Ken Hodges: YMCA Helps Make Albany a Stronger Community

Ken Hodges

Tuesday, April 4th, 2017

I check my investments regularly and as a part of that I make sure that my outgoing expenses are monies wisely spent. When I quit using a gym I belonged to years ago, it was an easy decision to cancel the membership. Even if I never set foot in the gym I belong to here in Albany, I will not cancel the membership because it is more than a gym, it is an investment in my family and my community. We belong to the YMCA and have for many years. The Y is a non-profit organization whose focus is on youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility.

Let’s look at youth development. The Y has a pre-K serving 10 kids per year, five after school programs serving more than 500 kids per year, summer camps serving more than 600 kids per year, a child watch program that allows parents to get a workout in that serves more than 1,200 kids (and many parents!) per year, a partnership with Easter Seals (yes) afterschool that attends to four special-needs kids and the program is growing, and fueling the bellies of these more than 3,000 kids with more than 72,000 snacks and 130,000 meals. Whew!

And while the Y is all about the kids, it also serves seniors and other adults. The silver sneakers program in the Albany and Lee Branch have 25 classes serving more than 400 seniors. Among the classes, there are over 90 classes every week to support men and women of all ages, there are swim lessons for youth and adults, aerobics, jump start with a fitness coach, senior classes consisting of yoga and Pilates and aquatics, line dancing, boot camp, circuit training, spinning, Zumba, yoga, step, running and race preparation, and yoga for cancer survivors (in partnership with Phoebe). The Y also has diabetes prevention programs which includes both activity and nutrition. They offer personal training to help members establish, attain, and maintain health and wellness goals, they offer physical education for home school kids and sports training for Special Olympics and other special needs training, including fitness coaching (partnered with Easter Seals and Albany ARC and Lee County Challenger League).

The Y has partnered with over 12 other community-focused organizations to ensure our Y programs are available to all including the United Way of Southwest Georgia, Dougherty County schools, Lee County schools, Phoebe Hospital, MCLB Albany, Easter Seals, Albany ARC, Red Cross, Area Health Education Center, Boys and Girls Clubs, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Lee County Challenger League, Aspire, Leadership Lee, Leadership Albany, Albany Chamber, Lee Chamber, other civic organizations and churches.

The “Y Without Walls” program takes the Y to the community events and to community areas where kids may not have access to the Y. The Y provides structured sports activities under the guidance of coaches who not only lead the kids in activities such as soccer, football, basketball, Frisbee, kickball, hula hoops, jump ropes, etc., but they also model the Y core values of Caring, Honesty, Respect, and Responsibility. They are able to do this through partnerships with Talecris, MCLB, and Sertoma. And to ensure accessibility for all, the Y raised over $105,000 in 2016 for annual support, which provides financial assistance to families in need in order that every person/child has an opportunity to participate in Y programs including afterschool, summer camp, youth sports, swim lessons, etc.

The Y is really about community helping the community reach its fullest potential. The Y does not see age, gender, color, ethnicity, physical ability, religious beliefs. These differences are the Y’s strengths. Members are just people in the community sharing the community together.

Their motto rings true: For a better you. For a better community. For a better country. For a better us. So even if you use another gym I would encourage you to support the YMCA. It supports all of us every day.

Ken Hodges is an attorney who practices in Albany and Atlanta. The former Dougherty County district attorney is a member of the State Bar of Georgia’s Executive Committee and its Board of Governors.