're also trying to find things for the non-athletic youth who still need to be engaged and have some activities.”
The YMCA believes that distance should not be a factor in learning skills or engaging in healthy choices.
“The other thing we're doing here for the first time this summer is we're taking some of our programs out to the community,” said Halaksa. “It started out with just a little idea, but we're gonna take basketball clinics out into the community. So right now, it's gonna be free and because we realize our county is so geographically large, we know that not everyone has transportation to get to one of our locations.”
Halaska and the YMCAs also refuse to allow money to be a barrier to community members.
“We provide scholarships, everyone's eligible for a scholarship based on a sliding scale and need—financial need. We believe everyone has a right to be a member with us and we don't want costs to be prohibiting from membership,” Halaska explained.”
A membership fee should not limit one's ability to have a healthy lifestyle, these scholarships help individuals become members.
“There is a gentleman, at our Michigan City branch, who our staff identified as coming every day and paying a daily fee with dollars and coins,” Halaska continued. “Our staff is wonderful at recognizing things like that. So the frontline staff said, ‘are you aware that we offer this scholarship opportunity?’ and he applied and was awarded that scholarship. In turn, he views it as it's a sense of pride he has told his whole family about it and now they are developing healthy lifestyles.”
Barries of monetary limits, distance limits, and various interests are all considered by the LaPorte County YMCAs. All community members are encouraged to find a way to participate and Halaska hopes to continue creating new programs based on what the community will utilize.
For more information on the La Porte County Family YMCA, visit lpymca.org.