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Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024

Lash Family YMCA Opens


Misty Alexander demonstrates operation of one of the elliptical machines to Jeffrey Goodman

New location for YMCA of Northwest Louisiana

The newest location for the YMCA of Northwest Louisiana received accolades on Jan. 27 as visitors got their first guided tours of the new Lash Family Y at the corner of Flournoy Lucas and Ellerbe Roads.

The 45,000-square-foot site joins the venerable downtown Y on McNeil Street and the BHP Y on Knight Street to provide exercise and athletic opportunities for locals ranging from six weeks old to 90+.

If BHP is any indication, members appreciate the amenities of the large venues.

“I think that’s what we needed instead of a bunch of small locations, a destination,” said Gary Lash, CEO of the YMCA of Northwest Louisiana. “That was the motivation. To do better, to be able to serve our community and make a better community here with quality-of-life issues. It’s something we desperately needed.”

Misty Alexander is the Y’s wellness director, and she’s been scouting for programs to meet the needs of the area. “We look for where there are little gaps in the community and how we can bring the community together through things that are desperately needed,” she explained.

Alexander oversees the approximately 150 fitness instructors, personal trainers, and coaches the Y uses in its facilities. But there’s more to a Y membership than sweating and free weights.

“For example, we have a partnership with Feist-Weiller for people who have gone through cancer treatment,” Alexander said, “and we have an exercise program that’s just for them. We monitor not just their physical well-being but their mental well-being. Coming off the treatment, a lot of people have been struggling with depression and that sort of thing. We have special classes for people with Parkinson’s. I go out and see what kinds of programming that we can bring to the Y to really help out members to set us apart from a typical gym.”

She added that the Y also offers a kids’ triathlon and a field day for home-schooled children. “We have about 300 kids that come out for that,” she added. “In our basketball program, we have over 800 kids playing YMCA Basketball.

David Alvis, Eric England, executive director of the Port of Caddo-Bossier and chairman of the YMCA of Northwest Louisiana board, YMCA CEO Gary Lash and Grayson Boucher.

“There’s something for everybody,” she continued. “Our youngest members, you have to be six weeks old to go into our Child Watch, I don’t know how old our oldest member, probably 96. We have several members that are 90 years old that are there seven days a week.”

Lash further described some of YMCA’s offerings for children: “We have a second-grade program, over the last five years, a water safety program every second grader in the parish comes through BHP. In five years, we’ve had 15,000 kids come through there. That’s a huge deal.”

Jeffrey Goodman is the Y’s director of marketing and development, and he admitted he’s excited to be adding the new space to the Y. “We have three branches, and each one is kind of a different flavor. People have different preferences. There are people, as nice as the BHP Y is, who still prefer going downtown. And there’s a slightly different feel here that some will prefer to go to the other two.”

“That was my dream,” Lash said, “to have a Y here and ball fields in this part of town. Because it had been a camp and been used for spiritual purposes, I wanted to keep that going. There are no parks, no schools with playgrounds [in this area], so people have no place to go. So, hopefully, this will be the playground and the place they come for recreation.”

All ages can enjoy activities at the Lash Y.

The managers attribute a lot of the local Y’s success to those working there.

Lash calls them his “very good staff,” and that’s high praise for a man of few words.

And Alexander agreed. “Ms. Vera [Shivers] has been here 32 years,” she recounted.

“She raised Gary and Rene Lash’s boys in our Child Watch Program. Julie Murray, who’s our membership director at the BHP location, started at the Y her very first job out of college. As cheesy as this sounds, we are really a family. And I love that it’s called the Lash Family Y because they have been instrumental in developing the YMCA in Shreveport. Without them, there wouldn’t be the BHP Y, there wouldn’t be this facility, there wouldn’t be 300,000 check-ins a year at our facility.”

“The community has been very benevolent to us,” Lash said. “I think that Shreveport is really on the cusp of breaking out and doing some great stuff.”

As for the Y’s local success, Alexander gives the Lash family a lot of credit. “Everybody who does this job is here because they love the Lashes, they love the YMCA mission, and really feel like it’s a calling to put that mission into place.”


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