YMCA Partners to Support Veterans Services

The Erie VA Medical Center and the YMCA of Greater Erie are partnering to expand yoga, tai chi, nutrition, water fitness and other whole health programs to Veterans.

Erie VA Medical Center is just one of 18 pilot locations across the US within the Department of Veterans Affairs implementing Whole Health.

 “Whole Health for Life represents the VA’s transformation from traditional disease management, to a more comprehensive approach that is based in partnership across time focused on the physical, emotional, and social well-being of each Veteran,” said John Gennaro, Medical Center Director, Erie VA. “We are working hard to provide this personalized, proactive, patient-driven approach through the support of not only the Veteran’s health care team, but also trained peers, well-being teachers, coaches and community partners like the YMCA.”

In 2019, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs and YMCA of the USA renewed their partnership to promote and enhance the health and well-being of Veterans and their families.  The agreement makes it easier for Veterans Benefits Regional Office and Veterans Health Administration facilities to work with local YMCAs to ensure that Veterans are connected to needed resources and opportunities in their communities.

“The proud heritage of YMCA service to the military setting dates to 1861, when dedicated YMCA volunteers took to the battlefields of the Civil War alongside America’s uniformed young men. Our nation’s Veterans, and their families, have dedicated so much in service to our country”, said Gerry Vandemerwe, YMCA of Greater Erie CEO. “I’m pleased to announce that this local partnership continues that legacy by further expanding the scope of our services.”

Veterans are introduced to the Whole Health for Life approach to care through an introductory session with a VA Whole Health Coach. “This partnership focuses on the Veteran’s values and aspirations for health and well-being, including self-care and complementary therapies, along with conventional medical care,” said YMCA of Greater Erie Healthy Living Program Director Michele Schroeck.

Schroeck said that Introduction to Whole Health sessions are the first and third Thursday of the month from 4-6 p.m. at the Glenwood ParkY or the VA Medical Center the second or fourth Friday of the month from 9-11 a.m. by appointment with Whole Health Clerk Mary Ferloin at 860-2437.

In addition to the Whole Health for Life program, the VA and the Y also have partnered to provide free, one-month memberships to any local Veteran that is currently receiving services through the VA. Veterans must obtain a Y flyer from the VA for eligibility for a free one-month membership which can be presented to any local YMCA of Greater Erie location. 

“This November, when a new member joins the Y, their join fee will help provide a free one-month membership to a local Veteran,” said Vandemerwe.

Local Y locations are also collecting non-perishable food items and toiletries for donation to the Liberty House, a transitional shelter for homeless Veterans. Items can be dropped off at any local Y facility now through Nov. 30.

Finally, Vandemerwe said that the Y will honor local Veterans and their families at an appreciation brunch on Thursday, Nov. 14 from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at the Glenwood Park Y at 3727 Cherry Street.

For more information on the Veterans Services program offered through the Y, contact Michele Schroeck at 868-0867.


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