This is a special morning for Eau Claire YMCA’s Don Banton.
It starts like every other morning for the past 14 years. Don comes into work at 5:00 a.m. to the Men’s Plus locker room, to keep the place spic and span as a supervisor. The soap dispensers are full, the counters are clean and the towels are stacked, as they always are under Don’s care. But this morning, Don’s again doing what he’s REALLY good at — smiling. Chatting. Remembering names. Inquiring after members’ loved ones. Connecting.
This morning is Don’s last on the job before a well-earned retirement. To celebrate, a very large group of early morning exercisers – the “5:30 crowd” — gather to shake Don’s hand, take his picture, sing his praises. They recall how Don is the first to visit them in the hospital if they are sick, congratulate them on a new child or grandchild or offer a hand if they need it. Always with that smile.
Besides a cake (which was undoubtedly the strangest cake order the bakery has every received) Don’s YMCA family gives him an all-expenses-paid cruise for he and his wife, a lifetime membership to the locker room he used to service and the distinction of being the first inductee into the “order of the golden basket” (it will hold his sneakers while working out at the Y.) By everyone assembled, these are considered small tokens compared to what Don’s given to them every morning. The celebration is energetic, overflowing with camaraderie and a highlight of everyone’s day. Just like Don.
Today is the 170th anniversary of the YMCA worldwide. It’s survived and thrived this long because of people like Don Banton.
Happy retirement Don. You made our mornings.
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