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a photo of board member shannon standing in front of the northwest ymca lap pool

You would be hard-pressed to find a person more committed to supporting the Northwest Family YMCA and the YMCA of Greater Rochester than Shannon Bielaska. Her love for the YMCA all started back in the early 1980s when she would bring her kids to play youth sports at the Northwest branch.

Shannon first got involved as a volunteer at the branch in 1984 when she joined the Youth Sports Committee. She went on to join Northwest’s Board of Directors and served as chairman of the board — not once, but twice. She was also one of the YMCA of Greater Rochester’s Board of Directors for 20 years. Shannon is still involved with the Association as a member of our Advisory Board and as Chair of the Human Resources Committee, serving in that role for 20 years.

Raising her family right in Greece, Shannon said it was a no-brainer for her to have her kids become members at Northwest. She even began teaching water aerobics and swim lessons once she retired. This has given Shannon many full-circle moments; several people she helped learn to swim have brought their kids to Northwest to take swim lessons with her. 

“Before I retired, I’d actually take the week off to do Splash Week. I just love working with kids,” said Shannon. “I just love this place; I love the people. I’ve been here through a lot of change and a lot of different people running the place, but the constant is the nice people that come here, the people that work here. It’s just always been, I felt, a really wonderful place to donate my time.”

Shannon is directly responsible for some of those changes. One of which was the branch’s Day Camp operation, which used to be held right at the branch. After hearing from members, one of her proudest moments as board chair was initiating and completing the process of opening YMCA Camp Northpoint in 2004.

In addition to Camp Northpoint, another change that Shannon had a hand in was enclosing Northwest’s old warm-water camp pool to create an indoor pool area where a hot tub was later added. 
As detrimental as an electrical fire was for the Northwest branch in June 1986, Shannon saw the silver lining of that moment. She still looks back to how the branch’s community kept pushing on as a sign of how strong the spirit is of the people at Northwest.

“We persevered. A lot of places would have said, ‘oh, well we’re closed until we can rebuild, but not this place,” said Shannon. “We kept the doors open; we kept things going. It was a little harry every once in a while, but we kept the classes going, we kept the kids learning to swim, we kept the youth sports going. That was a real turning point in terms of galvanizing this community around this building.”