Still “Our” YMCA

ABOVE: Kelly P. Hodges, Houston Texans YMCA Executive Director

Photos by Jared Gilmore, J.Raphael’s Photography

From the original vision of its founder and first executive, Quentin R. Mease, to present, the importance of the South Central YMCA for African Americans in Houston remains historically significant.

Prior to coming to Houston in 1948, Mease was actively involved in the YMCA. Because the city was still segregated at the time, the Black community had no direct access to the YMCA in Houston. Mease decided to come to Houston to help establish the South Central YMCA in Third Ward, as a means to provide a facility intended for the Black community. Mease aggressively fought for the building of the South Central YMCA, and after constant delays in getting it built, he decided to meet with several White board members of the YMCA and got them to move forward with completing the building of the South Central YMCA, which opened in 1955.

Although it has since changed its name and moved to a different location, the old South Central YMCA in Houston’s Third Ward is still remembered as one of the most significant cultural developments to ever become a major part of the African American community in the Greater Houston area. Now located in the Palm Center at the corner of Griggs Rd. and Martin Luther King Blvd., the new Houston Texans YMCA continues to serve as a crown jewel for African Americans seeking ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle for themselves and their family.

Since its groundbreaking in 2010, the Houston Texans YMCA has sought to embrace the rich history of the South Central YMCA, while also striving to fulfill the mission of the entire YMCA, which is “to put Judeo-Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all.”

In order to better connect to the community and achieve that mission, the YMCA of Greater Houston recently announced that they hired someone with a history of having ties to the community, as well as with experience working with organizations that place an emphasis on the overall health and wellness of the African American community.

Kelly P. Hodges has recently been hired as the new Executive Director at the Houston Texans YMCA, bringing with her over 15 years of experience in the areas of nonprofit management, fund development, community mobilization, capacity building, communications, public health and advocacy.

“Kelly is a tremendous asset to the Houston Texans Y and to our community at-large,” said District Executive Director Jon Kidwell. “Her expertise will prove invaluable to our organization and the people she comes in contact with every day.”

Hodges has served as the Senior Director of Health Equity for the American Heart Association, Southwest Affiliate. In this role she was responsible for strategically fulfilling the health impact goals in high-risk communities in Dallas, Ft. Worth and Houston. Her focus areas of hypertension, nutrition, obesity, and physical activity are of great value to the Houston Texans YMCA. Additionally, she served as Director of Strategic Partnerships and National Programs for Sisters Network Inc. – the only national African American breast cancer survivorship organization. Capitalizing on her effective communications skills and a strong desire to help those faced with multiple barriers, she provided leadership and focused direction to national education and outreach programs implemented by Sisters Network Inc. and its affiliate chapters. In her role as a program coordinator at the University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Center for Research on Minority Health, Hodges was responsible for the advisement and development of educational programs regarding health disparities and cancer awareness amongst minority populations. Because of her outstanding service in Houston, she was honored by the YMCA of Greater Houston as a Minority Achiever in 2010.

“I’m very excited to lend my time and talents to one of the most prestigious nonprofits in the world. The Houston Texans YMCA is a hidden jewel nestled in a very diverse community,” said Hodges. “As the Center’s Executive Director, I’m looking forward to working side by side with individuals that have a vested interest in serving several of the most historic communities in the Houston area: Third Ward, Sunny Side, and the East End as we promote youth development, healthy living and social responsibility.”

Hodges tells the Forward Times that making sure the community is aware of the wonderful programs the Houston Texans YMCA has is paramount to her and she wants everyone to join and take advantage of the many options they have to help them maintain a healthy lifestyle.

One of the programs that the Houston Texans YMCA offers is the YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program, which was developed to reduce the risk of diabetes in individuals showing symptoms of pre-diabetes. The YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program is a year long program, starting with 16 weekly sessions. Each week’s one-hour session is facilitated by a trained Lifestyle Coach and will cover nutrition, physical activity and behavior modification to help participants achieve the program’s two main goals. Sessions will guide participants in ways to eat healthy while eating out, manage stress, and stay motivated after the program’s completion. The frequency of the sessions will reduce to biweekly and monthly sessions for the remainder of the year to help participants maintain their success.

The Houston Texans YMCA also offers a Financial Assistance program. If anyone has a total annual household income of less than $60,000, they may qualify for a rate reduction off their monthly membership. Individuals and families may also qualify to receive greater assistance if they want to participate in programs at a reduced rate. Interested individuals and families would just need to complete a financial assistance application and turn it in to a representative at the Houston Texans YMCA.

Located on nearly five acres of land where the redeveloped Palm Center is located, the 30,000 square-foot facility is centrally located, has free parking as well as many of the same amenities and programs that you will find at other fitness centers. The Houston Texans YMCA features an outdoor pool, pool pavilion and family splash park; sports fields for soccer, football and other sports; cardio equipment with personal viewing screens; a conference room; community room; gymnasium; locker rooms for men and women; group exercise rooms; cardiovascular fitness center; youth activity center; teen center; playground; exercise rooms for line dancing, Zumba, Body Attack, Yoga, Body Pump and cycling; a chapel; a sitting area where senior citizens and members of the community gather and watch television; a child care watch area; and much more. It features several rooms named after donors and community figures such as local businessman Daryl King, Judge Carl Walker, Pastor Manson B. Johnson and many more. It also includes a welcome center dedicated to the late Quentin R. Mease.

“We want the community to know that this YMCA belongs to them, in the same way that Mr. Mease wanted the community to know it when he had the South Central YMCA built for them,” said Hodges. “Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is extremely important for our community, so being able to provide our community with an affordable way to do that is a wonderful feeling.”

Although the Houston Texans YMCA generates money from memberships and a grant from the Houston Texans Foundation, they need more philanthropic donors to be able to continue offering many of the wonderful and affordable programs they do.

If you are interested in joining as a member, being a philanthropic contributor or for more information on the Houston Texans YMCA, please visit www.ymcahouston.org/locations/houston-texans-ymca. Still “Our” YMCA.