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YMCA worker changes members' outlook with one word

Jeremy greets members at the downtown YMCA with his patented smile.

"Hi!"

One word is all Jeremy needs to have the average YMCA member hooked.

The long-time YMCA employee has become a staple at the Helen G. Nassif branch, his familiar face and warm demeanor inviting patrons in.

Jeremy typically follows "Hi" with "How are you?" or another variation inquiring about the member's attitude, and when coming from Jeremy's mouth, those two sentences, four words, and 11 letters have the power to turn a bad day into a good one.

The reason? The greeting-question combination is genuine.

Jeremy is developmentally delayed due to a lack of oxygen at birth, so the words from his mouth are really words from the heart.

Up until last year, Jeremy's primary responsibility for a quarter-century was taking care of the many towels throughout the downtown YMCA.

Hand them out, round them up, make sure they're clean -- repeat.

Jeremy had this down to an art-form, a rhythmic routine where he'd survey the gym, spotting discarded towels like a bird enthusiast watching a bald eagle in the treetops.

He'd even mastered the element of the towel-in-hand greeting, where he'd smile and extend a towel while simultaneously starting a conversation that had the potential to last the length of the hallway.

"He just makes you feel really special," explained long-time YMCA member Jenny Schulz. "It feels like he's been waiting for you to come all day, and I love that about him."


Jeremy's direct supervisor Dennis Donely has worked with Jeremy for the past 25 years, and he's noticed no member can seem to stay mad once they walk through the doors.

"If you're coming in and a bad day, you're gonna have a good day, 'cause he's pretty bright," said Donely.

Last year, all the YMCA locations did away with towels, reducing expenses by roughly $100,000.

Jeremy's primary responsibility became a cost-saving casualty.

"He's kind of lost right now because he's so trained to do the towels, but now he's more of a greeter," said Donely.

The transition hasn't been seamless, and Jeremy has even put up a bit of resistance at times, but his reluctance certainly isn't evident when he's out in the lobby greeting members sans towel.

His attentiveness, said Schulz, really pushes members to be productive during their workouts.

"Jeremy definitely gives you an attitude reset," said Schulz. "You see Jeremy and he kind of sets the stage because he's happy."

A contagious effect of bliss, the laundry loading specialist seems to have a cemented his place at the Helen G. Nassif YMCA.

"Jeremy is absolutely a core part of the Y," said Schulz.

Donely echoed her sentiments, adding "He's just the greatest."


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