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September Meeting Highlights YMCA Plans and "Moms & Babies" Survey

Flowers were provided by SEARCH volunteer Sandra Saunders.

Autumn was barely three hours old when we kicked off our second public meeting of 2022. In June, the first one since the pandemic attracted 50 people to learn about current activities and emphases of SEARCH and to sign up volunteers to help with them. The second, September 22, also attracted 50 people and shone the spotlight on two other groups – the Mitchell County YMCA and Blue Ridge Partnership for Children’s “Moms and Babies” Project.

Attendees shared a supper and social time before the presentations began.

Katie Willett, who is Associate Executive Director for Williams YMCA, Mitchell Branch, spoke about how the concept of a local YMCA has developed over the past four years and the range of programs currently underway through the YMCA Wellness Center. These include a K-5 after-school program at Gouge and Deyton Elementary Schools, funded through a Federal Community Learning Grant. Also for children the Y collaborates on the Riverside Story Trail Project, which offers first-in-the-nation audio stations in English and Spanish. For adults there are Parkinson Management and Arthritis Management Programs. Rosendo Lopez provides outreach to the Latino community and Stephen Bomar is the new Mitchell County Director of Healthy Living.

Katie Willett, at the podium to the left, spoke about the planned Mitchell County YMCA.

While these programs are managed out of the “Y” storefront on Upper Street, plans are developing apace for the building where Pinebridge once was. Mayland Community College is the main tenant, and the YMCA will be housed on the 2nd and 3rd floors. There are many moving parts and partners in remodeling the building and constructing a new one, which will house two pools, one with a play splash component and the other a 6-lane lap pool. Katie showed concept drawings, which included an inside walking track.

Conceptual renderings for the new YMCA were shared.

The timeline to build the YMCA is fluid. Funding for the project got a jump start with a grant from the state and other grants from various foundations. Katie emphasized that community advocacy for the project is vital as are business partnerships. Responding to questions from the floor, Katie said that “Y” memberships are reciprocal across the country, and that Medicare and insurance may cover some programs, and some are free.

Katherine Savage, the Program Manager for the Alliance for Children, Blue Ridge Partnership for Children, talked about the survey that had been conducted in 2021-22 to determine how women in Mitchell and Yancey counties wanted to receive support and information about labor/delivery/and having children. They got excellent response to the on-line survey from 176 moms, 8 medical providers, and 11 non-medical providers (lactation consultants, etc.) Largely missing from the group were teen and substance-abuse moms, and there were few Latina moms.

Katherine Savage detailed the results of the "Moms & Babies" Survey.

a and that they want more information, especially about options for and during labor and caring for the baby and themselves after delivery. The full report is available HERE.

Katherine heads a task force that is seeking ways to address the needs that women expressed in the survey. The group includes medical providers, academics, nonprofit representatives, and moms. They are looking at rural programs across the nation that have been successful at addressing similar needs and funding sources they could tap to meet those needs. Appalachian State is a key player. Before the year ends, they also expect to meet in person with providers and community stakeholders.


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