The pandemic taught people many things, and one of the most important was the value of companionship and community.
Through the isolation COVID-19 brought on as it surged, many found themselves working remotely, with little room for socialization. Gyms shut their doors, restaurants limited themselves to takeout and many hubs for community engagement fell still.
Now, these centers have surged back to life, and community members like Lynne Kness are working tirelessly to support this renewal. Kness, 56, is the senior director of member and guest services at the JCC of Greater Baltimore.
“I want everyone to walk out of the door feeling like they have a sense of community when they come here,” Kness said.
Her appreciation for community space grew when she transitioned from a 30-year career in retail to working at the JCC. When Kness started at the JCC, it brought her back in time to when she was 4 years old, visiting with her bubbe and listening to her speak in Yiddish.
Now, Kness lives in Lutherville with her husband, who works for The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore in the IT department. They have 3 children, ages 26, 24 and 15. Their youngest is a freshman at Garrison Forest School in Owings Mills. Kness also volunteers for Jewish Volunteer Connection.
Kness said she believes she was put on this earth to serve people, and sometimes that means wearing many hats. Recently, that meant helping move weights for the ongoing renovations to the JCC’s fitness center. The renovations include the front lobby at the Owings Mills facility, which Kness said is being renovated to enhance both security and service, in addition to the fitness center. Renovations to the fitness center will include a new look, new equipment, a turf area and more. While the renovations are ongoing, the equipment has been moved to one of the gymnasiums, which will serve as the workout center in the meantime. The renovations are set to be completed by May 4, ahead of the JCC hosting the Mini & Junior Maccabi games on May 7.
While the JCC’s fitness center supports many ways for members to stay active, Kness’ sport of choice hasn’t changed.
“Running makes me feel balanced; it helped me get through COVID,” Kness said.
Running, while not typically thought of as a social sport, brings Kness into close contact with the community she serves. She also participates in some of the JCC’s group fitness classes. In addition to staying in touch by working out alongside the members she serves, Kness keeps the office door open.
“Empathy is the most important quality in my line of work,” she said. “I think that you really do need to see people for where they’re coming from and not just where you have come from. People come from all different walks of life. We need to be understanding of what they need.”
Listening is a crucial part of her role, she said, because it helps her to collaborate with her team and serve her community where and when they need it most. But, Kness said she doesn’t and couldn’t do it without the support she receives from her JCC work community.
“I feel very fortunate in that I get so much support from the level above me. They empower me to make the decisions that are best for membership on a daily basis and leading my team,” Kness said.
Going forward, Kness is eagerly anticipating the excitement that sweeps in with summer camp programs and the JCC’s July 4 party.