Don’t expect an answer if you call Fran Chester in the mornings at 8:00 a.m.
That’s when Fran and her friend, who have been exercising together for 25 years, visit the Mayfield/Graves County YMCA for their one or two mile morning walk.
For a quarter of a century the pair has walked outside, but when Fran retired, they sought a change of scenery for their morning stroll.
“We discovered the Silver Sneakers Program when I retired four years ago and decided it would be a better environment for us to be able to walk at the Y,” she recalls.
At the YMCA’s gym in Mayfield, Fran has not only found a comfortable and safe place for her to exercise, but she has found a community.
“I’ve noticed over the past three or four years that more and more people that are older are coming to the Y and I think that’s great,” she says.
In her early 70’s, Fran knows that many like her wouldn’t fit in as well at another workout facility.
“With someone who is older, you don’t feel intimidated at the Y,” she says.
“Sometimes when you go to other gyms, you see people that are much younger and very physically fit, and I think people become intimidated by that and decide that they’re not going to come back anymore.”
“At the Y, once you go a couple of times, you want to go back because you see other people that are maybe in the same fitness level that you are and they are working on the same kinds of things you are.”
“I see more and more people with that same attitude because that’s what is promoted there.” According to Executive Director Shawn Thompson, this camaraderie amongst members is a primary goal of the facility.
“It’s a good community-feel to where you know people care here,” he says.
“I’ve been a part of other gyms that don’t have that family-type feeling.”
“People care about each other that come here.”
For Fran, she’s always on the hunt for ways to grow that community and allow others to see the benefits that she’s seen from it.
“We have a group of retired teachers that get together once a month during the winter, and some of them will ask, ‘How do you get around so well?’ and I tell them about the Y.”
As a competitive cheerleading coach, Fran knows that physical fitness is important to her life.
“I travel with my cheerleading squad, and I know that if it weren’t for the Y and being able to walk and exercise there, I think that I would have more difficulty taking part in the things that I enjoy,” she says.
Thompson believes that the YMCA gym has something for everyone, from free weights and weight machines to cardio machines and stationary bikes, with even an indoor heated pool for swimming and water aerobics, the facility’s nearly 3,000 members have a variety of wellness options available to them for a reasonable fee.
And, those community members who do not take part in the Mayfield/Graves County YMCA’s workout facility may find themselves just like Brook Cope.
Brook’s 2nd grader, Maxton, is part of the organization’s Y’s Guys after-school program, where he receives help with his homework, free play, a snack and craft time when his school-day ends and while he waits for Brook or his dad to complete their work day.
For Maxton, the two hours that he spends with Y’s Guys in the afternoon is his chance to play with friends, get a jump on his homework load and enjoy time being a kid.
“During school, they can’t do a lot of socialization because they are learning, so this gives him the opportunity to play more with kids that he wouldn’t normal get to during the day,” Brook says.
“He loves it. He does not like it if I ever show up early to get him.”
For Brook, the benefits of the program to her and Maxton are unweighable.
“I work until 4:30 every day in Paducah and his father does too,” she says.
“Y’s Guys give us the flexibility to have our careers, but also make sure our child is well-taken care of.”
As the new Executive Director of the YMCA, Shawn knows that his organization is important for a variety of reasons to a great many Mayfield and Graves County residents, but he wants to do even more to reach even more.
“The nearest YMCA from here is Hopkinsville, so I feel like we can do more across the region to reach those in Paducah, Murray and Fulton,” he says.
“I feel like we can expand who all we can help.”
He would like to see a future where the YMCA offers sports options for youngsters and mentoring programs for middle and high schoolers.
In order for that dream to become a reality, though, the YMCA must continue receiving support from the countless individuals and businesses who help turn the lights on each morning for the 5:00 a.m. workout group.
“All donations that we receive, 100 percent of that goes back to community members, whether that’s through our programs or through scholarships on membership fees for individuals and families who cannot afford the full fee,” he says.
“It’s all going right back to the community.”
If you’d like to know more about the Mayfield/Graves County YMCA’s gym memberships, Y’s Guys program or Summer Camp program, call the facility at 270-247-0049.
To donate to the facility or to be added to the donation campaign drive mailing list, call Shawn Thompson at 270-247-0049.
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