5 minute read

Brown County YMCA

~story and photos by Chrissy Alspaugh

Chelsea Mack cheers on Logan Fittz in the Brown County YMCA fitness center.

It’s a Thursday evening, and the Brown County YMCA front lobby is ready for the rush.

Puppies and their owners whirl in like a noisy tornado, headed to obedience class. Swimmers skip toward the pool for their weekly lesson, while seniors catch up with friends on the way to aqua aerobics. A group of teens headed upstairs to pound punching bags in the fitness center ambles slower through the entrance, chatting while checking their phones.

“Most folks would never believe all the things that happen here at our Y,” said receptionist June Floyd, with a cheery smile. “It’s a wonderful place that connects our whole community.”

YMCA, originally named the Young Men’s Christian Association, is a worldwide youth organization that was founded in London in 1844. YMCA of the USA has a presence in more than 10,000 locations across the country. The nonprofit’s goal is to strengthen communities through youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility.

“We always hear that we’re one of the smallest towns in the U.S. to have a full-service Y,” said Kim Robinson, CEO at the Brown County YMCA, at 105 Willow St. “It’s pretty amazing that we’re able to grow and thrive.”

Opened in 2001, the Brown County YMCA is the community hub for many of the services residents need, as well as the physical activities and social connections that help them flourish, Robinson said.

YMCA members aiming to improve their fitness can exercise independently or with a personal trainer in the spacious second-floor fitness center. Open gym times welcome basketball and soccer leagues. Individuals also can sign up for classes in core conditioning, swimming, yoga, fencing, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and more.

Seniors working to improve their health make frequent use of the Y’s salt-water pool, pickleball courts, Silver Sneakers fitness classes, and Life Line health screenings.

Located across the street from a seniors apartment complex, the Y welcomes retirees at a rate of roughly three-to-one compared to other members.

Working with weights during an aqua aerobics class, Brown County resident Pat Robinson said since retiring, she makes seven trips per week to the Y for fitness classes with friends. She said she’s lost weight and lowered her cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

“A lot of why I love to come is social, but I’m definitely a healthier and happier person because of the Y,” Pat Robinson said.

Brown County native Logan Fittz, 23, said he’s used the Y for nearly a decade, initially by lifting weights in the fitness center in high school. Since graduating from Purdue University and returning to Brown County, Fittz said he was excited to see “they’ve improved a lot in the fitness center. It seems like one of their top priorities is constantly making things better for members.”

Kim Robinson said one of her goals is for the Y to serve the community in as many ways as possible.

Some of the groups that use free meeting spaces at the Y include Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts troops, Ready to Read tutoring, Silver Strings dulcimer instruction for seniors, and Encounter Life

Ministries church. The Y also offers its spaces at no cost to the Brown County Sheriff’s Department for water-related training, the Brown County Playhouse for practices, and the American Red Cross for blood drives.

Alice Waltermire has offered dog and puppy training classes at the Y for nearly two years and said she donates her class fees back to the nonprofit because, “I think we’re all just here trying to build a better community.”

“And where else would things like this happen?” said Brown County resident Yolanda Toschlog, during a puppy-training class. She and her son, River, also have participated in the Y’s summer camps, aerobics classes, swim lessons, and are looking forward to Jiu-Jitsu.

For many community members, the role the Y serves is critical. Brown County YMCA serves as the community’s official Red Cross emergency shelter; houses the IU Health Southern Indiana Physicians Family and Internal Medicine clinic and the Access Brown County low-cost public transportation service; hosts clothing drives; and served as the community’s emergency hub during the COVID pandemic.

“I can’t even begin to tell you how many situations I’ve seen where people in our community need help, and the Y is the only one to step forward,” said Debbie Leach, who manages Access Brown County.

River Toschlog and his dog Azul work with Alice Waltermire.

River Toschlog and his dog Azul work with Alice Waltermire.

The myriad of services offered at the Y are funded through membership and program fees, as well as fundraising. Some of the Y’s annual fundraisers are the Mudders’ Day Jeep Ride, runs including the Reindeer Romp and the Hilly Half Marathon, and a food booth at the 4H fair.

Kim Robinson said the YMCA will continue evolving however it can to best serve Brown County, noting she

would love to add more enrichment classes and that the Y welcomes individuals interested in teaching a skill or craft.

David Duncan, aquatics supervisor, said he’s constantly inspired by watching the outreach that happens at the Y.

“Our mission is simple: to take care of our community. We focus on that goal and the people, not the bottom dollar like so much of the rest of society,” Duncan said. “You leave here knowing you definitely made a difference.”

For more information about the Y, visit <browncountyymca.org> or follow Brown County Community YMCA on Facebook.