When people work together to find ways of improving the quality of life in their community, that’s a good thing. When they bring about something that improves the quality of life and promotes better health opportunities year-round, that’s even better!
For residents of Sandpoint, the list of healthy outdoor activities is vast with a seemingly endless variety of options for nearly every age or skill level. During inclement weather, the list of things to do narrows substantially, and for lower income families, even more so.
So when the YMCA opened in the former Sandpoint West Athletic Club facility last December, the options for indoor activities increased dramatically and, most importantly, affordably.
For more than a decade, a dedicated and diverse group of citizens focused on creating a community recreation center with the goal that it be accessible by every person and family who wanted to join. In 2013, realizing they had no funding or expertise in areas such as fundraising or program planning, the group decided to partner with YMCA of Inland Northwest.
Board Chairperson Kendon Perry says, “Sandpoint is clearly a spectacular place to call home and own a business, with abundant outdoor activities. For some folks in our community there is a significant barrier to indoor healthy living activities. The YMCA membership for all program and mission-driven philosophy will definitely open doors for every citizen that wants to join the Y or participate in Y programs.”
The group worked closely with the Spokane Y team, who was firmly committed to this project and helped the board stay focused on the needs of the community. Their vision was strongly supported by Sandpoint residents, and when Sandpoint West Athletic Club owners Don and Sue Helander put their facility on the market, the timing was perfect for YMCA to move into town.
The move was boosted with a multi-year sponsorship from Litehouse Foods, which enabled the YMCA to close on purchasing the facility in Sandpoint and kick start a campaign for future program enhancements and funding for infrastructure upgrades. In honor of their sponsorship, the facility was named The Litehouse YMCA.
The salad dressing company, with deep roots in Bonner County, felt this was a natural fit with their core values, one of which is stewardship. President Kelly Prior explains, “We believe that we have a responsibility to serve the communities in which we operate. When the YMCA approached Litehouse about the opportunity to partner with them, it felt like a natural fit. Their focus on families, a mission driven with faith-inspired values and commitment to providing new programs for our communities aligned with our vision.”
YMCA works on the principle of providing a safe place for everyone to learn, grow and thrive, where they can feel healthy, confident, connected and secure. YMCA is committed to: youth development, empowering young people to reach their full potential; healthy living, working to improve the well-being of individuals and the community; and social responsibility, providing support and inspiring action within the communities they serve.
They also believe in providing kid-focused staffed activities, connecting teens together in a safe and fun environment, giving families healthy spaces to enjoy their time together, and increasing access by providing affordable programming, health and wellness opportunities for all ages.
The Litehouse YMCA currently offers a variety of programs for every age, from infants to senior citizens. For kids, the Y offers summer day camp, Crazy 8’s (a math camp), youth fitness training, karate, dance and swim instruction. They help local youth play football and, holding on to Don Helander’s favorite sport, racquetball!
They also offer healthy living programs, such as group exercise classes (studio and water), dance, personal fitness training and nutrition coaching. During the day, family swim time is offered, along with the use of whirlpools and saunas.
YMCAs are created to fit each community, and the Litehouse Y is unique in how it will meet local community needs. As insight is gained, they will create new programs to accomplish the goals of this area. They aim to be a community partner by delivering school-age care and more teen programs, as well as specifically serve Sandpoint’s active adult population by providing a variety of group exercise classes. The Y’s main goal is to build social connections by making the Y experience available for all, where everyone is welcome.
“Our mission is to put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all,” says YMCA Communications and Marketing Director Mary Berry.
Since opening the Litehouse YMCA last December, there has been a learning curve, according to Mary: “During this first year of operation, our leadership is meeting with, and learning from, local leaders and members of the community to determine which programs and services would be of most value to the area.”
Mary shares that part of meeting the needs of the community means listening to the needs of the community. The City of Sandpoint conducted a study of local students from grades six through 12, and their parents, and received feedback about the need for affordable after-school programs, family friendly activities, structured activities for teens and a safe space for all during structured or unstructured times.
“The YMCA has a long story of meeting these types of community need and we look forward to opportunities to grow programs and services which the community identifies as priorities,” Mary says.
With high hopes for the future, Kendon adds, “I am confident The Litehouse Y will continue to grow and the philosophy of collaborating with existing organizations will only increase the standard of living and offer healthy living opportunities throughout our community.”
Kelly reiterates that from Litehouse’s perspective, “Our goal is for the YMCA to be able to offer affordable programs to our community that encourage family, faith and healthy living with mind and body.”
The ability to meet members and community participants wherever they are is only possible through continued support. YMCA is a charitable nonprofit organization that believes in membership for all, based on a sliding scale according to each household’s income … and no one is turned away due to financial hardship. To give to the YMCA is to give directly to the community.
If you haven’t been to the Litehouse YMCA yet, consider checking it out. Sign up for a class for you or your children. Work out with your spouse or a friend … or make some nurturing time for yourself. While Sandpoint is a place to experience healthy living at its finest, the Litehouse YMCA makes it even more so.