The mood in the Enterprise YMCA Fitness Center was bittersweet Friday morning as friends and staff bid farewell to one of their own.
Fitness Center Director Sally Thornton, who has faithfully served the Enterprise YMCA for 20 years, celebrated her retirement with her work family before leaving for Lee County, Georgia, where her husband has accepted a football coaching position. Thornton said she hadn’t initially thought she’d be at the YMCA for 20 years when she first walked in the door, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I was a stay at home mom, and I loved to exercise but that was difficult to do with three children at home, two of which were twins,” Thornton said. “I started coming here for their nursery so I could work out, and I fell in love with it. I’ve been here ever since. I guess I never really thought about how long I was going to be here when I started, but I am blessed to have been here for 20 years.”
According to Thornton, the Fitness Center has seen great growth and change over the years, growing both in physical space and in class size.
“We’re bigger physically than we were then; we expanded in 2006, I think,” said Thornton. “We’ve added more classes, we have more people in the classes… We used to have only two classes in the day and now we’ve got at least four or five, depending on the day. We’ve got Silver Sneakers now, lots of new faces. We’ve brought a lot of different types of classes to the area; we have the biggest variety of anywhere. We just try to do a lot of community outreach and education.”
The thing she’s proudest of isn’t her own accomplishments, however -- it’s the spirit of community that permeates the YMCA.
“I think the thing I’m the most proud of is our sense of community, our sense of family,” Thornton said. “We’ve just become a great big giant family, so we care about each other. If people show up here, they have a place to call home, a place where they belong. It’s a place where everyone knows your name. There are so many people who come in and out because of our military, but this is an instant family, so they’ve got support, they’ve got love, they’ve got people who care about them here.”
Thornton’s position as Fitness Center Director will be filled by Kristina James, who has worked with her at the YMCA for three years. YMCA Director Richard Pipkin said that the Y will be sad to see Thornton go, but they have confidence in James’ leadership.
“We have a sweet and sour situation. Sally has done an excellent job in teaching and training her staff, building them up; we’ve gone from about 5 or 6 in the class to about 25,” Pipkin said. “We’re really excited about her being able to move with her family, but we’re sad she’s leaving. We really don’t want her to leave because she’s done an excellent job with teaching, training, and being a personal trainer too.
“Kristina James has been working with Sally for the last three years, and she’s been right by her side. Sally’s done an excellent job training her, and there will be a few new programs with new ideas. Kristina is going to do a great job too and we’re excited about her. We were very pleased to have Sally for 20 years, and she and Kristina have been working together to make an excellent transition.”
Thornton also expressed confidence in James and her accomplishments at the Y.
“The YMCA truly does embody the ‘Spirit, Mind, and Body’ mindset, because people come here and they are loved,” Thornton said. “We work hard, we exercise hard, we’ve got the best classes, the best nursery, but it’s a family environment. We’ve got something for everybody, from the tiniest baby to the senior citizen.
“We’re constantly improving and we’ll continue to improve. Kristina is going to be taking my place -- she’s fabulous, she’s got great ideas, great passion and drive, and it’s just going to keep getting better. It’s one of the last remaining Christian organizations, so that’s what I’m proudest of.”