Let’s Talk About the YMCA

By Teresa Holloway

Messenger Reporter

PALESTINE – In 1978, a hit song swept the nation – rated #2 for almost one year in 1979, Men At Work’s original song ‘YMCA’ featured catchy lyrics, an upbeat melody and what may have been the original ‘line dance’ routine.

IMG_3908But what made the YMCA special enough to merit its own tune? Where did it all start? What is the YMCA? The club, long version Young Men’s Christian Association, was formed in 1844 in London as one man’s answer to the horror of life during the time.

London, in those industrial days, was frequently called Hell on Earth. Misery caused by unending toil, drugs, tenement life, poverty and other dangerous influences abounded for the working class young men who braved London in search of employment.

Things aren’t really so much different now. In both one and two-parent working households, stress is the new norm. Families may suffer from the lack of cohesive family time.

Economic problems may make healthy entertainment hard to come by, adding further stress to the family unit.

Kids are often alone, by necessity, during some of the more important developmental periods of their lives. Bad influences can wreak havoc on young minds with nothing productive to do, according to a variety of social and psychosocial child analysts.

George Williams, a 22 year old farmer turned department store worker disliked what he saw. He and a handful of friends joined together to create a refuge for young men. Bible study and fellowship, prayer, support and healthy entertainment offered a ray of hope into the squalid life of London’s lower class workers.

In 1851, Thomas Valentine Sullivan was working as a marine missionary when saw the London organization and recognized the need for an American version. Led by Sullivan, the first US YMCA was formed in Boston’s Old South Church in December of that year.

IMG_3912The mission then is the same mission now. The staff and volunteers of the Palestine YMCA are driven, energetic leaders with a mission to provide a safe place for young and old alike to enjoy various activities and peer support.

It is far easier to stay out of trouble when there are ample opportunities for healthy expression of energy, mental and physical development and just plain fun.

As an organization, the ‘Y’ has come a long way since its beginning in London’s squalid back alleys.

From an Olympic quality pool to a 30 foot climbing wall and everything in between, the Palestine YMCA offers a plethora of activities and assets to the community.

The group offers a Wellness Center, Group Exercise activities, Aquatics, Team Sports, Child Care and educational opportunities. Exercise activities include everything from Zumba dancing, to music and weight training, beginner and advanced Yoga, Silver Sneakers exercise classes for older adults and many others.

These many assets are made possible by memberships and donations to the 501c3 organization. Currently, the Palestine Y is raising funds for a soccer field. A grant from the East Texas Council on Governments and various donors comprise part of the necessary monies raised in the effort to support the youth of the area.

A new soccer field for the area children will allow cultural exposure and the ever-lacking physical exercise of sports to be offered outside the school purview.

IMG_3915Soccer is here to stay, and so are some of the volunteers at the Y. “I’m here 24/7, now,” Presley Anguiano said.

Anguiano is one of the soccer coaches. She sits on the soccer committee, drafts the kids for the teams, ascertains their uniforms fit, their fees are paid and just about everything for the soccer teams.

“I also coach two teams,” she said. “There is a huge need for a new soccer field. There are 400 plus kids in the soccer program.”

Anguiano expressed her excitement about the Y in general and the upcoming events.

Kace Shirey, Director at the organization, agreed. “There is always something going on,” he laughed while about 50 younger children swarmed the lobby preparing for the day’s field trip.

“On October 1, we are having a skeet shoot in the area where the new soccer field will be located,” he said.

In conjunction with the Kiwanis club, the 1st Annual shoot will take place at the Alex Patel Soccer Complex.

There are several different sponsorship levels and the fees include breakfast, lunch, clays and shirt and a ticket to Friday night’s mixer at the Hampton Inn. The first flight will start at 9 a.m. Firearms and ammo are up to the contestants.

The Y is a part of the community, though it’s often surprising how many people don’t know the agency is there, or how much they have to offer, according to Shirey.

Being part of the community means helping others, as well, and the public and Y members are invited to drop in at the Aug. 19 ‘Snack Drop’ beginning at 4 p.m. The snacks will be used to resupply the break room for the Palestine Police Department.

It seems the Y is always open, and many residents appreciate the time schedule. Lisa ‘Smith’ and her son Anthony make full use of the club. “I love it. To me, it means time to slow down a little with family. I can go home from work, start cooking and wind down a few minutes. I pick him up after 5 p.m. and we have real quality time.”

Anthony is a little less aesthetic. “My favorite part is the gym. I go to the gym every day,” he said. “I like the swimming, too.”

Omar Soto has worked at the Y for two years. “I started working the after school program, the kids are great. It’s never boring here. After that I moved up and started accounts payable.

“I really like it. There is always something going on. There is a lot of energy and the people are great,” he said.

Volunteers make the Y a success. They are always needed, and donations and funds for the Y are well used to make the programs better.

Shirey reminded everyone, “We will have the water aerobics through Sept. 1. The schedule will be rotational, Monday and Wednesday mornings and Tuesday and Thursday evenings,” he said. “When school starts next week, it may change, but we will still have the aerobics.”

The hours at the YMCA are Monday through Thursday from 5 a.m. until 10 p.m., Friday 5 a.m. until 8 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.

For more information, call 903.729.3139 or just go by 5500 N. Loop 256. The friendly staff can explain the low-cost membership and high-value benefits of your local YMCA.

terholloway@hotmail.com