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Manatee County YMCA struggles to survive after memberships plunge due to COVID-19 pandemic

LAKEWOOD RANCH, Fla. — Sissy Overlees, 81, uses the Manatee Family YMCA in Lakewood Ranch every single day.”This is my family. I love the people here,” said Overlees.But the family there has gotten smaller.Manatee County YMCAs have been staples in their communities offering fitness centers, pools, child care, youth programs and much more.But since reopening after the COVID-19 shutdown, membership is down by nearly half. One Manatee County branch closed earlier this year, now the other two branches are struggling to stay open.”We’ve taken a tremendous loss in membership,” said Lisa Devito, chief volunteer officer for the Manatee Family YMCA.The nonprofit community centers also struggle to compete with the prices of “for-profit” gym franchises.But members say the YMCA is so much more than a gym, it’s a community.”What I think people need to remember is that the Y is a charity and when you invest in a membership at the YMCA, you’re not only investing in your family’s health and wellness goals but you’re investing in a greater cause,” said John Cramer, who has been a member of the YMCA for 15 years.Now, the two surviving branches are hoping for donations, members and community partners to help them keep their doors open.”All of us depend on the Y for our health and for our happiness,” said Overlees.”We are here to serve the community of Manatee County. We want to be successful at it but we need the help of the community and the individuals,” said Devito.For more information about how you can help or become a member visit manateeymca.org

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