There's so many benefits that come with a Y-Membership, but one of the biggest ones could be making a lasting connection with someone -- A connection that certainly takes you in places other than a swim and a gym. (wink).
Here's just a few of the Y-Connections that have been made by those who work at and/or are members of the Akron Area YMCA.
Paul and Maureen Mizerak
Despite the fact that Maureen was the one to propose, it was Paul Mizerak, who was the first to take aim. A member of the Brooklyn YMCA in Cleveland, Ohio, Paul asked the new Program Director, at his branch, on a first date to a shooting range. They had seen each other a time or two and knew mutual people, including Maureen’s current beau, who was Paul’s friend. So, what the hay?
According to Maureen, Paul kept asking her out and she kept saying “yes,” even though she admitted that she thought he’d eventually quit making the requests. But, after two years of dating – it was her who made the big ask.
Thirty-six years and a menagerie of dogs, cats, horses,nieces and nephews later – the Y couple is still together. Maybe that’s because their initial meeting at the Y involved her yelling at him because he was always late in leaving the building. Or maybe it’s because that Paul thought that she had pretty blue eyes and was okay with the fact that she didn’t cook. Whatever the case, it works.
Maureen, who has a 30 year career with the Y is a Vice President of the Akron Area YMCA and Executive Director of the Wadsworth branch. Paul, who has earned the coveted Silver Sneakers’ status, says that his role with the Y is whatever fundraiser Maureen has going on.
ken and melanie lautenschlager
SOCIAL is one of the first words that come to mind when thinking of Ken and Melanie Lautenschlager. A second word is FUN, walking right beside FAMILY. This long-time couple met in 1999 at the Y’s Friday at 5 event and have been together ever since. Of course it took a little nudge from Ken’s sister (Lori), who then worked alongside Melanie in the Association Service Office and repeatedly told her that she should really meet her brother. When they did, Ken admits that for him, it was love at first sight. But Melanie adds that she was quick to follow his feelings, being first attracted to the kindness in his eyes.
Melanie has worked in the Y Accounting Department for 23 years, while Ken, a long-time Y member is an avid volunteer with both his wife and sister (the Executive Director of the Green Family Y) in leadership positions.
But, for the Lautenschlagers, it’s certainly not all about work.
They are a busy bunch – attending oodles of concerts throughout the year, taking all-inclusive beach vacations when possible, and winning (almost annually) Halloween costumes contests with their close group of friends. Mel and Ken also like to keep it casual – rooting for The Tribe and spending time with their adult children, who grew up going to the Y and working there during summer breaks from school.
The couple recently commemorated the 20th anniversary of their meeting, by attending the 2019 Friday at 5 event at The Trailhead.
ken and kelly hoyt
Ken Hoyt is much more than the tech guru, but that’s the hat he was wearing way back in 1999 when he came into the Firestone Park YMCA to install network cables and new computers. He remembers seeing Kelly, who worked in Child Care, and thinking that she had a nice suntan. But, Kelly, if we can believe Ken’s account, told a co-worker (Gerri Gruic) that he was the man she was going to marry.
After that encounter and a few other things that the couple didn’t disclose, Kelly moved from her job at Firestone Park to be the receptionist at the Association Service Office, where Ken worked. She later moved to the Development Department at this location, before leaving her Y work (but not her mate) to pursue work at Akron Children’s Hospital. Ken continued his long career with the Y where he currently is not only the Technical Director but also an Executive Director in charge of Membership and overseeing the operations of the Kohl Family Y at University Park.
The Hoyts live on Comet Lake, very near Camp Y-Noah, Ken’s home away from home since age 10. His Y career actually started there, as a dishwasher at age 16. Today, many of the couples’ friends have developed through their connections at the Y, including those folks Ken met at Camp Y-Noah. So lots of time is spent hanging out on the lake, kicking back and walking the dog. However, Ken also added that when time permits, he and Kelly enjoy intergalactic space travel.
Tyler and Brittney Price
So maybe it’s not officially the Happiest Place on Earth, but the YMCA is the place that brought these two Disney fans, Brittney and Tyler Price to a Happily Ever After. The couple has been married since September 2013 having first met at the Riverfront YMCA when they were just two kids working on opposite ends of the building. Brittney was in the midst of one of her many jobs at that branch including Group Ex instructor, Billing Agent, Youth Enrichment Director and Member Service Representative. Tyler was part of the Aquatics Department.
