United Way Community Impact Partner Highlight: Audrey Pickett at YMCA – A Passion for Helping Others


Audrey Pickett can be found nearly every day at the YMCA of Hannibal where she has found a second family. Audrey attends the YMCA and works out to keep herself in shape and avoid having to go to physical therapy. She also volunteers in the afternoons at the YMCA's Welcome Desk during the afternoon rush when students from the school come to the Y. courtesy of the United Way of the Mark Twain Area

HANNIBAL, Mo. – Audrey Pickett can be found nearly every day rolling around in her wheelchair with a smile on her face at the YMCA of Hannibal. For her, this agency has become a home.

“It’s different when you don’t see the impact the YMCA has every day, but when you live it every day you see all the little things that make a difference and make it easier for people,” said Pickett, a volunteer and member of the YMCA. “It’s not just me who they are helping but so many different groups of people. I feel like I can be a voice for those people.”

Pickett first came to the YMCA to attend a fitness class but quickly found the YMCA had more to offer.

Pickett has had multiple “go-arounds,” as she put it, with the YMCA. She attended a fitness class that led her to volunteer at the Teen Center. She stopped volunteering there when the Teen Center was closed to make space for the Bright Beginnings Daycare, but she found her way back to the YMCA after her doctor told her that she either needed to start physical therapy or do exercises on her own.

Pickett has mobility and health challenges due to having cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair.

“Doctors told me it was coming here to the YMCA to work out or going to physical therapy, and I knew immediately what I wanted to do,” Pickett recalled.

Back to the gym she went. She also began volunteering again. Now almost daily she can be found getting off the OATS bus to go to the YMCA. For Pickett, the YMCA has become her family.

“The YMCA helps me stay social and stay active,” Pickett explained. “With my disability, I must stay active. If you don’t use it, you lose it, and the people here help me stay motivated to continue coming back.”

Pickett loves to stay active through exercise. The YMCA accommodates all people who are differently abled as it has adaptive mobility machines.

“They will find something that you can do,” Pickett said. “If you can’t stand up and do something, they will find something you can do sitting down. If there are machines you want to work on, they have adaptive mobility machines available. They adapt everything to you, and even if they can’t, they will still figure out a way. It is a great community and a great family.”

Pickett also volunteers with the afterschool program. The YMCA is inundated with kids who walk up the hill from the middle school and the high school for a safe environment to play and hang out.

“Kids get to work in the basketball gym or in the virtual reality lounge, and with special training, they can even workout on the actual gym equipment,” Pickett said.

When kids come in, Pickett helps coordinate the chaos by checking kids in.

“I stamp kids’ hands, lead mini tours and answer any questions that people have,” Pickett said.

She has grown continual relationships with some of the kids who come after school.

“Some kids just come and talk to me and tell me about their day. The other day, a couple of kids told me I am the reason they come to the YMCA after school,” Pickett said.

Becca Immegart, director of business services, also oversees the volunteers. She says Pickett has been a volunteer since 2018, working in the activity center, the welcome desk and with Meals on the Go.

“The kids love her,” Immegart said. “She makes sure everyone gets checked in and their hand gets stamped. We can tell if she isn’t there because there is a real void. We have come to rely on her and are thankful she comes so faithfully … rain, sleet or snow.”

Pickett says her impact at the YMCA began when she attended a class.

“Now I am impacting others with work I am able to do here,” she said.

The YMCA was selected to benefit from United Way of the Mark Twain Area’s “Be A Light” campaign to ensure people are empowered to achieve their potential.

Community members and businesses are encouraged to partner with United Way to be a light to people who rely upon the programs United Way helps fund. People interested in financially supporting the efforts of United Way can give online at unitedwaymta.org or by mailing gifts to P.O. Box 81, Hannibal, Mo., 63401.

This year’s “Be A Light” campaign will provide support to the following United Way community impact agencies:

  • Birthday Blessings
  • CHART Teen Task Force
  • Coyote Hill
  • Douglass Community Services
  • Families and Communities Together
  • Hannibal Free Clinic
  • Hannibal Parents as Teacher
  • Harvest Outreach Ministries
  • Hannibal Alliance for Youth Success
  • Heartland Resources, Inc.
  • Learning Opportunities/Quality Works
  • Monroe City Food Pantry
  • Northeast Community Action Corporation
  • The Salvation Army of Hannibal
  • The Child Advocacy Center of Northeast Missouri
  • The YMCA of Hannibal

Ashley Vermeer is an intern with the United Way.

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