Changing the Culture Beyond the Gym


March, 2017

Partner Ministries
Community Impact

“I am so glad the YMCA is offering a program like this.” That’s what Elin Aldrich said when asked about the Restore Small Groups program she is now privileged to lead in the Twin Cities.

Restore Small Group’s Journey to Freedom is a Christ-centered small group that started in the YMCA of Middle Tennessee. It has been transforming lives in the Twin Cities since the YMCA decided to invest in this offering in 2015.
As the Program Director of Journey to Freedom, Elin has had the privilege of starting this program in the Twin Cities. With it, she has a unique opportunity to change the culture of the Y. Not only do they offer Zumba, personal training and free weights. They now offer a program that impacts one’s spiritual and emotional health, shares the inclusive love of Christ, and builds healing communities in their city.
One of their staff members, let’s call her Mary, participated in Journey to Freedom in 2016. Before she completed the group, Mary was skeptical and cynical. Her body language was closed off and unwelcoming. She struggled with feelings of shame, anger, hurt and fear.

Photograph by Ben White via Unsplash

When Mary joined the group, she was processing complicated family dynamics and her wavering relationship with God. Throughout the process she began to release the grip of control that she had on her family. She started experiencing peace beyond her circumstances. Much of the shame Mary felt lifted when she heard another woman in the group who was experiencing similar feelings. She became interested in reigniting her faith.
Recently a colleague approached Elin, sharing that Mary is a completely different person now. Her demeanor, her outlook, and her life have improved through this healing process. Mary now leads a group as a volunteer facilitator, sharing the hope with others that she gained through that process.
This is but one of many stories of staff and members breaking free from dysfunctional patterns, letting go of control, admitting powerlessness over addictions, processing emotions for the first time, reconciling relationships, facing their problems head on.
Through Journey to Freedom they have the opportunity to be a safe space in the community. One that offers hope and healing to all.