October From The Director's Desk

If we’ve learned anything this year, it’s to expect the unexpected. Two weeks ago, the destruction caused by Hurricane Sally was yet another tick mark on that 2020 list. In the immediate aftermath, your YMCA once again pivoted – this time providing hot showers and overnight accommodations to hundreds of linemen, tree service crews, and logistics professionals working overtime to restore power to our community.

When 7,000 additional workers descended upon Northwest Florida on incredibly short notice, Gulf Power was scrambling to make arrangements for them all.

“The YMCA has provided critical services for over 140 years, and when the opportunity presented itself to help our community by providing shelter for out-of-town lineman, I didn’t need to think about it,” said CEO Michael Bodenhausen. “Historically, many YMCAs provided accommodations to people in need, including our Y in 1900s. This was a flashback to when the Pensacola YMCA provided the USO, Navy and sailors from all over the world a place to stay.”

After working 16-hour days, the men and women who stayed at the Y were grateful for a hot shower, quiet and spacious sleeping arrangements, and a chance to recharge not just their devices but also themselves.

In the four nights that the Y opened its doors, 299 men and women took showers and slept at the branch. Here are a few highlights.

  • One lineman – identified only as Kevin from Houston – made a $100 donation to the Y’s Annual Campaign, which provides financial assistance for Y membership and programs. He so appreciated his first shower in five days so much that he wanted to personally express his gratitude to the organization.
  • A group of five linemen from Irby Utilities, just south of Orlando, explained that often during recovery efforts, they sleep in semi-trucks, with bunks stacked three high. In the era of COVID-19, this has proved difficult, so the Y’s arrangements were spacious by comparison. This particular team of linemen had had only one day off in the past five weeks, after responding to back-to-back hurricanes in different states. Self-described “adrenaline junkies” who enjoy working outside and traveling, the men said their profession offers a good-paying job that doesn’t require a college degree and is a happy alternative to a desk job. Plus, “It’s a way for us to give back and help out,” one said.
  • Massiel, one of the small number of women who stayed at the Y, works for Lewis Tree Service out of Ft. Myers. She appreciated that the Y’s family locker rooms and KidZone offered separate spaces for the women who were part of the recovery team.
  • For member Susan Endry, a native of Foley, Ala., the best way to show appreciation is through food. So she delivered a homemade bundt cake to the Y on Sept. 22 as her thanks. Her father had served on the Riviera Utility Board for many years, so she has a special connection to the utility crews. “When my Daddy died, as we left the church headed to the cemetery, utility trucks lined the road with men standing alongside, holding their helmets across their chests,” she said. “It touched me so much. I never see a utility truck now without a lump in my throat and gratitude in my heart.”

The presence of these out-of-town professionals undoubtedly were a game-changer in recovery efforts, enabling the restoration of power to nearly the entire area in just five days.

“The Y has always been so much more than a gym and a pool,” Executive Director Bill Seedes said. “Our staff and board belong to this community, so our first question is always about how we can meet critical needs and make an impact. This was definitely the best way that we could serve not just our members, but the entire community.”

Our Mission: To put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all.