When Akilah Ingram first came to the City Center YMCA in May 2013, she describes herself as broken and in a very bad place. Her husband had recently passed away, she had lost her job and Akilah was struggling with grief and concern about how she would continue to care for her six children. She had moved to Lancaster to live closer to her in-laws and to find a much needed network of social support for her family. “In addition to my own pain and anger, I saw how some of my kids were struggling with their loss by overeating or acting out behaviorally,” Akilah shares. She knew they all needed a positive outlet, but was concerned that she would not have enough money to join the Y.
In fact, Akilah qualified for a Y financial scholarship, and was able to afford a family membership. At first, Akilah says the Y helped her and the kids because after their visits, “we were all too tired to think of all the painful things that stayed on our minds,” but over time, she’s also come to value her workouts as time to get healthy and just “be alone with my thoughts.” She appreciates the special time spent with her children, including fun summer days at the Lampeter-Strasburg outdoor pool, when they could work things out together, recover, and begin to move forward. It’s a relief to her to know that while she may not be able to afford every outside activity that interests her children, the Y’s programs and classes are within their reach and enjoyed by all.
Akilah is also grateful for the ease of the financial scholarship application process, and especially for how the Y staff made her family feel at home in a new place, quickly learned their names, and went out of their way to help out and follow-up on their progress. Now Akilah is enthusiastic to help others who might not know about the Y’s financial scholarship program to learn more and take that first step. Akilah now works with people facing economic and other challenges, who are themselves looking for a healthy environment and social support, and by sharing a bit of her own experience, hopes to pass on encouragement and an invitation to join her Y family.