By Rachel Wisinski
Although other fitness clubs may have state-of-the-art equipment and facilities, the camaraderie and diversity the Geneva Lakes Family YMCA offers is truly distinct.
The 55,000-square-foot facility houses two gyms with basketball courts, a wellness studio and weight center, an aquatic center and multiple fitness studios. These amenities serve as space for about 80 different annual programs and 65 weekly group exercise classes for everyone from toddlers to seniors. Child care and after school programs add a convenience for parents with hectic schedules.
These services align with the goals of the Young Men’s Christian Association. Originally founded in 1844 in London, the YMCA served as an escape from turmoil at home and the workplace. But what began as a Bible study and prayer group became so much more. The practice was brought to Boston in 1851, and the United States adapted the program into a workout platform where people today still go to “escape” the trials of their day.
Making its mark on Lake Geneva since 1893, the YMCA building on Main Street and Wrigley Drive was destroyed by a fire, so the city repurposed a grocery store at 203 S. Wells St. in the early 1960s, and individuals from throughout the service area continue to flock to the same location.
CEO and Executive Director Mike Kramp says the majority of users live within a 10-mile radius. While the Geneva Lakes Y has about 5,000 members, it’s serving close to 7,000 people in the area.
“We’re a cause driven movement, and the mission of the Y is we’re all inclusive, or for everybody,” Kramp says. “We see the work that we do as life-changing work. A big part of what we do is health and wellness, but our main goal is offering programs that fill a community need.”
Kramp has been at the Geneva Lakes facility for 2 ½ years and has already overseen marked improvements. During the past year an ultraviolet sanitation system was installed in the pools, which makes the water and air much safer and eliminates the chlorine smell. New equipment was delivered in mid-April, which Kramp says happens about every two years. During his tenure at the Geneva Lakes Y, close to $200,000 has been reinvested in the facility and its program base.
SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE
“Many folks see the Y as a swim and gym type of place and that’s a lot of what we do, but we’re certainly more than that,” Kramp says. From the club’s Silver Sneakers program, which includes exercise classes for seniors whose membership at the Y is covered through health care, to the Dream Team, a youth baseball program for kids of all ages with special needs, there are endless opportunities at the Geneva Lakes YMCA.
Program Operations Director Sherri Baker oversees schedules, timelines and quality assessment of each activity provided for both Y members and nonmembers. “We listen to program participants and try to adapt to their needs and changes,” Baker says.
The programs available at the Geneva Lakes Family YMCA help build upon that story. The Y partners with the city of Lake Geneva to facilitate the summer recreational program, which last year allowed more than 500 kids to participate in baseball and softball at Veterans Park.
Other youth team sports offered through the Y include tee ball, tennis, flag football, soccer, girls’ volleyball, basketball, cheerleading and more. Adults can get in on the fun through sports such as men’s basketball, adult kickball and softball.
The aquatics department includes swim lessons, two competitive swim teams and a Splash program, which features water safety initiatives for children. Adding to the diversity are opportunities such as physical education for homeschooled students, after school pick-up floor hockey and dodgeball tournaments, karate classes, TRX suspension training, spin classes, yoga and racquetball. Whether you’re looking for an intense workout session or a tranquil but physical escape, the YMCA truly has something for everyone.
These options are what attract staff members like Baker to remain with the Y for 26 years. “Basically I’ve been here so long because I love it,” she says. “I see the impact we have on kids and family.”
Instructor Jean Mikrut has worked at the Y for 16 years and instructs classes like Zumba, cycling, Pilates and water aerobics. Mikrut says the most enjoyable thing is seeing the regulars. “Sometimes people are not in a good mood, so my job is not just to help them physically get fit, but mentally get into shape, too,” Mikrut says.
MULTIPLE FORMS OF FUNDING
The YMCA is a nonprofit organization, so the funding earned from membership fees and exercise classes is crucial to its ability to function. The Y also takes advantage of opportunities to gain donations through community events, such as its annual auction in February, a bingo raffle in October, and funnel cake sales at Lake Geneva’s Venetian Festival.
The Y actively seeks out foundation gifts for larger projects such as facility upgrades and program expenses. “People donate to someone they know, and they donate to an organization that they feel strongly about,” Kramp says. “Our goal is to be able to tell the Y story. So when we conduct the annual campaign or we do any type of fundraising, we’re ensuring we have a good Y story to tell – that people know why they’re giving, what they’re giving to and then making sure that they receive communication and recognition for the gift that they give.”
NO CONTRACT REQUIRED
Members of the YMCA not only get special class rates, but also unlimited, 24-hour use and access to the entire facility if 18 or older. This is something that’s not possible at most YMCAs across the country, Kramp says.
As a member of one YMCA in Wisconsin, you are eligible for unlimited use at all Y facilities in the state. The Y brand is crucial. “As people see the Y, they want to go to the Y, and reciprocity between communities is a very important thing to us,” he says.
When you sign up for membership, you’re not locked into a contract, which sets the Y apart from other health clubs, Kramp says. To sign up, you must visit the facility, where you’ll get a tour, meet with a fitness director for a free wellness assessment and set goals for your personal health program.
“We’re a very welcoming and inclusive facility,” Baker says. “We want people to be here, be healthy in spirit, mind and body, and I just think there’s nothing like the Y because of that.”
This ability to change lives has led the Geneva Lakes Family YMCA to earn two awards in the past year. The Lake Geneva Chamber of Commerce awarded the facility the Community Betterment Award in September 2014 at its annual dinner at the Riviera Ballroom. Residents also voted the Y as the Best of Walworth County Athletic/ Fitness Facility.
“I think we keep setting the bar high for our expectations here,” Kramp says. The board and staff has a strategic plan for future decision-making on collaborations, and they focus on constantly improving membership standards, quality of service, facility cleanliness and customer service. Kramp says the awards won last year are a step in the right direction.
“We also know we have work to do, but we just try to get better every day,” he says.