Some say that healthier and perhaps happier living starts with finding quality, accurate health information as well as health information that is meaningful to you. One of the goals in starting this feature section is to take an in-depth look at health issues that we and our entire community face. For example, do we want to know more about how to stretch more effectively before our workouts at the Y, do we want to know what we should eat after our workouts to replenish the energy lost and to feel better, do we want to know more about how to prevent cancer, or do we want to know more about how individual Y programs are benefiting health?
Let us know what you think and what you want to know more about, and we'll try to explore those issues within our community--the Y and Williamson County--through providing interviews with key people, well-researched information, and interesting articles that will be helpful to you and your family.
The Roots of a Healthy Community
November 23rd, 2011
by Kira Watkins, MSHC
Jim Boles (far left) alongside Nancy Rabb and Kathy
& Chaz Glace.
The Round Rock Family YMCA in 2007.
The Round Rock Family YMCA--renamed the CHASCO Family YMCA--as it is today.
A vision of health, safety, and a place for Round Rock youths in the 1970s led to the development of the YMCA of Greater Williamson County--an organization that supports the healthy mind, body and spirit of area residents.
“When Virgil and I moved to Round Rock in the 1960s, the town had about 1,800 residents--we made 1,802,” Nancy Rabb, CHASCO Family YMCA Board Member and vice president of Wag-A-Bag, said. “We had met at UT, and I was thrilled that we were staying in Central Texas. We moved to Round Rock, and I fell in love right away.”
While he (the late Virgil Rabb) began what has become the successful Wag-A-Bag chain, she devoted time to the overall health of the people of the growing community.
“If there’s a first lady of Round Rock, Texas, it’s Nancy Rabb,” Jim Boles, Board Chair of the YMCA of Greater Williamson County and President of Summit Commercial Properties, Inc., said. “She has been very supportive of the Y in Williamson County all these years and provided leadership from the beginning.”
Boles himself has been considered to be somewhat of a founding father in Round Rock since moving there in the 1970s. “I’ve never known anyone as passionate about the Y as Jim is,” Rabb said. “He was an integral part of the beginnings of our association [YMCA of Greater Williamson County].”
One of the first needs they and several other individuals in the community noticed was that of a place and direction for the youth population--the need to keep youths safe, healthy, and off the streets.
“In the 1970s, there was simply nothing for young people to do here. They were always on the road to Austin to find something to do or getting into trouble here,” Rabb said. “In fact, I have a great story about a Round Rock police officer named Dusty Gilliam. She was a strong supporter of our mission to find a place or an outlet for the youth of our community. She was fighting to give them direction and keep them safe.”
To attempt to find solutions, a committee from the Round Rock United Way looked into the possibility of a community youth facility in the late 1970s. That committee was made up of several people, including Nancy Rabb and Jim Boles. “It was always about the kids for me and for Nancy too. I grew up in the Y in Texas and saw the benefits,” Boles said. “Of all the options we looked at, we felt that a Y would benefit the community the most.”
In 1981, the first Y in Williamson County was established. “We started off in a small portable building on Main St. [in Round Rock],” Rabb said. “I never thought we would be what we are today with facilities throughout the county, and I didn’t think I would see that amazing pool [Rabb Family Natatorium] in my lifetime. But fortune continues to smile on us--great leadership, staff, volunteers, partners and contributors have made us what we are today.”
From humble beginnings, a passion for providing youth a place in the community and that small portable building have become the flourishing YMCA of Greater Williamson County, which includes the CHASCO Family YMCA, the Twin Lakes Family YMCA, the Taylor Family YMCA, YMCA Camp Twin Lakes, and most recently the Hutto Family YMCA as well as Y Afterschool sites affiliated and run within several area school districts. Among the association’s many program offerings are fitness and sports programs, health education opportunities, child care, youth development programs, seniors programs, and summer camp.
“It’s been a memorable journey--Nancy and I talk about where we’ve been and where we could be all the time. I just think about all the lives we’ve been able to touch,” Boles said. “We started out with child care. And when we started working with the schools, we completed our original mission to find a place for the youth of the community. But we have also made a major impact on the health of the community as we expanded our programs. We offer affordable preventive healthcare options for the mind, body, and spirit--that’s what it’s all about. It is about all three for the whole family.”
The association’s programs are designed to contribute to one or more aspects of health in a way that is unique within the community.
