They say our history affects our future.
The YMCA goes back a long way in history, all the way back to 1844 in England, where it was founded. The movement later traveled to the United States and took hold in many cities across this country. In Alabama, the Prattville YMCA was founded in 1963 and stands a beacon to their mission.
“Our mission is to develop healthy spirits, minds and bodies with solid Christian principles,” said Prattville YMCA General Director David Lewis. “When Prattville grew and attracted so many young families, we grew with it. Now we have served the community with many programs for the last 57 years. We are fortunate to be a part of such a great area.”
The Prattville YMCA serves all who desire to improve their being and be a part of an organization that cares for all aspects of their lives.
“Our programs are varied. Right now we have infant survival classes in the pool, at the same time where senior water aerobics is taught at the other end. We offer aquatics, child care, programs for seniors, fitness, teens and youth programs, and after-school care. We bus children here from other schools, and we are very active in the fitness area with adult classes. We also have a huge gymnastics program,” Lewis said.
“The program that no one talks about is our youth employment program. The YMCA provides a place for teens to learn how to work and be productive citizens,” he said.
Some of these programs have been modified due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Lewis and his staff at the Prattville YMCA are still eager to serve their community.
“COVID-19 has challenged us the most in our 57-year history. Despite those challenges, our YMCA has not failed to be here for a single day. When schools closed, we provided emergency child care for well over 100 children throughout the pandemic. We have served the community,” Lewis said. “We maximized every space to accommodate the most coverage we could for children.”
The YMCA also provided food for children when the schools closed, delivering meals to areas where people could not get school lunches.
“From April to September, we were part of a group of organizations and churches that served 174,000 meals to 12,000 people, and that has opened up so many opportunities for us to help people and show them we are here for them,” Lewis said.
To do all of this, Lewis depends on support from entities such as the Alabama Power Foundation.
“Over the years, it can be said that wherever you find something good going on in Alabama, you find someone from Alabama Power involved. That holds true for my entire life experience. When I was growing up in Selma, folks from Alabama Power and Alabama Power Foundation were involved with the schools, the scouts and the youth programs. The same holds true for us here at the YMCA,” Lewis said. “Each year, we have an annual campaign that supports our Coach a Child program. We are able to help children play sports, families’ memberships at the YMCA, senior programs and many other opportunities. The Alabama Power Foundation has been willing to support all of those efforts.”
One of those Alabama Power Foundation-supported programs is close to Lewis’s heart.
“With support from the Alabama Power Foundation, we have built a Field of Dreams to serve people with physical and mental challenges. It’s an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessible baseball field. Watching the young folks participate in sports for the first time has been the biggest joy. To see a mother with a tear in her eye, it’s overwhelming.” Lewis said.
Field of Dreams and other outreach programs of the Prattville YMCA have affected Lewis on a deep and personal level over the years.
“I feel so grateful when I see the results of our efforts. I am also greatly humbled. It’s not about me; it’s about our community. The word stewardship comes to mind. We impact and touch many lives in this area, and it is so humbling. To be a part of that, it is so inspiring,” Lewis said. “My children have grown up here at the YMCA and I saw the impact on their lives. The secret is our staff. We have an incredible and longtime-serving folks who have invested their lives into this YMCA.”
Not many organizations founded in the mid-1800s are still around, but when you learn about the YMCA and branches like the Prattville location, you realize they will continue to touch lives into a very long future.
For more information, visit www.Prattvilleymca.org.
Alabama Bright Lights captures the stories, through words, pictures and video, of some of our state’s brightest lights who are working to make Alabama an even better place to live, work and play. Award-winning journalist Karim Shamsi-Basha tells their inspiring stories. Email him comments, as well as suggestions on people to profile, at [email protected].