YMCA staff member Eleesha Mandeles started working at the TownLake branch in 2015, after the Y was suggested to her by a job coach. Mandeles was looking for a role where she could make a difference in people's lives.
As a greeter, Mandeles teaches and models the community culture we call "the Y voice" -- being genuine, hopeful, welcoming, nurturing, and determined.
"I like making people's day -- being kind and making them feel welcome," she said. "It makes a world of difference because they might have a tough life."
Mandeles has cerebral palsy, which affects body movement and muscle coordination. She moved to Austin a few years ago with her spouse at the time, having lived the previous 22 years in Las Vegas. Mandeles said she loves living near many of her 16 nieces and nephews, ages 10 years to two months old. She takes them roller skating with her sisters. "They use my chair as a jungle gym," Mandeles said, laughing.
When it comes to engaging with Y members, Mandeles wants to remind people to slow down and be present.
"I want people to pay attention and understand me when I talk," she said. "I went to college. Just because I don't walk doesn't mean I don't have the capacity. Just because I have a disability doesn't mean I can't do anything. And I have the same feelings as everybody else."
A painter who uses the technique called acrylic pouring, Mandeles commutes to work at the downtown Y from Leander, Northwest of Austin in Williamson County. She said the long drive is a challenge but worth it because she likes how busy the TownLake branch is. Time flies when talking with Y members, she said, adding that she appreciates the people who sit down for a conversation.
"If people slow down and say hi, it will make a world of difference," she said. "The world is going so fast. It will help all of our lives to slow down and have a conversation."
Supervisor Roxanne Salinas, TownLake's membership director, said Eleesha is not just encouraging of Y members but a great friend to staff as well. "She is so reliable and flexible, and we really appreciate the effort she puts into being here and into everything she does," Salinas said. "We've seen her grow, from being a bit shy to more confident in her role here."
In the course of this interview, Mandeles pointed out that TownLake needs hand soap and paper towel dispensers that are lower to the ground for accessibility. The facilities team is working on this now and are grateful to Eleesha for her feedback and her four years of excellent service to the Y so far! Members, please take some time to get to know Eleesha and thank her for her service to our community.
Got a Y story to tell or a member or staff person we should feature on the blog? Email Erin.Walter@austinYMCA.org.
March is Cerebral Palsy (CP) Awareness Month. Cerebral palsy (CP) is a group of permanent movement disorders that appear in early childhood, affecting body movement and muscle coordination. CP is the most common motor disorder and the second-most common disability found in children. Currently over 700,000 people live with CP. Stop by the TownLake Y lending library by the vending machines to find materials on display for learning about CP.
The Y staff team includes people of diverse abilities in many departments, and feedback and perspectives from people of diverse abilities is crucial to our ongoing work to truly be an organization "for all." If you have feedback on how the Y can be more accessible and inclusive, please email Erin.Walter@austinymca.org.
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