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Sharing Y Stories of Another Year of Being Thankful

"As the holiday approaches, I want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving with family and friends," says CEO Pat Riemersma.

“As the holiday approaches, I want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving with family and friends,” says CEO Pat Riemersma.

Midge’s Membership Blog:

Thanksgiving always seems to creep up on us way before we’re ready.

The milder temperatures, especially compared to last year, contribute to the ‘not quite ready’ for the holidays feeling … but in a few short days, the turkeys will be stuffed, the cranberries, potatoes, squash and pumpkin pie will be devoured and families will come together at Thanksgiving to share another year of being thankful.

We, at the Westport Weston Family YMCA, have much to be thankful for.

I am thankful for being able to write about some of the most fascinating, giving, smart and socially conscious people in a YMCA that is as vibrant as the communities it serves.

A perfect example of a Y Thanksgiving story happened just this morning.  One of our members called in, frantic, crying … she had lost her Rolex watch yesterday while working out in our Wellness Center. Membership Coordinator Jerry Kochman went downstairs and searched the area. He found her Rolex, still in the holder cup on the side of the treadmill she had used.

When Jerry called her back to tell her the good news, you could her screams of joy across the Welcome Center.  A couple of hours later, she came in for her watch, bringing with her a big shopping bag filled with cookies, chocolate and sparkling cider to give to Jerry in gratitude for his help. She explained that, aside from the fact that the watch is worth thousands of dollars, it was the sentimental attachment and the memories associated with the watch that would have upset her the most if it was truly lost.

As they say, ’Pay it Forward.’  I hope that we — the Y staff and our members — will have a loving and reflective Thanksgiving holiday and a new year of full of ‘paying it forward.’

Let me share with you expressions of thanks and gratitude from some of my Y colleagues:

ALEXEI BACHURETZ, Health & Wellness Director:  I’m thankful for having the opportunity to serve our members by helping them improve their health and wellness through our programs and services. I’m also thankful for my colleagues and staff for making this possible on a much bigger scale than I could ever do alone. Together, we are able to make a profound difference on so many lives every day.

NICOLE TURECHEK, Aquatics Director:  I’m thankful for all the smiling faces I see coming into the Y every day.  How happy the kids are playing around in the pools!

JUDY SAMUELS, Group Fitness Instructor:  Lots to be thankful for—we are one lucky community. I am really thankful to work at the Y—it doesn’t feel like work ever!  I am really thankful for the community feel of the Y—and for the members who I have been working out with for years and years!  Many have become friends. I am thankful for such a beautiful new building and our new spin bikes!  I am thankful for my swimming friends, who taught me how to work out in the water and encouraged me along the way.  Thankful for the friendships I have made with many of the staff and thankful that my kids continue to love to come to the Y to work out when they are back in town.

DENISE HOTCH, Accounts Receivable/Group Fitness Instructor:  For starters, I am most thankful for YOU [Midge Deverin] and our friendship! We met in New Neighbors and rekindled our friendship in the preschool we shared and when you were kind enough to lend out your au pair/nanny.  And of course, I have had the pleasure of your company and smiling face each day for the past decade, always making my work day a little brighter.

JAY JARONKO, Senior Program Director/Athletic Director: My fondest memory of 2015, and the thing that I’m most thankful for, is that we reopened day camp at Camp Mahackeno for the first time since 2012. It was a great summer, and I’m looking forward to the summer of 2016!

PATTY KONDUB, Aqua Fitness Coordinator: At the Y I am most thankful for our loyal, dedicated, generous, thoughtful and caring Aqua Fitness members and the Aqua Fitness team of teachers.  It’s quite a bit of effort for anyone who comes to the pool—they schlep a lot of extra stuff like towels, toiletries and clothes. It’s also a lot of mental effort to jump into a pool in the middle of the winter, temperatures hovering 10 degrees outside, while it is also dark in the morning (and night)!

I’ll forever be thankful to Claire Sacramone, who started the Aqua Fitness program at our Y, and her encouragement for me to become an instructor. My guess is that it was her handwritten sign at the front desk, “Try Aqua Fitness Tonight in the Brophy Pool,” almost 30 years ago! If I had not seen that sign I would have just swum laps in the Stauffer Pool as usual.  I had no idea these fun and great workouts existed!

And if there is one other person I am thankful for, it is Bob Knoebel, for hiring me as the Aqua Fitness Coordinator when Claire retired, and his guidance as my boss over many, many years of YMCA life.  I would not be here today or the person I am if it were not for Bob.

RITA KABABIK, Membership Engagement:  When I come to work, I honestly look forward to it.  How many can say that about their job?  I am thankful to work with some great people.  Always new things going on at the Y … so thankful I work here!

BRIAN MARAZZI, Membership Engagement Director:  In my position of overseeing membership, there is nothing I am more thankful for than all the great people I get to associate with, which includes both members and staff.  To be able to see so many smiling faces enter and exit the Family YMCA each day, knowing what we are doing is making such a difference in their lives, especially those we assist financially.  Likewise, being a part of a great staff, as well as managing a great group of people who work hard every day to make our members feel welcome.. All of this makes me extremely thankful for the job I have.

LOVITUS MARTIN, Mechanic:  I am thankful for the YMCA for a lot of reasons. No. 1: I learned how to swim. No. 2:  I went camping and learned archery. No. 3: It’s a very healthy place, mentally and physically!

MEG GEORGE, Camp & Family Services Director: This year I am thankful for the amazing camp staff that we had. We went into this summer with such high hopes for the program, and each and every day they stepped up and surpassed those hopes. We are truly blessed to have had these amazing folks for our return to Camp Mahackeno.

JANET LE BRUN LEE:  Simply Delicious Catering:  I’m so very thankful to be serving the Y staff and members at the Y’s Member Cafe.  I’ve gotten to know so many of them and know exactly what they like in their coffee or whether they want a salad or a tuna wrap. I especially am thankful for how appreciative everyone is of our food.

PAT RIEMERSMA, Chief Executive Officer:  My fondest memories of Thanksgiving as a child were getting together with all my aunts, uncles and cousins for a true Thanksgiving feast.  Besides the food, we would play games, tell stories and appreciate each other.  Throughout the past 30 years, besides my immediate family, the Y staff and members have also been a part of my family.  As the holiday approaches, I want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving with family and friends.