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YMCA brings on new Whole Health Coordinator

Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry Warren County YMCA Whole Health Coordinator Erin Wallace

When most people think of the YMCA, they think of physical fitness — working out, youth sports, something like that.

But, the mission of the YMCA includes body, mind, and spirit.

To help bring the focus to all three of those areas, the Warren County YMCA has brought on Whole Health Coordinator Erin Wallace.

It’s a crucial time to focus on mental health, she said, with impacts being seen from the pandemic.

During her first week on the job, Wallace jumped right in and ran the Y’s Whole Health meeting, bringing community health, mental health, wellness, and youth providers together to see what kinds of things are being done and what more can be done. “From the beginning, I’ve got a whole lot to do,” she said.

The Y is already a place people look to for fitness programs and social supports, Wallace said, two of the building blocks of good mental health.

“You go to a family event or a community event, you feel better,” she said. “You’re having a bad day, then you work out. Fitness releases endorphins which make us feel better and improve our health.”

“The whole health concept is adding things to programs that already exist and developing new ones,” Wallace said. “All of that told (the YMCA staff) that they needed someone who had the Mental Health or Human Services background to pull it all together.”

Wallace has spent 25 years in social services. “So far, the job for me is the perfect fit,” she said. “It’s such a blessing.”

The job is helping to make her a better fit to help others.

“I believe I am in the best mental wellness place I’ve ever been in my life,” Wallace said. “As a result, I feel I’m in a better space to be able to help others.”

“You don’t know anybody else’s story,” she said. “Until you can understand where they’ve been, it’s important not to make judgments, but truly strive to understand them.”

People learn in different ways and react to different things. The YMCA is getting involved in art for youth and adults, poetry, meditation and mindfulness, as well as the sports it has always had. “We would like to do some mental health first aid trainings… make them available in the community,” she said.

Grief support is another area of community need that Wallace would like the YMCA to take on. “Making sure people have a place to meet – that’s one example of something we can do to begin with because of the hours and the space that we have,” she said. “We want to make sure we’re truly supporting wellness in the community and reaching everyone that we possibly can.”

“We’re trying to utilize the Y as a hub… a connector for people to be able to feed into things and get things back out,” Wallace said. “We’re reaching out with all these different spokes to connect people so they can be as health as a whole as possible.”

Everyone has mental health – never all good or all bad. There have always been challenges and difficulties.

“It was always here, but we’re more aware of it, and better able to deal with it,” Wallace said. “We have a better understanding of how to approach it.”

That’s her job and she takes it seriously.

“I really am passionate about making sure that folks can be the best that they can be,” Wallace said. “If I can make a difference for one person, I believe that will have a butterfly effect, and make a difference in more lives.”

Wallace can be reached by calling the YMCA at 726-0110 or by email to erin@warrenymca.org.

“We’re open to any ideas and feedback,” she said.

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