Lakewood Ranch Y merges with YMCA of Southwest Florida | Eastern County

Sissy Overlees of Lakewood Ranch has been a member of the Lakewood Ranch YMCA for 10 years, taking as many classes and participating in as many programs as possible.

After doing 2 miles on the treadmill on March 18, she hopped on a stationary bike to compete in the Y’s spin cycle class.

“I’m happy to do this,” Overlees said. “It elevates me.”

Over the years, Overlees said his training preferences have changed.

First she loved the step exercise class until she once fell off the platform and realized her body couldn’t take any more of this class.

Then it was a “body pump class” until her doctor told her she shouldn’t lift weights anymore.

Now his favorite is the spin class.

“There’s always something else,” Overlees said. “If you can’t do a thing, there’s a substitute. So I got on the bike. I thought I couldn’t ride a bike. Now I love to ride a bike. When you can’t do one thing, you do another. I don’t take no for an answer. I find a way to continue.

Overlees will have more classes to choose from as a result of the Lakewood Ranch YMCA merging with the YMCA of Southwest Florida.

The YMCA of Southwest Florida includes nine YMCAs, four early learning academies, and two charter schools that stretch from Bonita Springs to Lakewood Ranch. The YMCA of Manatee County, which includes the YMCAs of Bradenton and Lakewood Ranch, officially merged with the YMCA of Southwest Florida on January 1.

“We are a larger organization, so the YMCA of Southwest Florida has resources available to all of our branches to ensure the success of their programs,” said Jamie Browning, YMCA vice president of development. southwest Florida. “We are better together, and we are pulling together our resources to be the most effective, efficient and impactful YMCA possible for the communities we serve.

The YMCA of Southwest Florida supports the Lakewood Ranch YMCA with operations, finances, development, and staffing.

Lakewood Ranch’s Noreen Higdon lifts weights at the Lakewood Ranch YMCA. She is excited to see the new programs coming to the YMCA.

Members of the Lakewood Ranch branch will also be able to use Ys in other locations that are part of the YMCA of Southwest Florida.

The Lakewood Ranch YMCA is launching new programs as a result of the merger.

“It’s so nice to be part of a great organization and to share ideas,” said Jennifer Haughey, associate executive director of the Lakewood Ranch branch. “It’s great to collaborate with all these other branches.”

She said members can expect to see new classes and active programs for seniors, such as chair yoga and a mahjong group.

“These elements of socialization and their social activities are imperative for our seniors because it is their social interaction for many of them,” Haughey said.

Youth programming will be expanded, including various spring and summer camps.

“We strongly believe there should be a camp for every child, every age, every gender and every interest,” Browning said. “Whatever the interest of the child, we offer an increased camp offer to adapt to the interest of what the children like.”

The Y has launched a travel basketball program for young people in which teams travel to the various YMCA branches in Southwest Florida to compete.

Other new programs that will be available are mini sports sampling programs, infant classes and a preschool playgroup.

The Lakewood Ranch branch plans to roll out more Power Hour programs, which provide various activities for children while their parents do their own activities. For example, parents can work out on the wellness floor or take part in a lesson while one child goes to soccer and another takes swimming lessons.

A new summer camp at the Y is Aqua Camp where children spend time taking swimming lessons, playing water games and swimming freely. There are also specialized sports courses. The Y will offer full day specialty camps where previously these camps were not full day.

Although Lakewood Ranch YMCA staff members are excited to expand summer camps, Rhiannon Blaney, senior program director for the Y, said the organization is struggling to hire people for its summer camps. .

Blaney said the Y struggled to hire last year, which led to the Y having families on a waiting list for camps.

“We’ve reduced our ratios (of counselors to campers) which means you need more staff to make sure we’re creating a safe camp environment in the wake of COVID-19,” Blaney said. “It was the staff who made us limit the number of campers we could take. It was difficult because we wanted to take everyone.

If the Y does not find enough people to hire, participation will be limited.

Blaney and Haughey said the Y is looking for teenagers to fill the positions.

“Working at the Y as a summer camp counselor (must be at least 18), I tell people all the time, ‘You have the opportunity to change a child’s life forever,'” said Haughey.

The organization organizes job fairs and offers incentives. If staff members complete the 10 weeks of camp working at least 35 hours per week, they receive a bonus of $750. If they complete nine weeks of camp, it will be a $500 bonus.

“We’re doing things that we’ve never done before to try to attract people,” Haughey said. “It’s such a rewarding job.”

Blaney and Haughey said they don’t know why the Y struggled to find people willing to work at summer camps, because before the pandemic it was never an issue.

A camp of 250 participants requires approximately five support staff, 17 counsellors, an assistant camp director and a camp director.

Blaney would like to complete the recruitment process for new employees by April 15 to ensure training can begin in May.

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