by James Rada, Jr.
photography by Phil Grout
Having an affordable place to swim, workout, or socialize is great. That’s enough for most people and they appreciate that they can find these things at the local YMCA and YWCA. The Y’s are a community hub where friends can gather, and where people feel they are among friends.
Though two separate organizations, both the YMCA and YWCA aim to improve all aspects of life in Hanover, whether it’s fitness, education, or personal safety. With some overlap in services, each Y has a working mission, and each Y works every day to serve the varied needs of the community at large.
Juliet Sharrow feared for life at times, but that wasn’t a big enough reason for her to leave her abuser. After all, he always apologized after he hit her and explained how it had been her fault that he lost control and had to hit her.
After her son was born, though, she realized that the young child was becoming a target for abuse.
“I knew if he did to my son what he did to me, it would kill him,” Sharrow said. “Something just clicked and I knew I had leave.”
Where could she go was the question. Sharrow needed a place where she would be safe and her abuser wouldn’t find her. She went to the YWCA and asked for help and she received it under the Y’s Safe Home Program. At the time, the YWCA didn’t have a shelter (it does now), but YWCA staff found places where Sharrow and her son could stay for 30 days until she got back on her feet.
“Without the YWCA’s Safe Home, I probably would not be alive today,” Sharrow said.
The YWCA has been in Hanover since 1920 and is currently located at 23 West Chestnut St. The programs there focus heavily on childcare and combatting domestic violence.
“Domestic violence, unfortunately, is a problem in town and we’re the only one who provides services to fight it,” Executive Director Jody Shaffer said.
The YWCA takes care of about 150 children in its childcare program and another 2,000 residents take advantage of the organization’s other programs.
The YMCA, located at 500 N. George Street and 1013 Baltimore Street, is working to fulfill its mission “To put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind, and body for all.” YMCA has been in Hanover since 1968 and has grown to include three locations (two in Hanover and one in Littlestown).
Madelene Silverio is a single mom who works at the YMCA in the early learning center. She was born in the Caribbean and lived in New York City before moving to the area, so she has no family in Hanover.
“I came here because I wanted to raise my son in a low-key community, and when I saw Hanover, I loved it,” Silverio said.
She had a job in Hampstead, Md., but the cost of commuting and child care was a large expense and she was struggling to get by. A YMCA scholarship allowed her to enroll her son, Xavier, in the YMCA’s early learning program at a cost she could afford. She said she was thrilled to watch him enjoying swimming and soccer as well as learning. More importantly, she said that it helped him develop learning skills so that when he started kindergarten, he was fully prepared.
“Our scholarship money is raised through our annual Kids Come First campaign,” said Executive Director Liam Behrens. Each January, approximately 50 volunteers go out into our local community and raise this much needed money; to-date in 2015, we have raised over $316,000.”
Last year, the YMCA was able to provide 1,652 scholarships to children and adults.
Eventually, Silverio was hired to work in the early learning center. With her two big expenses minimized, she thought that her life had made a turn for the better.
Then Silverio found out that she had cancer. The medical costs mounted and she thought that she would have to take her son out the early learning program. She didn’t want him to see her sick at home, though.
“He was making new friends. He was learning and he was happy,” Silverio said. “I didn’t want him to see how sick I really was.”
And she was sick. She had what turned out to be a 15-pound mass in her stomach and her kidneys were shutting down. She had to stop working because her cancer treatments left her too weak.
The YMCA didn’t give up on her. They offered scholarships to keep Xavier in the early learning center and they assured Silverio that her job would be waiting for her when she returned.
“They were a godsend,” Silverio said.
Now healthy once again, Silverio is back working at a job she loves.