‘The Essence of Our Y’

Sisters Carmen Brown and Beverly Burton consider the Covington Family YMCA a second home, whether they are partaking in a fitness class, utilizing the exercise machines, enjoying a brisk game of pickleball or volunteering through one of the organization’s outreach programs.

by Michelle Floyd

Those who do not find Covington Family YMCA regular Carmen Brown on the pickleball court on a given day might find her sister, Beverly Burton, using one of the elliptical machines. “I go every day. My car even has the Y labeled as my job,” Burton said with a laugh. The two women visit the YMCA to take classes, enjoy a game or simply to walk. It hosts wellness programs for various ages and fitness levels. Additionally, the YMCA features a childcare center, as well as afterschool and summer programs for kids.

“I love that it has a small, family feel to it,” said Burton, a Jamaica native who has lived in Newton County since 1994. “I just love the staff. They are awesome, and they’re my family.”

Brown revealed that even though the facility has grown in terms of actual space and membership size since they first joined in October 2002, it still has a small-town family feel to it.

“I enjoy the atmosphere and the people and the employees,” said Brown, who retired from the United States Postal Service in 2020. “They are great, the members are friendly and it just feels like family.” 

“They truly believe in the mission of the Y. They see the impact the Y has on our community and desire to support us in any way possible.”

Louly Hay-Kapp

Before moving to Oxford in 2000, Brown was also active at the YMCA facility where she lived in New York. In Georgia, she especially enjoys the newer outside pickleball courts. When not at the Y, she uses the courts at Turner Lake Park and City Pond Park. Sometimes she drops her grandson off at school—he participates in the soccer and basketball programs at the YMCA—and plays some pickleball before she returns to pick him up.

“I always make sure I do the Y,” said Brown. Surgeries have delayed her activities at various times over the years, but she continues to push through the difficulties in an effort to stay active. Outside of walking, Brown also enjoys various fitness classes and using the exercise equipment. Open daily on Newton Drive, the YMCA boasts tennis and pickleball courts that guests can reserve online, group fitness programs, an outdoor pool and multiple state-of-the-art exercise machines.

“Beverley and Carmen are the essence of our Y because of their care for our staff, involvement in all programs and desire to volunteer wherever there is a need,” said Louly Hay-Kapp, executive director of the Covington Family YMCA. “They truly believe in the mission of the Y. They see the impact the Y has on our community and desire to support us in any way possible.”

Burton, who has endured some surgeries of her own over the years, makes her daily schedule based on course availability at the Y, often participating in bootcamp, stretching and core, kickboxing and cardio classes. While there, she often sees other regulars—affectionately called Y rats—she enjoys socializing with while exercising. 

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“I just love going there,” said Burton, who retired from the Georgia Department of Corrections. “It’s a great place to be, and it’s a safe place. I know that if I leave my phone, that I can go back and it will still be there.” Burton has become so familiar with the facility and what it offers that she now assists fellow members. “If somebody comes in and doesn’t know how to work something there,” she said, “I just show them how.” 

During those rare times when they are not using the facility, the sisters also enjoy volunteering at various YMCA events and donating to special causes the organization supports throughout the year. Brown has assisted with helping kids with disabilities play sports on Legion Field, and both usually help with the annual Cheerios Challenge race in Covington—sometimes by just being on the course route to assist racers along the way.

“I’ve volunteered since I started,” said Burton, who, along with her sister, gives to Christmas toy drives and donates necessity items for children over the summer. “If they need me, I’m there.” 

For information on the Covington Family YMCA, visit www.ymcaatlanta.org/locations/covington-family-ymca.

Click here to read more stories by Michelle Floyd.

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