Last year, Johnston had just left an abusive relationship, said Heather Hulen, member engagement director and interim executive director, after Thursday’s breakfast at the YMCA. She wanted to teach yoga, specifically yoga geared to trauma survivors, but she couldn’t afford it on her own.
The Y’s annual fund helped Johnston to be a part of the Y and to move her life forward.
“Last year I shared my story about why I was here and why I needed financial assistance,” said Johnston. “Basically, from the moment the last word left my mouth, my life started changing in a remarkable way.”
Organizations in Indianola stepped up to pay for her to train as a yoga instructor. She got a job teaching yoga at the Y and out in the community. The turnaround happened fast.
“All that happened before June,” she said. “In that short amount of time, there was a complete flip in my life where I no longer needed financial assistance.”
Now, she says, “I’m able to start giving back to the Y and to the community for what I’ve been given.”
The YMCA runs an annual giving campaign each year, explained campaign chair Seth Lampman. The goal this year is to raise $75,000, which will go directly to financial assistance at the Indianola branch.
“The reason I do this campaign is because I was a beneficiary of financial assistance when I was growing up in Marshalltown at the YMCA. So that made an impact on my life,” Lampman told the audience. “It’s been important to me to give back to that.”
The Y offers far more than a place to exercise, said Mandy Chaplin, who also has received financial assistance from the Y. Chaplin graduated from Indianola High School and taught at a Native American reservation in South Dakota before moving to Singapore to teach. While there, she adopted a son from China with limited English and Mandarin speaking skills.
“He did a really great job,” she said. “But he had a lot to catch up on.”
So she decided to take a year off from teaching and return to Indianola to homeschool the boy.
“It was a really hard transition for both of us,” she said. “Homeschooling one 9-year-old is a lot harder than schooling 20 kids in a classroom. The first few days we were both in tears.”
Chaplin said she felt isolated, alone and exasperated. She considered joining the YMCA, but thought she couldn’t afford it. She also thought she couldn’t ask for help.
“I chose this. I chose to take the year off, I chose to stay home,” she said. “I can’t ask other people to help me when I made the decision to choose this life that I’m living.”
Finally, she called and asked for her help. She and her son now attend the Y regularly, allowing them each to make friends and find their own community.
“It’s just been a game changer to have a place in the community where we can come and have relationships with other people,” she said. “It’s really been a great opportunity for us that we wouldn’t have had without the financial assistance."
“It really does make a difference,” she said.
There are many stories like Johnston’s and Chaplin’s, Hulen told the group.
“The stories that you’re hearing today are from two individuals who are very brave and courageous,” she said. “Sometimes, it’s hard to tell your story.”
But it’s not their stories alone, she added.
“They’re both very proud of how the Y has impacted them,” Hulen said. “And that makes me very proud to do what I do every day. It should make people in this room and the community feel good too, because we do that together.”
The YMCA’s mission statement calls for the Y to be a place for all, she continued.
“The only way we can be for all is we have the community support, and the charitable donations that help us do that. I’m super excited about the places we can go and how many more people we can connect and how many more differences we can make in lives.”