By Laurie Goganzer, President & CEO, YMCA of Greater Monmouth County | Now that COVID-19 capacity restrictions have been lifted, the YMCA of Greater Monmouth County is pleased to welcome back more children, teens, adults, and families to our facilities with a continued focus on safety and a strong commitment to helping our community recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

The last 15 months have been challenging for all of us. The long stretches of isolation and loss of loved ones, jobs, and life as we knew it, have taken a toll on our health and wellbeing.

As a charitable organization open to all, we want our members and everyone in our community – regardless of age, income, or background – to have the opportunity to grow stronger in spirit, mind and body in the post-pandemic environment.

During the health crisis, we learned that the best way to respond to the community’s changing needs is by working together. Throughout the pandemic we partnered with a myriad of nonprofit organizations and 300 volunteers in our Togetherhood program to deliver the Y mission in new and different ways.

When our doors were closed during the statewide shutdown, we transformed our health and fitness centers into community care centers where our neighbors could receive essential services.

Working with Fulfill, Lunch Break, Freehold Borough Food Safety Net, Neighborhood Connections to Health, Meet the Need and others, we collected and distributed over 30,000 meals for needy families.

We hosted blood drives with the American Red Cross and RWJ Barnabas and set up a baby pantry with support from Child Care Resources, Grace United Methodist Church, RAINE Foundation and other donors. We offered remote mental health services and supported the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide. We hosted virtual fitness classes and checked in regularly with isolated senior members. We even partnered with the VNA of Central New Jersey Health Center to offer COVID testing and eventually set up a vaccination site at a critical time.

While schools were closed, we provided emergency child care to essential workers with volunteer nurses from partnering school districts and we opened summer camp last year, enabling kids to thrive outdoors after months in quarantine. When school resumed in September, our Y worked closely with local school districts to provide working parents flexible child care and academic support for their children on remote learning days.

Most recently, we brought seniors together for a free day of health and wellness activities, including mental health support, in partnership with the Senior Citizens Activities Network and Ocean County YMCA.

We believe these community collaborations are essential in helping everyone, especially the most vulnerable, rebound from the pandemic. It’s imperative that nonprofits receive the support we need to continue providing vital programs and services that address healthy living, youth development, mental health and other challenges facing our neighbors in their recovery.

The Y invites volunteers, public and private donors, nonprofits, and local businesses to join us in our efforts to continue supporting the health and wellbeing of children, teens, adults, and seniors across greater Monmouth County.

Together, we can build a better us, and a healthier future for all. As president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Monmouth County, Laurie Goganzer led the nonprofit organization’s unparalleled emergency response to the coronavirus pandemic.