None of the three YMCA facilities in Joplin, MO, were damaged by the May 22 tornado, but their current situation could not be described as business as usual.
Most of the usual programming at the Joplin Ys has been suspended, and although the facilities are now back to normal operating hours, membership usage has dropped drastically, according to Amy York, associate executive at the Joplin Family YMCA.
“We have suspended T-ball and swim classes for two weeks,” York told Club Industry. “Ball fields remained intact, but many of our coaches and their families are displaced. The city pool we utilize for summer swim lessons has been demolished, so we are going to utilize an alternate pool for outdoor lessons. The indoor pools have not been functioning all hours due to so many of our guards being affected by the tornado.”
The rare EF5 tornado destroyed thousands of homes and businesses in the southern Missouri town. York says the Joplin Ys anticipate at least a 25 percent drop in membership because so many families have lost their homes and jobs.
Despite reduced member use, the Joplin Ys still have been busy. A mobile emergency room unit was set up at one of the locations to treat minor wounds and dispense medication as part of the earliest wave of recovery efforts, according to news reports, and the Joplin Family YMCA last week announced that it will be offering free showers to displaced locals for as long as needed as well as free child care services for children up to age 14.
Cookie Estrada, executive director of the Joplin Family YMCA, said in a statement that the free child care program would continue for as long as funds hold out.
“Many individuals will be finding themselves unemployed or with drastic cuts in income, with no way to afford child care,” Estrada said. “By leading this effort, we feel like we can help our area recover that much faster.”
The program is the result of a partnership with the local chapters of the United Way and the American Red Cross and with Missouri Southern State University. The university’s athletic and recreation facilities also have been used for various recovery efforts following the tornado.