Staying Connected and Strengthening Communities

chaplain's corner

Have you ever had a YMCA small-world moment? 

For the past few weeks, YMCA staff members have been going one by one through our tens of thousands of Y members, calling to check in and see how you are doing. We’re asking about your health — mind, body, and spirit — and sharing resources, getting your feedback on Y programs, and simply laughing and crying together. What a delight it has been to visit, like we have for years in our YMCA lobbies! Talking with you has lifted our spirits so much!

As of April 23, the TownLake team, for example, had connected with a whopping 4388 Y members and families, one by one, since the facility temporarily closed. No robo-dialing, just old-fashioned individual outreach.

On a recent Friday, one of the TownLake YMCA directors, Rev. Erin Walter, was on her last call of the night. She and Y member Suzette Puckett had been playing phone tag and finally connected around 7pm. On their call, they talked about the stress relief and sunshine of walking in their neighborhood – which turned out to be the same neighborhood! In fact, they discovered they lived just two blocks away from each other, each on a street that is only two blocks long! What are the odds? 

Erin and Suzette

“I’m on my cell phone!” Erin said to Suzette. “I should just walk to you!”

So she did. Erin stepped out into the lovely evening light and headed in Suzette’s direction. They visited at a distance, across the mailbox, near where Suzette has been working in her yard. Now a new neighborly friendship has been born, with a love of music in common. (Suzette plays in the Morningbird ukelele group that Erin coordinates for TownLake’s Live Music Fridays!) 

Sure, they had waved in passing before, and had certainly seen each other in the Y lobby, but Erin and Suzette had never truly connected until the Y member calls.

“It is so wonderful that the Y is making these calls to check on people,” Suzette said. “Thank you so much.”

Now Erin and Suzette stop to say hi whenever they are walking by. And we know that Y members and staff are running into each other like this, even as we practice social distancing. We are recognizing each other behind our masks as we walk through our neighborhoods. We are making surprising new connections in calls, emails and texts.

“Even with our facilities closed, the Y is still bringing us together and it does my heart so much good,” Erin said. “These calls are profound opportunities to connect and get to know each other – to Strengthen Community For All, as we say in our YMCA movement.”

Are you getting a call from an unknown number? It might be a Y staffer calling to appreciate you. Check your voicemail, too. We want to hear back from you.

The calls — and surprise social distance visits — are just one way the Y brings people together. Looking to connect with Y friends? Join us for social gatherings, fitness classes, spiritual time, educational programming and more at

And if you’re missing your Y staff and friends, reach out! Email Erin, who also serves as our interfaith chaplain, at and she may be able to help you connect with your favorite Y staff and members. She can also connect you with the Y’s pro bono counselors and addiction recovery coach. The Y team is here for you, now more than ever! Thank you for staying with us.



Erin Walter
All opinions expressed here are those of their authors and/or contributors and not of their employer. Any questions or concerns regarding the content found here may be sent to

Contribute to the Y

We believe that lasting personal and social change can only come about when we all work together to invest in our kids, our health and our neighbors. As the leading nonprofit committed to helping everyone thrive at each stage of life, we are uniquely positioned to take on new and long-standing challenges more comprehensively than anyone else.

Your support through the YMCA of Austin’s Annual Giving Campaign makes this possible.