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Hagerstown YMCA helps woman find new lease on life

July 28, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

About seven years ago, Judy Short came to the old downtown Hagerstown YMCA to get herself in shape both physically and emotionally.

It worked. She lost 45 pounds and soon got hired to work at the front desk, a job she held for six years. Now she has completed her first year as assistant to the YMCA membership director, Sharee O'Haver.

"Everybody in my family always came first, before me. That's the way it has always been," Short said. But several tragic events in Short's life opened her eyes to her own needs.

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Short lost her mother, father, a sister and three grandparents in quick succession, four of them to cancer. When her mom got cancer, Short moved in with her to help care for her and the mentally ill clients living in her mom's home.

"When I became an adult orphan, I quickly learned how to take care of myself," Short said.

When she showed up at the YMCA, Short said she was like a lost soul.

"I was here to shape up and have an outlet for myself for a change. And I really got into it," she said.

After a while, someone approached her and said there was an opening at the front desk. Short took the job and again threw herself into it with all her energy.

"I was that person at the front desk at 6 a.m. - all bubbly and greeting people when they came in," Short said. "That's what God put me here for, and that's to take care of people."

Now 46, Short was married at 18 and raised two children, Jessica and Dustin, who are now 27 and 21 years old, respectively. Three years ago, Short ended her marriage and has since been concentrating on her children, three grandchildren and her job.

"I could probably make more money someplace else," Short said from her office at the new YMCA building on Eastern Boulevard. "But I love being around the people here."

When the YMCA moved to its new location, membership was around 3,900, Short said. With more programs, improved parking and better facilities, that number has shot up to around 9,000.

"There are a lot more older people who have joined since the move," Short said. "They like the parking here and they feel safer."

During an hour-long stretch one recent afternoon, several of those older members stopped by Short's open door just to say "hi."

Another of her duties is financial assistance.

"It's also my job to help people get a membership even if they are financially strapped," Short said. "I get tons of thank you notes and that makes me feel really good."

Twice a year, Short holds corporate membership drives. She also journeys to the larger employers to offer membership packages to their employees.

For more information on how to join the YMCA, call 301-739-3990.

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