The Prattville YMCA started in 1963 thanks to 25 citizens who pushed for its existence. Now in 2015, 8,500 members and another 2,500 program participants use the hometown Y and its three physical locations.
“The Prattville YMCA has helped raise thousands of area children through sports activities, daycare services and after-school care,” says David Lewis, Prattville YMCA director and CEO. “I’ve lived in Prattville almost 20 years and my kids have been lifelong participants at the Prattville Y.”
Lewis is only the second director in the Prattville Y’s history, following Willis Bradford, who retired in 2012 after 49 years of service. There are currently 30 full-time employees and 300 part-timers who help at summer day camps and four swimming pools, and serve as assistant sports coaches and class leaders. The payroll at Prattville YMCA is about $2 million annually.
“Many of the part-timers are young people, and often the Y is their first job,” Lewis says. “We give them work experience and teach them assets like promptness and integrity. It’s nice to impact young people in their first job, and they help us strive to be the leading proponent of health and wellness in Prattville and Autauga County.”
YMCA Makes Lifelong Impact
One of those young people who got her first job at the Prattville YMCA is Hayden Nichols, a senior at Prattville Christian Academy. Her first experience with the Y was actually back in first grade when she enrolled in gymnastics, and Nichols remained in gymnastics until 10th grade.
“When I decided to stop, my coach offered me a job so I could continue to stay in this environment to help coach gymnastics,” Nichols says. “But I was also a cheerleader at my high school, so when basketball season began, I couldn’t devote enough attention to the job at the Y. I couldn’t coach anymore.”
However, the Y staff was so impressed with Nichols that they offered her a part-time front desk position, where she currently works Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays for about 16 hours a week.
“Almost all of my friends have been involved in the Y, whether it’s swimming in the summer or playing sports or working at their first job,” Nichols says. “The Prattville Y helps grow the community together.”
Building Future Business Leaders
A successful Prattville businessman who spent much time at the Y growing up is Bob Gipson, co-owner of Gipson’s Tire Pros. He credits the Y with helping young people learn social interaction and team-building skills.
“I was always involved in sports as a kid because my parents were big on keeping me active, so I visited the Y all the time,” he says. “I believe successful communities usually have a successful YMCA.”
As in the case of Nichols, Gipson says if teenage employees show aptitude, the YMCA staff will let them work with younger kids in sports.
“I worked part-time at the Y as a lifeguard, at day camps and in coaching all the way into college,” he says. “I had some buddies who came from broken homes growing up, and they turned out great in large part because of them keeping busy at the Prattville YMCA.”