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During pandemic, Y offers outdoor programs and reimagines space inside former Medina Armory

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 17 August 2020 at 11:33 am

Quick Questions with Greg Reed, director of Orleans County YMCA

Photos by Tom Rivers: Greg Reed, executive director of the Orleans County YMCA, looks forward to the building being able to reopen to the public.

MEDINA – Greg Reed, executive director of the Orleans County YMCA for nearly three years, has the building ready for a reopening if the state gives gyms the green light. (The state is expected to issue guidelines today for gyms on what precautions they need to take to reopen.)

The Y’s building has been closed to the public since 8 p.m. on March 16, although the site is running a day camp in a room in the basement where there are games and space for activities.

Reed said the former Medina Armory on Pearl Street has been given an extensive cleaning, and exercise equipment has been spaced out at least 6 feet. Some of the elliptical machines, tread mills, cardio-rowers and exercise bikes have been moved to the gym where there is more space.

The Y has shifted some programs outside, including a spin class three times a week, and other programs for kayaking, cycling, stretching and flexibility, and a boot camp.

The Y has 40 employees when it is fully operational. Reed and Jessica Lino are the only full-timers. Lino is director of membership and operations. “She keeps this place running,” Reed said.

The following interview with Reed was conducted Aug. 7 on the front steps of the Y. This was the day Gov. Cuomo announced whether schools would be allowed to reopen for in-person in the fall. The governor said schools could reopen as long as they submitted safety plans to the state and held three meetings with the community about the plans, as well as a meeting with teachers.

Question: You said 40 employees at the YMCA with two full-time. How many have you been able to keep working during this?

Answer: It’s been different throughout the structure of it, because of the PPP program and how they set it up. By the end of your eight weeks you’re supposed to try to bring all of your workforce back in order to have loan forgiveness and that is obviously what we wanted to pursue.

But then in about week 5 they changed it to where if your business is closed due to Covid you didn’t have to honor that. We were thinking how could we make this last long to really help us and get through closure.

At one point we probably had close to 20 employees back to work, whether that was back in the building or remote work. We worked on curriculum development. I had my youth sports lead instructor be creating curriculum for all of our youth sports program so that way it could be a program that lasts past him.

Some exercise equipment has been moved the gym where there is lots of space to spread out the machines. There is also hand sanitizer on a table.

Question: So you’ve been doing outdoor programs. When did that start?

Answer: So basically when the governor released that we could be doing outdoor, low-risk, recreational sports. So specifically in the guidelines they said kayaking is one of those things. When I saw that I wanted to run our kayaking program. It took a couple weeks after that to get it off the ground.

We just finished a session (for five weeks.) I want to say it was probably in the middle of June when we starting our first session of kayaking. We just started a new session that will go for five weeks.

Question: It’s got to be tough because you want to do things, and I think people want to be doing things out in the community.

Answer: Exactly. What our next pivoting move will be, a lot of it will be determined by what Governor Cuomo says today with what schools can and can’t do. We’re all just kind of waiting for that decision.

Some people in a kayak class get into Glenwood Lake in Ridgeway on Aug. 6. The class runs for 5 weeks and is led by Coby Albone in back.

Question: In terms of not only what you can do here but the childcare programs you run?

Answer: With how we can assist schools. We already run an afterschool and before-school programming so if schools can run then obviously we will still be running those programs. But if they are doing hybrid or virtual then obviously parents will have a lot of childcare needs so how can we fit and fill that void with the school year coming up on us.

Question: I knew you have been running the Eagle Pride daycare in Albion. What else have you been doing for childcare?

Answer: Actually we closed Eagle’s Pride Daycare permanently. That was in light of Covid. I want to say it was at the end of June that we notified parents. It was because of the increased regulations on us. The cost to run a childcare program is already difficult and then to  place an additional staff member in there to be working on sanitizing and keeping a safe, clean environment was something that we just can’t keep up with unfortunately.

Question: You would have needed another staff person?

Answer: Probably just to keep up with cleaning, disinfecting and regulations and all those things. I would imagine you probably would have to provide an increase in breaks to go with all the increased things to do it.

And when we polled our families only about half of them needed care. Then our ratios would have been lower but we’re still having to pay staff members to be there. There is definitely a lot of math that goes into running a childcare program, especially daycares.

Greg Reed is pictured in one of the rooms with exercise equipment that has been separated by at least 6 feet.

Question: So what would you be looking to offer schools this year if it’s not childcare?

Answer: It depends on what their needs will be. If it’s going to be afterschool programming, then we would do that.

If it’s something where kids are going to be home a lot more then we might do something similar to what we’re doing now with summer day camp. We could make it like a day camp integrated with learning and tutoring, giving kids the opportunities to do stuff.