“The Y has some excellent programs that can help people change their lives. I know they can do it, even in the face of all the current challenges…health, economic…the Y can help. Where else can you go that is a one-stop shop and find something for every member of your family, something that touches all aspects of health from spiritual to mental to physical to social and that is very affordable?” Rabb challenges. “Mom can take a Zumba class or participate in a nutrition seminar, she can put her young children in child care while she works out, and the older kids might take a gymnastics class or play soccer, and the teens might hang out and play video games. And we have excellent programs for seniors. It’s a way to meet up with friends, motivate each other and stay in shape--to stay healthy and independent longer.”
Through its program offerings, the YMCA of Greater Williamson County has made some lasting marks on the health and lives of individuals in the community. “We’ve had some incredible health success stories,” Rabb said. “Take a look at the Mission Moments. One of the stories you’ll see is an amazing weight-loss success story. But there are probably many more stories to be told.”
Mission Moments also include stories of women finding the support they needed to improve their mental and physical health, families new to the community finding acceptance and support, and children making lifelong friendships and developing important potentially life-saving skills, such as learning to swim.
When asked specifically about the nation’s current focus on childhood obesity, Rabb points out her concerns about youth fitness and health and her faith in the Y’s ability to make an impact. “The Y programs could be the only time in a child’s day that he or she is getting any physical activity. This may be true for adults too,” Rabb said. “This makes the quality physical fitness and sports programs of the Y very important in promoting healthy kids and families. I was worried about the kids when we started the Y here, and I’m still concerned.”
Concerns about the Williamson County community may be well founded based on the 2009 BRFSS Wilco Risk Survey . For example, a significant percentage of adults surveyed in Williamson County are not consuming the recommended five servings of fruits and veggies daily, have a BMI (body mass index) of greater than or equal to 30, or are considered obese , and have a BMI greater than or equal to 25, or are considered overweight and/or obese , suffer from arthritis, and get insufficient aerobic exercise daily. But many Y programs work to help people gain the support and balance they need to improve their health.
Partnerships have also become a major key to the association’s ability to provide affordable and unique programs that make an impact on health.
“Partnerships in which we share costs are an important part of providing quality services during these difficult economic times,” Rabb said. “These partnerships are a collaborative effort between good people with good hearts. Our president Jeff Andresen has been an amazing leader in so many ways, and he has built strong partners in the community.”
One example of a partnership benefiting health in the community can be seen in the association’s partnerships with local hospitals. “Our partner hospitals each bring their own signature programs and use part of a Y facility to finish out their programs,” Boles said. “For example, a hospital provides financial support for a portion of a pool at a Y facility in which it provides physical therapy to patients, or a hospital utilizes fitness equipment as part of a program that involves helping patients who have diabetes.”
Another example of a unique partnership is the one between the Y and the City of Round Rock. It helped bring a large, indoor saltwater pool to the city. There are also the partnerships with school districts. For example, Y Afterschool is provided throughout Leander ISD as well as in many other districts countywide. Children have a safe, supervised, and supportive place to go after school--they receive healthy snacks, have time and support to do homework, work on art projects, participate in games and sports, and have the opportunity to build lifelong friendships. The association also partners with Round Rock ISD to provide adapted physical education classes for high school students.
“Through our partnerships, programs, campaigns, and fundraising, we are working to support our members and as many children and families in the community as possible,” Boles said. “So, we don’t turn away those who are in need of some form of scholarship due to financial hardship. And I am seeing that the needs of the community just continue to increase, including the need for quality child care and preventive healthcare. The Y is continuing to look at new ways to support these needs.”
Part of the mission of the Y is to offer programs that fulfill needs in the community and to help people reach their goals for better health--a healthier mind, body, and spirit, which is one of the main concerns of the Y.
“The first 20 years were rugged,” Rabb said. “The first very important thing for us was offering child care and a place for our youth. In the early years, we didn’t even offer sports. But we’ve grown and offer much more now. We are making a major impact on the overall health of the community.”
Note: The YMCA of Greater Williamson County has more than 42,000 members and approximately 6,000 children per day in Y Afterschool during the school year. The association also provides over $1 million dollars in financial assistance to families in need throughout the community.
 http://www.wcchd.org/StatisticsReports.htm; http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/chs/brfss/spr/spr_form.shtm