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Vermont Maturity Cover Story – Greater Burlington YMCA

The Greater Burlington YMCA provides services and support for people at all ages and stages of life. Children as young as eight weeks old can take part in early child care programs, sharing the building with nonagenarians. The Burlington Y has been a part of the community for 157 years, opening their new home,  a building at 298 College Street, in January of 2020.

The Y describes itself as “an inclusive, nonprofit organization joined together by a shared commitment to nurture the potential of kids, promote healthy living, and foster a sense of social responsibility.” The organization’s goal is to build stronger communities through Healthy Living and Youth Development programs, but they have a third foundational pillar of Social Responsibility. The principal among the goals of that pillar is to ensure that the Y’s programs are accessible to all members of the greater community.

Senior Vice President Marsha Faryniarz has been with the organization for over four decades. “Among the many things that have kept me here is the joy of seeing how Y and all who make it a special place, have impacted the people in our community,” she said.

The Greater Burlington YMCA prides itself on having a diverse group of programs, all of which have a common goal of strengthening community. Their core values are caring, honesty, respect, and responsibility and these guide their decision-making process, as well as their behavior and interactions with one another. The Greater Burlington YMCA was founded in 1866, just one year after Burlington was incorporated as a city. Since its inception, the organization has evolved to meet the changing needs of the community. According to Doug Bishop, Senior Director of Communications, “the common theme in our work is to strengthen community and help people become capable, connected, and contributing citizens.”

The Y likes to describe itself as a community crossroads which provides accessible, positive spaces and programs where people can come together and learn from each other. “We have a unique opportunity to serve as a convener and powerful center of community,” Bishop said. The Y wants to provide users with a high quality of life including health and wellness opportunities, friendship, and a sense of belonging and community.

Faryniarz enjoys seeing the wide variety of people who partake in the Y’s programs. “Every day, I see people come through our doors and find community and connection,” she said. “To see how that plays out in youth, adults, and families, allows me to see how the Y is changing lives and boosting spirit, mind, and body.”

Although many people think about programs for young people when they think about the YMCA, the Burlington Y offers a wide array of options for adults. Currently 74 seniors are members of the organization. There is a $35 joining fee for membership with a monthly fee of $61 for single adults, $89 for two adults (no kids), $51 for a single senior and $74 for two seniors from the same household. Membership includes free classes and use of the facilities. Non-member adults pay $15 for a day pass with a cost of $10 for seniors. The Burlington Y has a wellness floor with ample cardio and weight equipment, three dedicated fitness studios, a walking track, a warm pool for aquatic programs, lap pool, a gymnasium with pickleball and more, and a partnership with the nearby Robert Miller Community Center.

Recognizing that not everyone can pay for the programs, the Y provides financial assistance to those in need. In 2023, they funded close to $300,000 for programs as diverse as child care, swim lessons, summer camps, and general memberships. They don’t do the work alone. The work of the Y is supported by generous donors and done by working closely with partners in the education, health, and social service sectors including organizations like Howard Center, Burlington High School, King Street Center, Black Artist Showcase, Autism Speaks, the University of Vermont, and the UVM Children’s Hospital.

Class options include Active Older Fitness which consists of cardio, resistance, and core training exercises that can be done with a chair if extra support is needed, Balance, Mobility & Core which includes mat-based core work and standing balance exercises, Mat-based Pilates to improve posture, and gain flexibility and strength, Tai Chi, Yoga, Chair Yoga, and Chair Based Balance & Mobility which is a hybrid of Chair Yoga and Balance & Mobility. Ryan Grey, Director of Health and Wellness, said the 9 a.m. classes are the most popular, particularly Active Older Fitness .

In addition, seniors can enjoy a Zentangle drawing course at the Miller Center. There are also classes using the Feldenkrais Method which has a goal of improving human life through better movement, sensation, posture, and breathing, using gentle movement and slow repetitive actions, with a mantra of doing less to increase body awareness.

In addition to lap swimming, many seniors take advantage of the pool for classes including Aqua Arthritis Exercise which is designed to decrease pain and stiffness and improve flexibility, Aqua Zumba, Water Aerobics which consists of conditioning and resistance training, and Silver Foxes which is designed to increase flexibility and improve posture and balance.

The classes offer more than just a physical workout; they are an antidote to isolation, an opportunity for people of diverse backgrounds to interact, and a place for people challenged with chronic diseases to gain control of their health in a supportive environment. Classes are not the only way for seniors to benefit from the Y. Many, including those in the 80’s and 90’s, enjoy the facilities on their own time.

“When you join the Y, you’re not just joining a gym,” Bishop said. “You’re joining the experience of a community that works together to ensure that everyone, regardless of age, income or background, has the opportunity to learn, grow, and thrive.” One senior member, Gary Eley, agrees. “The Y is a valuable part of my life,” he said. “When I think about it, it is one of my most cherished experiences in our community and the friendships I am making are very nurturing and helpful to me.”

“We often say that we are in the people business,” Faryniarz said. “From the very youngest to the most senior in our community, the Y has the opportunity to improve lives. What can be better?”

The Greater Burlington YMCA is located at 298 College Street, Burlington, VT 05401. For more information call 802-832-9622, email or visit

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