Charlotte’s YWCA (a local nonprofit known as YWCA Central Carolinas) has a mission to eliminate racism and empower women. With such a mission, it might seem odd to highlight YWCA’s gym. But indeed, the fitness center is one of the most crucial aspects of the YWCA’s goal.
YWCA’s fitness center provides cardio, weight and circuit rooms; an indoor heated swimming pool; outdoor fitness trails; a league of experienced personal trainers; and even a tennis court. Membership includes group exercise classes like yoga, spin, cardio strength and aqua boxing. Members can also enroll in specialty workshops, “boot camps” and private swimming lessons for both children and adults.
And yet the most important aspect of YWCA’s gym is that it is non-intimidating, says Cassandra D’Alessio, the Director of Marketing at Charlotte’s YWCA. The fitness center is open to people of all ages and fitness ability—a fact that makes it less scary for those of us starting in on our New Year’s Resolutions. “It’s a safe place,” D’Alessio says. “A diverse community.” A day at YWCA will often see people from all walks of life—from affluent men and women to women overcoming homelessness—working out alongside each other, all of them striving for personal betterment in a place that encourages them to reach for their goals. “Some of these women,” says D’Alessio, “are coming from vulnerable situations.”
The efforts of YWCA don’t stop at simply providing a welcoming gym, though. Its transitional housing and support program is divided into Women in Transition and Families Together. Through this program, single women live in YWCA’s upstairs housing area, while families are provided housing on campus. Case managers support participants by teaching budgeting, resume-building, money-saving and volunteer workshops like “Cooking Healthy on a Budget.” YWCA offers youth programs, advocates racial justice and features a book club about social justice issues. Through these services—plus volunteer and contribution opportunities—YWCA Central Carolinas works to strengthen our community in the gym and beyond. In this way the YWCA truly is more than just a gym.