What does it look like for an organization who is in business to help others by creating healthy relationships, encouraging inclusion and welcoming all when their doors are ordered closed because of a worldwide pandemic?

Our hallways are dark, it’s cold, quiet and lonely. Nothing like a vibrant active YMCA should be. But, as Pastor Scott Ehle from Bethel Lutheran Church in Menominee reminds our congregation often, “the church is not the building! Yes, this is the place that we come together to worship, but more meaningful is what we do and how we treat others the other 6 days of the week in our neighborhoods, our places of work, and in our communities.”

During this time, we find ourselves reflecting on what we miss and looking forward to the time that we can re-open the Y doors and see you again! While we continue to navigate through this challenging time, we know it’s important that we all stay connected with one another in our communities and the smaller groups we’ve been a part of within the community.

For many of us, our YMCA is one of the key places we feel community. Thankfully, this situation we are living in now has proven once again that our community is not defined by a physical building. It is defined by the many caring and generous people who are inside and outside the four walls of the Y.

At the time we closed our doors we let the community know that the Y was here to help (always look for the helpers in times of crisis, that’s where the compassionate caring people are). Because of an on-going partnership with Jack’s Fresh Market, they asked us to help keep store shelves stocked and to shop and deliver groceries to the elderly and those in compromised health; the Y is filling two shifts seven days a week. Next, the State of Wisconsin Department of Children and Families asked us to look into opening a childcare site for healthcare staff and others deemed as emergent workers. New Life Church in Peshtigo offered their building immediately and the City of Peshtigo got to work along with our State Licensing agent to make the temporary childcare site a reality. I also had a grandma call to see if the Y could provide Easter for a local family, and although the Y could not provide the funds necessary to do this, the Menominee Kiwanis Club could. Doing good during these times is what is needed to keep the faith and know that we will come out of this pandemic better than before; not the same, different, but better!

The Y could not have been one of the helpers without the support of our members and donors. I want to give a very big and heartfelt thank you to the members who have let us continue their bank draft for membership fees even though we are closed. Your generosity and compassion for our Y and the work we do in the community is inspiring. In addition, many individuals and businesses have chosen to make donations to our organization, and again, we are so thankful and appreciative. Our costs to maintain our battened down facility and to pay the employees who are handling emergency childcare and supporting our community in additional ways do not go away. The Y is actively working on stimulus loans, grants and donations to fill in where membership and program revenues have been impacted.

During this time, I encourage you to focus on things for which are grateful and things that are in your control. We don’t have any answers yet about when the Y can open. Use this time to say active. Bond with family and friends from a distance. The “new normal” will emerge, it will take a long time to recover and we will recover — together.

Terri Falkenberg is the Executive Director of the Greater Marinette Menominee YMCA.