My Y Story: Elizabeth Covino
It’s been a highlight of my work-life to spend time with YMCA of Greater Nashua members to learn why the Y is important to them. Early on in my life I thought I may be a journalist. My degree is in Journalism and I did work for a newspaper for a stint, but I found my home at the Y. A former boss of mine recommended me for a position at Merrimack Valley YMCA (in Lawrence, Mass.) in 1997. They were hiring for a new position: Marketing Director. I was a new mom and eager to let go of my commute to Boston. I was familiar with the Y because I was a Y kid growing up. I was part of the Teen Leader’s Club at the Barrington (Rhode Island) Y. I spent many hours there: swimming, volunteering, and being with friends. My parents wanted to engage me and my two brothers in our new community. As soon as we were unpacked in our new home, they got us a YMCA family membership.
Jump ahead decades and I moved to Andover, Mass., where I was raising my 6-year-old daughter Katie as a single mom. It was tough juggling parenthood alone with no family support system close. We had YMCA Board of Director meetings at 7:30am on Fridays once a month. Do you know how hard it is to get a babysitter to care for your child and put her on the bus basically at sunrise? Yes, not easy, but I had work obligations. Much of my support came from my Y connections.
The Y helped me raise my daughter. Katie was in after-school care, took swimming lessons, went to day camp in the summer, volunteered with me at family nights, and served Christmas dinner to the residents of the Y’s housing for adults males who called the Lawrence Y home. From many years she went to YMCA overnight camp for two weeks. It crushed my soul to have her away from me for this stretch, but when she came home each time, I saw a girl who was more mature, more independent, and more confident.
Our social life for quite a while revolved around the Y. It worked. She connected with caring adults, I knew she was safe and in a learning environment, and we spent time together. We dressed in western gear to volunteer at Dallas Night, an annual family celebration that involved pony rides, setting up a western town made of cardboard boxes decorated with cactus, and serving burgers and hot dogs. It made for so many happy memories for us that we still talk about. When I remarried, my husband quickly embraced our YMCA and the three of us rarely missed a family night at the Y.
Every Christmas Katie comes home and helps me decorate our Christmas tree. (She’s 31-years-old now.) We take time to find just the right placement for ornaments she made decades ago at the Andover/North Andover YMCA when Miss Lorraine was her after-school teacher. One of them has a candy cane base that somehow has not disintegrated or melted over the 25 years. We talk about her adventures at the Y. She says she didn’t mind getting picked up close to 6pm each day, because it was so much fun. She also remembers the click-click-click of my heels coming down the hall to her YMCA classroom signaling to her it was time to pack up her backpack and head home.
We also laugh because she walked the halls of the Y like a boss. If anyone questioned her, she said, “My Mom’s the Marketing Director,” signaling that she held her Mayor of the Y role with some type of backing. (Still makes me laugh.) The front desk staff, the office staff, the child care staff and my colleagues always made her feel special and loved. I am blessed.
I tell you this story because when I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Y members for each week’s Wednesday Wonder, I know their passion and their love of the Y.
It’s been my pleasure to spend the last decade of my work-life serving as your Chief Community Relations Officer. I love being in the community and expanding people’s knowledge of our impact. The community we have helped our active older adults forge is heartwarming. The peace of mind we offer parents when their children are learning and growing in full day child care, after school care and camp is so important. The adults who stay healthy at the Y through connections they have fostered in group exercise classes inspire me. The confidence children experience when setting new personal goals through swim team comradery helps them find themselves in a world where it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle.
I’m proud of the stories I have been able to share with you and with the greater Nashua community.
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