Lifting burdens, strengthening others

The Register-Guard

By Brian Steffen

One year ago on Thursday, March 12, 2020, at 9:53 a.m., I sent an email to the Y's leaders asking to have a meeting to discuss our Y's response to the quickly escalating COVID-19 emergency.  

Within a few hours, we announced a three-day closure that afternoon to deep clean and sanitize. 

Of course, we all know that the Y was closed to members far longer. In fact, over the next year we would be closed for weeks on end: first a stretch of nearly 12 weeks and later a stretch of nearly 11 weeks. 

When the closure notices went out on the afternoon of March 12, we could hardly have imagined all that the next 12 months would hold. 

That day began with hundreds of children in YMCA programs, more than we have the space to serve today and hundreds more members than we have at this moment. 

We look back and mourn not just these changes but also the lost milestones that mark the weeks and months of our Y’s services over a typical year.   

Most heartbreaking, we mourn those whose lives have been lost to the COVID-19 pandemic, and we grieve with their loved ones and friends.   

As I reflect on the preceding 12 months, I also marvel at the beauty, compassion and generosity that has been shown.

Today, the YMCA feels different. However, while the differences were derived from difficulty, these differences are strengthening our destiny. 

Over the months since the closure, our Y evolved to provide full-day distance learning and emergency child care, a place of support for wildfire victims, a production studio for virtual content, a kindergarten classroom, and a source of thousands of wellness calls to our beloved members.

I look back at this year with profound gratitude for the thousands of Y members that continued to support us through their membership because they knew that a Y membership was not simply about lifting weights or strengthening muscles; it was also about lifting burdens and strengthening others. 

I marvel at the generosity of our donors who stepped forward over and over again to ask how they could help and how they could support the Y’s responses to a constantly evolving tsunami of needs. 

I find joy in the dynamic ways that our staff and volunteers have met setbacks with solutions and obstacles with optimism.   

Yes, the YMCA in March 2021 looks different than it did in March 2020. However, we stand here at the crossroads of history with wisdom, not weakness. 


Read the full column here

March 23, 2021