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Mankato YMCA Executive Director John Kind said they lost more than half of their members during the pandemic but have seen increases every month since February and are now down about 3,700 members from pre-pandemic levels. The YMCA is looking at putting an east side Y in part of the former Shopko building that is slated for a major development project led by Mike Drummer.

MANKATO — The Mankato YMCA is bouncing back with new programs, increasing memberships and the possibility of an east side location after being hit hard during the COVID pandemic.

“We had around 9,700 members when COVID hit,” said Executive Director John Kind. “We went down to 4,200, so we lost more than half. But we’ve had an increase in membership every month since February and we’re back to about 6,000.”

He said they’ve never before seen membership increases in the spring and summer months, as nice weather hits and people do more activities outside. “We’re hoping with the cold that’s coming we’ll keep seeing more increases.”

Financially, the Y was helped through the pandemic with donations and federal relief. They received two Payroll Protection Plan grants for a total of about $1 million. “And we got some nice assistance from Blue Earth County, the city of Mankato, Mayo and the state because we were providing child care and doing distance learning,” Kind said.

“So we really had to change the way we were doing things. We had our blue gym broken into 10 separate classrooms.”

The rebound comes as the YMCA board will soon make a decision on whether to use part of the former Shopko building for the site of a long-wanted east side presence. (See related story.)

Forever Well

The YMCA is also launching a major new program called Forever Well to serve people 55 plus.

“It’s connecting older active adults with volunteer activities and making sure they’re physically fit and not isolated,” Kind said of the program, which launches Oct. 14.

The YMCA of the North in Minneapolis started the program and the Mankato Y received a grant to kick one off here.

Kind said Forever Well will be included with the regular YMCA membership.

Forever Well Coordinator Renee Solomon-Wise said the program is still being developed but hopes to help seniors connect to the community.

“We are looking to address issues of isolation, boredom and to promote healthy lifestyles. We’ll have classes for the mind, body and soul,” she said.

“We recognize that as COVID has come a lot of adults have gotten more isolated and haven’t socialized as much. So we’re encouraging volunteerism and getting back out in the community. We already offer a lot of exercise classes for older adults but we’re looking at adding more classes for socializing.”

They plan to hold evening social gatherings, including fall walks, playing cards and cribbage and connecting older adults to community groups that need volunteers.

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