YMCA on the rebound, CEO says

Feith Family Ozaukee facility in Saukville was hit hard by pandemic but membership is now climbing and plans for expansion are once again being considered

WHILE MEMBERSHIP AT the Feith Family Ozaukee YMCA took a hit during the pandemic, it has now stabilized at about 80% of its pre-coronavirus level as restrictions have lessened and vaccinations and booster shots have become more common, officials said. The YMCA is returning the popular Silver Sneakers program to help increase those numbers and is also looking at updates and renovations at the facility. Photo by Sam Arendt
By 
KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Ozaukee Press staff

Things are looking good for the Feith Family Ozaukee YMCA in Saukville in 2022.

The facility has taken a real hit with the pandemic, but it is on the rebound, Rob Johnson, CEO of the Kettle Moraine YMCA in West Bend, which owns the Saukville facility, said.

“Things are looking up,” Johnson said. 

Membership, which decreased significantly when the pandemic hit, has stabilized at about 78% of its 2019 level, he said.

“It has gradually climbed back,” Johnson said.

The numbers, which had increased almost 11% the year before the pandemic, took a major hit after Covid-19 swept the nation. 

Membership “hit bottom,” Johnson said, when the YMCA closed from March to the end of May 2020. 

While still down 22%, the number has gradually climbed as Covid-19 restrictions eased and vaccinations became common, Johnson said. 

“I think our new normal is going to be about 80% of where we used to be,” he said.

The YMCA is bringing back the popular Silver Sneakers Medicare Advantage Plan program on Feb. 1, Johnson said.

The program gives people on Medicare free access to the YMCA and the Y is reimbursed by Medicare based on the number of visits, he said.

There are 10,000 county residents eligible for the plan, he said, noting that the YMCA is hoping that bringing the program back will help the Feith membership numbers increase again.

“We’d like to get up to 85% of where we were, and this might help us,” Johnson said.

And the expansion program, which was put on hold at the beginning of the pandemic, is once again being considered by the YMCA, he said.

“The recent decision by the Port Washington-Saukville School District with regard to the 4-K program has thrown another wrinkle in it,” he admitted, noting that the end of the 4-K program will result in a loss of about $60,000.

“That’s not easy to swallow,” Johnson said. 

But the YMCA is considering an expansion of its child care program as part of its three-year strategic plan, he said. 

It would cost about $43,000 to convert the existing babysitting and child watch space to a day care for children from six weeks to 2-1/2 years.

Child care is an important aspect of the YMCA’s operations and an in-demand service in the area, Johnson said, adding that expanding this program would help the Y become more financially stable.

The Y’s program for children 5 and younger is at capacity, he said, although there is still room in the before and after-school care programs the Y operates for school-age children at 11 Ozaukee County locations.

And last summer was the best summer yet for the Y’s summer camp program, Johnson said, noting 1,100 children attended at four locations.

Also under consideration for the Feith Family YMCA is the second phase of its locker room remodeling project, Johnson said.

The project, which initially was to be done in 2019 but was postponed, includes $250,000 to $300,000 to renovate the family, men’s and women’s locker room shower areas.

Another area the Y will be emphasizing in 2022 is mental health, particularly for teen girls in fifth through eighth grades, he said.

The program, which will be offered at three locations in Ozaukee County,  will be launched with the school year and focus on creating a framework for healthy living. “It’s been a challenging couple of years,” Johnson said, “but I think we’re heading back to normal. We just want people to stay healthy.”

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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