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Since the COVID-19 pandemic forced most, if not all, community rec centers to close their doors, few were affected more by this sudden development than their staff members. To try and stay afloat financially until doors can reopen and revenue can be generated again, countless leadership teams were put in challenging positions regarding staff job security.

If part-time, seasonal and various dedicated staff haven’t been laid off, their hours have been severely limited at best. In short, this is quite a challenging time for everyone involved. Fortunately, there are ways you can support your staff members during these trying times.

The YMCA of Greater Omaha in Omaha, Nebraska, was able to retain its full-time leadership team, who is “connecting with current members, supporting their staff, and planning for reopening activities” while working from home, according to Chris Tointon, the association’s president and CEO.

The aim is to keep open lines of communication through the whole organization. “We communicate to all of our staff on a regular basis and are trying to find ways to keep them connected to the work we are doing,” said Tointon. “We’ve shared our successes of cost savings and other key elements of our work on Y without walls.”

The Tucson JCC in Tucson, Arizona, has also had to prioritize communication to keep its people connected. After closing March 16, paying all staff members through March 31, and planning to reopen April 1, the Tucson J was thrown a curveball when the leadership team found out they’d have to stay closed longer than expected.

“Since our income source for the month — through membership, tuition and programming — would not be available, we needed to make some changes,” said Todd Rockoff, the president and CEO of the Tucson J.

To try to outlast the pandemic financially, the Tucson J was forced to lay off its dedicated staff. “Our hope in doing so is to allow them to take advantage of unemployment benefits while putting ourselves in a position to weather this crisis, and ultimately to bring back as many of our staff as possible,” shared Rockoff. “It was only after exploring every alternative that we came to the conclusion that letting go of our staff was the best option to ensure they could access the critical benefits needed for their wellbeing.”

As the Tucson J, as well as countless other organizations, awaits the day it can reopen, Rockoff and the senior staff and are staying in communication with former staff members to answer questions, provide support and make it easier to rehire them when the crisis has ended.

Another way to support your staff is to find unique ways to keep them busy. The Omaha Y has found a way to use some of its staff members to support employees of essential businesses in the area.

“We’re currently employing all of our early learning center employees and after school counselors in order to provide care for health care workers’ kids at three different locations throughout the city,” said Tointon.

According to Tointon, the Omaha Y is also able to have certain staff members help with disease prevention. “Our property team is taking one Y at a time and doing intensive deep cleaning,” he said.

In such an uncertain climate, staff members appreciate gestures of goodwill. To keep spirits high, the Omaha Y’s leadership team has taken it upon themselves to provide that encouragement wherever they can.

“Our leadership team is sending handwritten notes of support and acknowledgement to our staff,” shared Tointon. “In addition, our board members have taken the task of helping the senior team feel valued by sending notes and small tokens of appreciation.”

According to Tointon, there are several resources the Omaha Y is providing its part-time employees. These are resources any organization can provide to employees who have been laid off or working very limited hours:

  • Employee assistance
  • Counseling
  • Unemployment support
  • Waiving any fees associated with the organization
  • Providing access to online resources
Bobby Dyer

Bobby is the former editor of Community Rec Magazine.

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