Local fitness center opens door to new opportunies
The on Knight Street in Shreveport is like a village. But it’s not The Village People’s YMCA.
“We never think or talk about ourselves as ‘the gym,’” said Jeffery Goodman, director of marketing and development for the YMCA. “In fact, we’re constantly trying to break that misconception of what we are.”
The Knight Street building opened in 2017. Since then, the YMCA’s programming has grown to serve more than 30,000 people a year, Goodman said. It offers more than 160 group exercise classes every week, reaching all ages from children to seniors across all walks of life.
It starts early in the morning, when the doors open at 5 a.m. That’s when many of the hard-core fitness enthusiasts arrive. The next wave begins a few hours later, with retirees in search of fitness and fellowship. Young people invade throughout the day, from second-grade classes learning water safety to homeschool students and the afternoon swim team practice. In the evening, folks arrive to run away from their troubles on the treadmill, or maybe stretch things out in yoga, pilates or barre classes.
“We really feel and and try to live up to this expectation that we’re a community bonding location,” Goodman said. “I think it offers the most diverse view of community.
You come at any given time, and you’re going to see all ethnicities, all walks of life, in a kind of coming together of people that you really don’t see in many other places.”
One of those other places is the downtown YMCA at 400 McNeill St. The regulars at that facility tend to be business people who work downtown and use the facility to work out before or after work or over their lunch breaks.
“The downtown Y is a completely different experience,” Goodman said. “There are steam rooms and saunas downtown. There’s none of that here. When everything was being planned out and the vision was being formed, all the decisions were made around what’s going to make this the most attractive to folks to bring their entire families here.”
In addition to opening doors to more of the community, the new facility also opened doors to new opportunity as well.
One of those opportunities is a childcare center where children are cared for while their parents work out. Another is a large, open lobby where people gather before or after workout to fellowship over a cup of coffee or get a little work done.
The YMCA also has expanded its offerings to several segments of the community. One of those is Rock Steady Boxing, a onehour, non-contact boxing class designed for people with Parkinson’s Disease.
The YMCA also hosts every secondgrade class in Caddo Parish for water safety classes. Those classes redeveloped after drownings on the Red River. The Y’s youth swim team recently merged with the City of Shreveport Swim Team and hosts practice and competitions in its 50-meter indoor pool.
The staff at the YMCA constantly evaluates the needs of the community and seeks out ways to meet those needs. Goodman said it’s the driving force behind the development of
Kid Yoga: The YMCA brings our community together in ways that are progressive, unique and deeply impactful.
911 Stair Climb: Each year the YWCA sets up stairmasters in the lobby all day on 9/11. Open to the public – people come all day (some putting on firefighter gear) and walk steps to commemorate the steps the firefighters had to climb during 9/11. It’s one of the days of the year when we fulfill our mission most fully.
new programs. For example, the Y wants to have a more active role in solving northwest Louisiana’s obesity issues.
“Nutrition is a big thing for us,” he said. “We want to continue doing more in that arena. We don’t do enough in any area of wellness. One thing that the Y is very conscious of is that this area was recently selected the second most obese metro area in the country. We hear that and go, ‘Well, clearly we’re not doing our role.’ There’s so much work to be done, and we want to constantly do better and do more.”
Part of the money the YMCA of Northwest Louisiana needs to operate each year is raised through an annual fundraising campaign. The goal for this year’s annual campaign is $250,000. Gary Lash, the Y’s chief executive officer, said that to date, $200,000 has been raised. Those funds help underwrite operating expanses and also provide partial scholarships for families that cannot afford a full membership or program fee.
“This is one of the most important things to continue to provide services,” Lash said. “We are way more than a ‘swim and gym.’ We are more than paying $10 month to work out because of the community we are trying to build. We don’t want to turn anyone away for financial issues. We can’t do it without the annual campaign. It’s part of our culture.”
For a complete schedule of classes and programs, as well as membership information, visit ymcanwla.org. For more information or to continue to the annual campaign, visit https://www.ymcanwla.org/give/annual-campaign/.