A weight of relief has been lifted from the shoulders of the YMCA, even as the weight of exercise equipment returns.
“All YMCAs across Simcoe-Muskoka have reopened,” said Naomi Murray, general manager of the Midland YMCA.
Locations in Collingwood, Gravenhurst, Innisfil, Midland, and Wasaga Beach have allowed members back into facilities following Step 3 of the province’s Roadmap to Reopen.
“It was so fun to see all of our staff and our members,” said Murray of the first day returning earlier this month. “All day, it was like little reunions happening throughout the building. It was a really great atmosphere.
“And it’s still happening every day, because we still have folks coming in for the first time,” she added.
As the province is still caught within the pandemic, safety remains a top priority for Murray.
“Right now, our biggest restriction is the number of people in each room or each activity, and it varies depending on the room of the building. Obviously, masking is still huge; everybody that is entering into the building, we’re asking them to be masked," she explained.
“We’ve reduced a few services here and there just to get us going and to make sure that we can keep up in ensuring the building is cleaned and sanitized for every user,” Murray stated.
Some concessions have been made in keeping both the public and staff safe, Murray explained, including the premium membership adult-only change rooms.
“For the month of August -- and we’ll tackle September shortly -- right now we’ve chosen not to reopen those (premium) change rooms, because we weren’t prepared to open the hot tubs and saunas yet," she told MidlandToday. "We’ve just chosen to keep those change rooms closed for now, and we’ve got our general change rooms and our family change room that are open for pool users only.
“So we’re asking folks to come dressed ready for their workout; and shower facilities aren’t available afterwards,” said Murray. “Just for the time being, as we get back on our two feet and make sure we can keep up with demand and ensure the building is clean for all users at all times.”
In consultation with senior management, as well as local health unit and government officials, the YMCA isn’t able to screen for the vaccination status of visitors to the facilities.
Murray explained that staff is doing their part to sterilize all equipment for member use, in addition to asking that users enter the facilities masked and are appropriately spaced apart during their time in the facility.
It’s a welcome condition which members have appreciated upon their entry.
“They’re willing to follow any restriction or guideline that we’ve put in place,” Murray stated. “We’ve had no hesitation, no folks giving us a hard time about any of it. Because they’re just thrilled to be back at the Y, to be back with their social group, to be back into exercise. So far, it’s been really great feedback.”
According to Murray, one of the biggest benefits which the YMCA provides to the community is the community aspect itself: socializing among peers and making new friends.
“They’re coming to us and they’re working on their fitness which then helps with their overall physical and mental health,” said Murray. “But just coming in and seeing that same group of folks that they’re used to coming in, to an aquafit class with or a step class, it’s getting back those social networks and those relationships with people that I think is one of the most important things.”
The YMCA is a charitable organization, according to their mission statement, dedicated to the growth of all persons in spirit, mind and body, and to their sense of belonging to one another and to the global community.
As much as the YMCA gives to the community, they are equally as thankful that the community gives back to them.
“I would love to say thank you to the community,” Murray praised, “because we did embark on a fundraising campaign in order to make sure the Midland YMCA doors did reopen, so I would certainly say thank you to our community for supporting that. Because without their help, we wouldn’t have been able to reopen on Aug. 3.”
Information about the YMCA of Simcoe Muskoka, including contact information and hours of service, can be located on their website or by calling 705-792-7822.
Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, MidlandToday.ca