Dow Bay Area Family YMCA one of nine Michigan organizations recognized as a Hometown Health Hero

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the Dow Bay Area Family YMCA to close its doors for much of 2020, but the organization kept serving the public throughout the closure.

The YMCA partnered with area organizations to provide food, outdoor exercise classes, and a safe place for kids to learn during the pandemic.

This month, the state Department of Health and Human Services recognized the YMCA with a Hometown Health Hero Award. The Bay City organization was one of nine in the state to earn the honor.
 
'We saw some really incredible things during the pandemic. People came together and it was really uplifting in a depressing time, an uncertain time. ‘Uncertainty’ gets tossed around a lot but it’s true — it proves the strengths of our community. It’s really uplifting to see people pull together.'
- Joslyn Jamrog, Dow Bay Area Family YMCA
The Hometown Health Hero Award awards have been presented annually since 2004 to organizations and individuals for making impactful contributions towards their community’s health and well-being. Among those award recipients was the Dow Bay Area Family YMCA.

The Hometown Health Hero Award is a part of the annual National Public Health Week through the MDHHS.

The award was given based on the YMCA’s efforts during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. Being classified as a gym, the nearly 100,000-square-foot facility had to close to adhere to safety guidelines. Instead of sending staff home, though, the facility decided to help the community during this time of need.  

“It was pivoting our focus and still staying within our mission and making sure whatever work we did aligned with the mission,” says Joslyn Jamrog, Membership and Marketing Director of the Dow Bay Area Family YMCA. “It always feels good to be recognized. After you work so hard day and night and those long hours to get that done, it’s nice to have this level of recognition.”

A 2020 food distribution program helped the Dow Bay Area Family YMCA earn top honors from the state.The YMCA helped in several ways.

During the pandemic, many people lost their jobs and income. Even those who still had income often had difficulty finding a ride to the grocery store. People with underlying diseases were advised to avoid crowded indoor spaces. Still others were quarantined due to an exposure to COVID-19.

To help, the YMCA staff filled emergency food boxes and delivered them to the front porches of those in need in a safe manner.

“We already had our food program in place,” says Jamrog. “But to be able to ignite that, improve that, expand that, to actually fill the needs of the community, it was it was really impressive from where I stood the amount of work that was done and just to be able to do that.”

With most schools shut down and turning to remote learning, many area students needed extra help and a place to go. The YMCA offered a program to support remote virtual learning. Kids in the program got meals and help with school while their parents were able to go to work.

To create recreation and fitness opportunities, outdoor exercise classes were provided to area students.

But the Y did not work alone.

“We pulled in as many organizations as we could to partner with to make sure that the people in our community, our neighborhood, and beyond were taken care of,” Jamrog says.

The YMCA collaborated with SC Johnson, the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan, and numerous other organizations to make this possible which Jamrog adds was the key to their success.

A complete list of their efforts and collaborators can be found here.

“We saw some really incredible things during the pandemic,” Jamrog says. “People came together and it was really uplifting in a depressing time, an uncertain time. ‘Uncertainty’ gets tossed around a lot but it’s true — it proves the strengths of our community. It’s really uplifting to see people pull together.”
 
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