In mythology and symbolism, owls are associated with wisdom. At the Lake Norman YMCA, O-W-L-S stands for older, wiser, living stronger.Nolynn Sutherland coordinates the OWLS program, as well as the water fitness classes and is group exercise coordinator in charge of Pilates and yoga. Sutherland said OWLS “serves older adults, aimed at ages 55-plus. It’s an outreach to the community for seniors to participate in a social, spiritual, physical program of exercise. And it’s free.“The classes are a combination of cardio, strength, flexibility and spirituality with some socializing. We try to serve every person who comes into the class, tailoring to the individuals that attend. Different teachers lead the classes, so participants get a variety of expertise on the exercises.” OWLS classes are held at various times in several locations: Bethel Presbyterian Church and Mt. Zion United Methodist Church in Cornelius, Ada Jenkins Center in Davidson, and Huntersville Presbyterian Church. Linda Barrick, regional financial development director for the Lake Norman Y, said, “The OWLS program serves four very different communities. Each church and Ada Jenkins is unique. We’ve chosen to create these opportunities and these programs to try to serve and help the community.”The program started as a collaboration with United Way, which totally funded the program. “They used to do something similar through the Y of Greater Charlotte. Lake Norman Y was chosen as a pilot site,” Barrick said. “The program is designed for seniors who probably have no intention of coming to the Y. They may feel more comfortable going to their church, so the Y reaches out and serves them where they are comfortable.”Barrick added, “Whether you attend these churches or not, it’s open to everyone, and it’s free.“But every year funding was decreased, and one year, it went away completely,” Barrick said. “When we have the Annual Community Support Campaign for fundraising, part of the funds people give to the Y help support that program. As of June, the Y is absorbing the expenses for the rest of the year. The Y supports this program. Even though the funding is cut, the program is not cut back; if anything, we’ve added. The Y is committed to continuing this program, if not even growing it.” The Lake Norman Y is always looking to partner with a church to offer additional OWLS classes. The churches involved often give to the Y to help keep the program at their location. “The benefits of OWLS are so measurable,” Barrick said. “We’ve seen improvements. Besides the spiritual aspect, we hear health and wellness stories that participants attribute to the OWLS program. It makes it easy for me to tell a story about someone’s success and then ask for funds.” Currently, the OWLS program serves about 100 people. “Sometimes classes are as small as 10 people; the larger can be more than 30. Everyone doesn’t come to every class, but when they do, I run out of equipment,” said Sutherland. Sutherland likes working with the seniors who come to the OWLS classes because “they have wise stories; they have lots to share with me. I learn more than I instruct.” The seniors of the OWLS program consider Nolynn and the other instructors as part of their families. The classes are more than just exercising. As they teach, the instructors share stories about their own lives. For example, Sutherland recently recounted going on vacation with her sisters’ triplets. “They (the OWLS) love Nolynn,” Barrick added. Sutherland said, “We’ve created a family. That is the bond that helps the OWLS grow and stay healthy. That’s why they come back.”
Friday, Aug. 16, 2013
Y sees wisdom in OWLS program for seniors
Learn more: For information on the OWLS program, call 704-716-4464 or email email@example.com. To donate, call 704-716-4407 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lisa Daidone is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Lisa? Email her at email@example.com.
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