By Christine Nguyen
It’s a building that’s almost impossible to find, nestled literally on the offshoot of a long and winding road, but somehow the Northeast Family YMCA has become an indispensable part of the North Forest community.
“The YMCA plays a big role [in these people’s lives],” day camp director Jared Hale said. “We cater to the children, but we have senior citizens who love the program. We have teens that love the program. We have people who are involved in the program and don’t even know… Whether they know it or not, they’re contributing to the YMCA and we’re contributing back to the community.
Walk into the Northeast Family YMCA on any given day and you’re likely to find community members of all ages, from toddlers to seniors. Currently, the Northeast Y has 330 memberships, which means that an average number of 1,000 or more individuals pass through the building each month.
Community Executive Director Demetta Landry says the Y prides itself on being a place easily accessible to anyone.
“There are kids here whose parents came to this Y when they were growing up.” Landry said. “We’re here to take care of their kids just like we took care of them. They trust us. And with the seniors, they know they can come here, get some good exercise … and do stuff, instead of just staying at home.”
The Northeast Y offers a variety of programs and classes, ranging from swim lessons and sports for the youth to aerobics and line dancing for adults. The building itself houses a number of facilities including an outdoor pool, a multi-purpose gym, two fitness centers and a playroom.
During the summer, the Y offers a day camp for young teens and kids as young as 3 years old, which Landry says is immensely helpful for parents who may have to work during the daytime and need a “safe place” for their kids.
The Northeast Y isn’t only focused on accessibility in terms of age either. Although the Y relies heavily on membership and class fees, Landry says it is constantly seeking out new sources of funding to be able to provide financial assistance to those in need, whether it’s through United Way dollars or the Y Partners Campaign.
The Partners Campaign works to raise money from board members, benefactors, Y members and staff to allow everyone to participate in the Y, even those who can’t afford the membership.
“It’s all money that we pretty much raise ourselves to keep us going,” Landry said. “Our rates are based on what our community can afford, so we work really hard to try to raise as much as we can because there’s a great need in our community.”
Currently, through the Partners Campaign, the Northeast Y does apartment outreach at Haverstock Hills Apartments, which was once considered the most dangerous complex in the Houston area. Through the program, the Y provides a variety of sports and enrichment activities to more than 700 youth who live in the complex.
But for Landry, who has worked at the Northeast Family YMCA for almost 28 years, this relationship isn’t a one-way street. She says the community has changed her life just as much as the Y has changed theirs.
“I’ve never really wanted to work anywhere else,” Landry said. “I believe in the mission, and I love this community. It’s my family.”