Bertie YMCA slates forums

Published 9:07 am Tuesday, November 3, 2015

LEWISTON – Bertie County/Windsor YMCA Director Heidi Bonislawski told the county’s Board of Commissioners at their regular meeting Oct. 26 that the effort to enhance and expand community recreation programs in the county is proceeding.

In an update/status report Bonislawski said surveys that were sent to three targeted municipalities in the county (Colerain, Aulander, and Lewiston-Woodville) have been returned.

In September, Bonislawski and County Parks and Recreation Director Donna Mizelle appeared before the Commissioners and stated that they were having trouble receiving completed surveys. At that time she said only a handful had been returned, most of which had been distributed at Bertie County schools, but she was not discouraged.

“I’m really fearful about program participation,” Bonislawski said at that time. “If they don’t fill out the surveys then are they going to show up? They don’t want to participate, but want everybody to know they’re not being served. I’m not trying to be ugly, it just happens.”

As a point of encouragement, the Commissioners suggested using the county’s faith-based leadership and church associations as well as the school system to distribute the surveys.

“It’s not just us getting messages back, but how we get feedback,” said Commission chairman Ronald D. (Ron) Wesson. “Sometimes even a handful can tell you a lot.”

Bonislawski said the surveys are geared to adult respondents and that they wanted them distributed in households.

“Go to the churches, speak to the pastors, then you will get responses back,” suggested Commissioner John Trent. “You will get it back once you reach the faith-based.”

Once the forms are returned, they hope to hold a county forum to get more feedback about local recreation and ideas and programs.

“We’ll have a YMCA-USA professional come down and do those (forums) for us,” Bonislawski said.

For her new update Bonislawski’s presentation before the Commissioners at Monday’s meeting at the Perdue Wellness Center in Lewiston she said the faith-based communities’ involvement had been helpful.

“We did get some more,” she said. “Twenty-seven from Colerain, 40 from Lewiston and 15 from Aulander, and those (in Aulander), though small in number, did want to be part of the forum, so we’re going to move forward with it.”

Bonislawski said the survey responses will go to the regional YMCA, who will prepare the forum.

“Our goal for these forums is to create a strategic plan during this meeting to start these community (recreation) programs,” she said. “This plan will include tasks and deadlines for when the tasks need to be done; and we’re hoping, expecting community people at the forums to step up and help us with these tasks.”

Bonislawski said the forums in Colerain, Aulander, and Lewiston-Woodville will take place before Christmas of this year at the three sites beginning on a Friday evening and concluding on a Saturday evening and they will last about two hours.

“Aside from the general public we’ll be hoping to have some local commissioners and other key community leaders,” she stated.

The Commissioners complimented both Bonislawski and Mizelle for their work.

“Just go for it,” said Commission vice-chair Tammy Lee. “It’s getting them to sign the paper; but once they do it, they’ll be hooked.”

Bonislawski said sign-ups for the YMCA Recreation basketball leagues has been extended, and will continue. They are expecting 400 kids when play begins for the winter. She also said she will work out a plan with the Bertie County Schools to use school gyms when able, and for other programs.

“If you can get 400 kids signed up you know you’re doing something right,” she implored. “So what we need to do is get other recreation programs: flag football, baseball – working like the other programs are.”

Former Commissioner and Martin Community College facilitator Norman Cherry noted the success YMCA participation has had over the years with his family.

“They’re now playing in college, on scholarship through programs at the Y,” Cherry said. “So this program is definitely worth its weight.”

Bonislawski went on to say the YMCA’s latest grant is expiring and her grant report states that the grant program on “The Healthy Living Program” was successful.

“We haven’t had as good a participation because loss of the grant money has made incentives not as attractive,” she noted.

She asked that the Commissioners assist in finding a grant that could continue this program which promotes healthier eating and lifestyle habits to adults through the YMCA as participants who completed it lost a combined total of 238 pounds.

Finally, she said she hoped to replace the stationary bicycle used for physical therapy as it is 16 years old and usage has increased.