In many ways, Alethea Lewis grew up at the YMCA.
As a child, she and her brother along with their dad regularly made their way to the North Omaha Y. When she moved to Virginia and then Hawaii as a young adult, she remained active and engaged in the Y in both locations.
So when she and her family returned to Omaha three years ago, she naturally gravitated back to what she knew.
And now she works there – having recently been promoted to membership director at the Butler-Gast YMCA on Ames Avenue.
“The YMCA has always been an important part of my life, and I’m excited that I’m getting the opportunity to pass that love to (her son) Kai,” said Lewis, who also oversees Health and Wellness, Group Exercise and Youth and Family programs at Butler-Gast.
“Our membership is up, our retention rate has increased, and I want this Y to continue to grow. That’s my mission.”
A Burke High graduate, Lewis gained her certification as a Zumba instructor while living in Hawaii, so when she and her family returned to Omaha, she was eager to find somewhere she could teach.
As a stay-at-home mom, she looked for outside opportunities and connections within the community, and as a member of the Maple Street Y, she went to group exercise classes regularly.
As someone who always enjoyed exercise, she became friends with one of her instructors and inquired about teaching classes at the Maple Street location. She started subbing for Refit classes, which gave her a platform to teach at Butler-Gast as well as other locations in town.
It wasn’t long after that when she decided to apply for the open membership manager position at Butler-Gast.
Lewis, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in psychology (and a second bachelor’s in adult development), said she knew she could use her background to connect with people on various levels at the Y.
“We were living in Omaha, but my husband was finishing his military service in California, so I was really interested in getting back out in the community,” she said. “The Y opened some doors for me, and I’ve made the most of them.”
Wearing so many hats at the Butler-Gast Y, Lewis prioritizes her responsibilities with lists of duties and goals that she updates regularly. She said it “keeps her on her game,” but she admitted the breadth of her role is both rewarding and challenging – as well as fun.
Alethea fully embraces the Y’s willingness to allow people to learn by doing, and she has the full support and confidence of Associate Executive Director Maceal Norvell and Executive Director Lindy Pfingsten.
Along with her own personal and professional connections to the Y, 5-year old Kai is also heavily involved with activities there – swimming, playing youth sports and attending the YMCA Early Learning Center. Her older son, Cliff, is also an active member of the Y.
As it was for her as a child, the YMCA remains a family affair for Alethea.
“I love what I do because my days are always different, and I look forward to not knowing what’s going to happen each day,” Lewis said. “I’ve never been someone who could do a repetitive job. I need variety, and I definitely get that at the Y. There’s never a dull moment.
“And while my family enjoys the Y, the staff and members have become like family. I love the familiarity, and as an instructor and now membership director, I’ve always made it a point to make sure everyone feels included and welcome. I want to continue to be a change agent – building more awareness about what the Y does and can do for the community.”
To learn more about the Y’s impact on the community and find out how you can support their mission, visit metroymca.org/give.