When Zeltha Ellis came to the City Center YMCA in the fall of 2017 she was on a mission. Zeltha’s husband John had passed away in March and she wanted to fulfill his last wishes and preserve his legacy.
John was a leader in the local business community and Zeltha’s career as an Elementary Education and Special Education teacher has had her teaching and developing programs across the School District of Lancaster.
Their professional and personal lives reflected a commitment to supporting their community and helping others – especially children. In addition to raising four children, John and Zeltha served as Relief House Parents at the Milton Hershey School from 2010-2012.
“In recent years, John had become concerned about the high drowning rates for disadvantaged children,” Zeltha said. “He had never learned to swim and wanted to do something locally to change the future for these children. He wanted to work with the YMCA to get a program started.”
Unfortunately, John dealt with illness over the past few years and was not able to pursue this goal. However, after his passing, Zeltha was determined to carry his wishes forward.
When Zeltha came to the Y last September the pieces all fell into place. Two years ago the Lancaster Family YMCA began partnering with the Lancaster Recreation Commission to provide free Safety Around Water classes to children in second grade at Wharton Elementary School as part of the Future Red Tornadoes Initiative*.
The first class of the new school year had just started and Zeltha enthusiastically signed on as a volunteer and jumped in the pool. Her years of experience as an educator was a bonus as she states, “By paying close attention to the children, they will actually teach you how to teach them. You need to gain their trust, and once you do, you can see how much they relax in the water. It’s wonderful to see that light-bulb moment and they start to get over their fears.”
The impact that Zeltha has on the children in the YMCA Safety Around Water Classes is immeasurable and the legacy of her husband that she is carrying forward is truly inspirational. As with so many people who give of themselves to help others, Zeltha feels she has been blessed through this process. She says, “Being part of this program is such a positive release for me and being with the kids keeps me young!”
*Through a grant from CHI St. Joseph Children’s Health, the Lancaster Family YMCA was able to expand the Safety Around Water program to include classes for children at Ross and Wickersham Elementary schools in the winter of 2018.supporting their community and helping others – especially children. In addition to raising four children, John and Zeltha served as Relief House Parents at the Milton Hershey School from 2010-2012.