I’ve already been talking with Medina schools. With the Education and Recreation Club downstairs, we have 12 computers down there and they are all hooked up directly to Medina Central School’s network. I can’t even get on those computers. You have to be a Medina student or teacher to get onto those computers and they are monitoring them to make sure the kids are using the internet safely. That was my desire when a donor was generous enough to give those to us. I decided I wanted the school district to own those so that way it’s monitored by them.

Question: So you really have to spring into action based on the governor’s announcements.

Answer: Yes. That will be something once that’s decided – I’ve already by talking with Mr. (Dan) Doctor (Medina’s director of community outreach) – even if they are able to do their program, with the high school students being every other day, if there’s any way he or someone else can work with us to maybe have an office hours time where could come in, sign up and use a computer, and then if they have any questions a staff member could be there. That way they would have an offsite place where kids could be. Even if it’s just for four hours a day at least they would have a place where they could go to check in and do work and have internet access.

This young kayaker is among the participants in the class offered by the Y.

Question: Is it strange for you being here at Y when it is so quiet when it was really hopping not long ago?

Answer: It has been sad to look at the graph of membership. Over the years we saw it go up and now it’s back down to lower than before I came.

Question: Financially, how is the local Y doing?

Answer: Membership drives a lot of what we do. Thankfully we’ve had a lot of gracious members keep their membership and be classified as sustainable members. Their membership dues are classified can be a tax deductible donation to the YMCA so we can keep running and Jessica and I can keep doing what we’re doing. The PPP loan has helped us continue as we have all moved on with the full-time staff on the shared work program. All of us are partially furloughed right now. But it’s to help conserve us so that way we can keep going forward. Grants, the United Way of Rochester was really gracious in bringing funds, as well as Dean Bellack from the Orleans County United Way. He’s been trying to get us additional funds to help us out.

I received some Covid relief from the Ralph Wilson youth sports legacy fund. A lot of the grants I had already received I requested if any of the grants could be reallocated to kind of help with general operating costs. A lot of them have been gracious to say a little bit can be moved around. Those grants helped us to do some things but they’ve really helped us to keep trucking forward.

Question: Even though you are largely closed down, there must be a lot of work to prepare to reopen.

Answer: When I’m here it’s very much administrative. It’s trying to keep things moving forward.

Question: With the kayaking program, do they call in and then you process that?

Answer: What we’ve mainly been trying to do, when we post it on Facebook, we’ve pointed people to messaging us on Facebook. That’s probably the easiest way to connect with Jessica or me. Because we have access to that all the time.

She and I are usually the ones signing people up and registering for things. We’re only here a handful of hours each day. To try to catch us is much more difficult than it used to be when we were open from 5 a.m. to 9 at night.

Question: I know the state has been reluctant to reopen the gyms. What does that mean for you and how long can you wait this out?

Answer: We’ll be rolling out some additional services to membership where we could possibly open up the building, just not as gym. We could utilize it for something different. I’m still processing that and what it could look like. It all depends on what schools end up doing.

There are also a lot more families looking at home schooling. We’re seeing if we could offer a Phys. Ed. program if anyone if doing home schooling. At least they would have an outlet. We have the gym and I used to be a Phys. Ed. teacher in Colorado State.

I think all of us have to think outside the box. That’s something we have told our employees. Our jobs are not going to work the same way they did. We might have to flex and do something different than before we did this. It could be an exciting opportunity if we choose to look at it that way.

Greg Reed, director of the Orleans County YMCA, hands a box to Andrew Lafave on June 12 during a food distribution at the Calvary Tabernacle church in Medina. Reed and Y staff have assisted at several of the events.

Question: I’ve noticed you and some of the Y staff have been helpful at the food distribution events. Why are you doing that?

Answer: Again, it goes back to when we had the PPP program. When my boss said we’re bringing people back and we have to find things for them to do, I was like let’s do good then.

I sent a team over to P.Raising Kids (child care center) to get their space ready, and cleaned and sanitized so they could open and offer child care services. Laura Fields works a lot at the Calvary Tabernacle food pantry. For a while we were able to pay her to be over there rather than volunteer her time. She has always requested Tuesdays and Thursdays not to work so she could keep volunteering even though we can’t pay her now to keep doing that.

My goal with this space has always been to fill community needs and we help out wherever we can.

Robert Batt (executive director of the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Orleans County) has been doing a great job with the food distribution events. Melissa (Blanar, Office for the Aging director) has done a great job coordinating them. Wherever we can lend a helping hand we want to try to. It is benefitting the mission and vision of the Y.

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