Dear Y Community,

Six months ago, our community opened the new Y, thus beginning the largest expansion of the Y’s health, education and social programs within its 137-year history.

When the Patterson Y closed, we had around 6,000 members; today, the new Y has around 16,130. Over the past six months, the Y has experienced nearly 350,000 visits!

Each month, the Y is providing over 17,000 spots in our second floor’s group fitness classes, serving over 300 gallons of coffee in our lobby, hosting about 3,500 visits to our drop-in youth spaces, watching nearly 12,000 miles get cranked out on our 13 treadmills, providing nearly 1,000 spots in aqua group fitness classes, and hosting nearly 2,000 visits to our tennis center.

I love to walk the halls at the Y and witness the vibrant, energetic and innovative community we have created together.

People often think of the Y as simply a fitness center; however, to walk its halls is to experience something far more profound. The new Y represents a transformative strengthening of our community’s social fabric, health impacts and educational outcomes.

In 2023, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy produced his oft-noted report entitled, “Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation.” This report elevated our collective understanding regarding the profound impacts of loneliness and isolation within our communities.

Dr. Murthy notes, “Loneliness is far more than just a bad feeling—it harms both individual and societal health. It is associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, stroke, depression, anxiety, and premature death. The mortality impact of being socially disconnected is similar to that caused by smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day, and even greater than that associated with obesity and physical inactivity. And the harmful consequences of a society that lacks social connection can be felt in our schools, workplaces, and civic organizations, where performance, productivity, and engagement are diminished. We are called to build a movement to mend the social fabric of our nation.”

The new Y is the living embodiment of Lane County’s belief that our community can accomplish hard things, even in the face of a global pandemic, when we have the shared vision in the importance of working together to change lives.

Indeed, we did not simply build a new facility, we built a movement! A movement that is having an unparalleled impact on building connections, reducing isolation and fostering friendships.

We have each felt lonely or isolated at times. Maybe it took place when you retired and left a busy career. For many it sadly occurs when a beloved family member passes away. For some it may have occurred with the birth of a child and the new responsibilities that modified their daily schedule. Perhaps it occurred after receiving a discouraging medical diagnosis.

Whatever the cause of a person’s loneliness or isolation, the impact is real.

In his landmark report, Dr. Murthy continues, “Loneliness and isolation represent profound threats to our health and well-being. But we have the power to respond. By taking small steps every day to strengthen our relationships, and by supporting community efforts to rebuild social connection, we can rise to meet this moment together.... Our future depends on what we do today.”

The Y represents the very best of Lane County. It’s because of our DNA-deep belief in innovating in the face of challenges; our shared values of kindness, empathy and belief in leaving a legacy of helping future generations; our desire to build bridges of connection, and most importantly, our belief that we are a stronger community when each person within our community has the tools, support and resources to achieve their greatest potential.

Throughout this newsletter, you will read remarkable stories of the Y’s ability to see, understand and address community needs through innovative programs and partnerships. As you read these stories, I hope that you can feel the joy, hope and sense of belonging that these individuals share.

Those emotions are gifts that are possible because of the thousands of Y members, donors, volunteers, partners and employees who relentlessly show up in ways that fight isolation and remove barriers of loneliness in the lives of others.

The Y will never simply be a place to build muscle; that will certainly happen, but it is the byproduct of building relationships, building confidence, building friendships and building hope.

We do not know what educational, health, or social challenges our tomorrows hold; but we are certain of one thing, the Y’s members, donors, volunteers, partners and employees will ensure that nobody needs to feel isolated or alone as they navigate their life’s journey.


Brian Steffen
Eugene Family YMCA

June 17, 2024