Rita Barnas, a customer service and welcome center coordinator at the Portage YMCA, is originally from the southeast side of Chicago. Shortly after Barnas married her high school sweetheart, she and her husband moved to Hammond. After living in Hammond for some time and expanding their family, the two decided that they wanted to move out of that area with their three children.
“We happened to meet a builder who took us to the house we are in now in Portage. It is in a quiet area with a nice, big yard and bedrooms for each of our three children,” Barnas described.
Barnas and her family have lived in Portage since 2002, and her eldest son just bought his own house in Portage, as well.
About five years ago, she was working at a job she did not enjoy and while driving past the Portage YMCA one day, she saw they were seeking help in several positions. So, she pulled into the lot and decided to take action.
“I went into the YMCA and applied, got an interview, was offered the job, and have been here ever since,” she said.
At the Portage YMCA, Barnas is easy to find. She is the first face one sees when they walk through the doors. She mans the front desk, where she works as the customer service and welcome center coordinator.
“At the front desk, I answer the phone, help members with questions or problems they may have, collect payments for the programs we have, such as the gymnastics and childcare programs, and open new memberships,” she said listing off her responsibilities. “I basically service everyone that comes in by greeting them and making them feel welcome.”
While working at the front desk, she gets to meet and interact with regulars and introduce new people to the center every single day.
“My favorite part about working for the Portage YMCA is meeting all the new people. I have formed a lot of close relationships with not only my co-workers, but also the regular members that come in,” she said. “I look at my co-workers and the members of the YMCA as family because they have all touched my life in some way.”
There are many events and activities that take place throughout Northwest Indiana and especially portage, including monthly festivals and the annual 4th of July Parade. These are events Barnas and her family enjoy participating in together and the parade is always a must.
“The YMCA is in the parade, so there are times that I have participated in the parade walk, but if I am not, we enjoy going out to watch it every year,” she said. “Also, whenever there are festivals, like the bacon festival, we like going and walking through those.”
In her free time, she enjoys hanging out with her family, relaxing, walking along the shores of Porter Beach, and taking her dogs for walks in the local parks.
Since moving to Portage, the community is what first hooked Barnas and her family to the area and is what has kept her here for so long.
“It is just a really great area to live in,” she said. “I have met some really great neighbors and friends that feel like they are now a part of my family.”