Neither admit that it was love at first sight. But, something magical must have occurred in the summer of 2011 when the couple found themselves at a going away party for a mutual Y associate. By Thanksgiving of that year, they were officially a couple.
Honesty is a big part of their relationship (take the not love at first sight comment), where they both agree that they are very open to each other’s feeling and opinions, even when they aren’t on the same page. Which isn’t often. They like to share “goofy” moments (both the proper noun and the adjective), ride motorcycles, go shopping and do anything that involves Disney.
Brittney is no longer at Riverfront, but is the Membership Director at the Lake Anna Y. Tyler is not employed by the Y, but does help out there when he can. The couple share their lives with two pups.
Teddy hapanowicz and Leah Ferencak
Anyone who knows Leah Ferencak would not be surprised to learn that her boyfriend, Teddy, was initially intrigued by her fiery personality. In fact, it was this same personality that flat out told him that he was “arrogant, young and didn’t know a thing about life.” Leah was 22 at the time; Teddy was 19.
But after that first explosive encounter at the Member Service Representative (MSR) Desk at the Riverfront YMCA, the two simmered down to somehow become best friends. Together they share a love for nerdy retro adventures like Pokémon Go excursions, taking sightseeing trips to Target, binging on Netflix and finding new places to go to dinner. The couple also connected on a church they enjoy attending together.
The Y was part of both of their lives at a young age. Leah, who started swimming at the Y when she was 6 years old grew to love the sport, eventually becoming a lifeguard, swim instructor and member of the synchronized swimming team. She’s currently the Aquatics Director at the Lake Anna YMCA and coordinator of the Akron Area’s very robust Safety Around Water program, plus the synchronized swimming coach at Lake County YMCA, where she has also steadily worked for ten year. Teddy, who went to the Y as a youth and later became a gymnastic conditioning coach and MSR, no longer officially collects a Y paycheck. But he is a very visible Y volunteer, assisting Leah, his constant and confident companion, with the many things she has cooking at the Y – in an out of the pool.
Gary and Lisa Ennis
Maybe it came naturally for Gary. After all, as a police officer, he took an oath to protect and serve. And that’s exactly what he’s done, badge on or off, with his wife, Lisa. The two have only been married for 5 years, but they first met, a bit earlier, at the Longwood Branch in Nordonia when Lisa, the Executive Director, called him for assistance. Was there a break-in? A robbery? No, not unless stealing someone’s heart could be the crime. Because that’s what Lisa did.
Gary was smitten, showing up at the Longwood Y, with a cup of coffee for Lisa – every single day for a year – until she finally agreed to go out with him. Persistence paid. Gary went on to help Lisa with several successful fundraising events for her branch, including the Ride for the Hills motorcycle event where Gary could not only lend his expertise as a Harley guy, but also his willingness to chair the activity for several years.
Since then, Lisa has moved on to be the Executive Director for the Kohl Family Y at University Park and Gary, the in-school suspension coordinator (through the Y) at Nordonia High School. But, he’s still Lisa's go-to guy for anything Y-related like assisting with the Jack Jog and Friday @ 5-ish events held annually to support her branch's Annual Campaign.
When they aren't doing Y things, the two are busy renovating a historic home in the City of Akron, with Lisa bopping to antique shops and estate sales and Gary, trying his best, to model her enthusiasm. But they both enjoy going to movies and eating a jumbo tub of the large buttered popcorn that is a "must" for every feature. They also share the love of 5 grown children, 3 dogs and a cat.
Matt and Laura Gaugler
A chance meeting and impromptu birthday party invitation were a winning combination for Matt and Laura Gaugler, who have been married since 2002. Today, the couple, both employees of Nordonia Hills City Schools, share a life that started at the Firestone Park YMCA.
Matt, who was an aide for the branch’s pre-school program, was covering for another employee when he saw Laura who was dropping off her son, Austin. He admits that it was love at first sight which led to him asking around if she was single. Lucky for him, she was. So – why not invite this beautiful stranger to attend a birthday party for his sister? It made sense to Matt. And, apparently to Laura.
The Gauglers added two other children (Mason and Emma) to the mix and continued to do Y activities that far extended past the early days of preschool pickups. They ran through all the sports programs and camps and continue to enjoy exercising and running together.
Matt credits the Y for not only meeting Laura but for also being part of the Christian values and family stronghold that has kept them together. He admits that they married pretty young and had some growing pains, but as long as they kept the lines of communication open and always laughed, they stayed steady.
Your best friend should always be your spouse – Matt’s advice for all.