It doesn’t take much to realize that working at the Portage Township YMCA as the Healthy Living Coordinator means you have to take physical health seriously. Likewise, Britney Mendoza tackles her job with passion and determination. She also teaches spin classes, actively hikes with her family, and takes great pride in her meal prep skills.
“Nutrition is just something that I’m passionate about,” Mendoza said. “I strive to incorporate good health into my own life and my family’s life.”
Since becoming a mother 20 years ago, Mendoza was inspired by healthy living and wanted to do everything in her power to give her kids a healthy and happy life. Mendoza and her family avoid processed and frozen foods, plan meals for the week ahead, and use fast, healthy crock-pot meals for when life is busy. To avoid buying unhealthy food on the fly at the grocery store, Mendoza mas a detailed grocery list ready every time.
Mendoza’s home is now occupied by five children, aging from 20- to 4-years-old; meaning that she is catering to a different variety of food palettes and nutrition needs. Her children’s eating habits help her stay focused:
“If I don’t stay organized and meal prep, my kids will pig out and I don’t like that at all,” Mendoza laughed.
At the Portage Township YMCA, Mendoza oversees multiple programs and people including the wellness staff, the program instructors, wellness programs, and now most recently the new Nutrition Kitchen. The Nutrition Kitchen is a new protein shop at the Portage Township YMCA that offers programs and nutritious meals for members and kids involved in various summer programs.
The road to becoming the Healthy Living Coordinator at the YMCA was not Mendoza’s original path. After she graduated from Calumet High School, Mendoza started school at the Art Institute to become an interior designer. But life has a funny way of switching things around, and after she graduated from college Mendoza solidified a career in retail, where she eventually stayed as a manager for 17 years. When she spotted the opened at the YMCA, she took a leap.
The Portage Township YMCA has opened exciting doors for Mendoza and her family. Members for almost 10 years, the Mendoza family feels like the YMCA is their second home, their second family. Their YMCA connection helps them stay healthy and active. Mendoza’s teenage sons love to play basketball, her youngest is in the preschool class, and her youngest daughter loves the gymnastics program. Mendoza also loves volunteering at the YMCA.
“It doesn’t matter if it isn’t even my department, I still want to volunteer my time here,” Mendoza said. “On the outside, you might see the YMCA just as a gym or wellness center, but it’s so much more than that. I see the impact it has on the public and my community every day.”
When the Mendoza family is not in school or at the YMCA, they love to travel and hike. With the Indiana Dunes State Park in their backyard, the family has started a checklist of all of the trails they want to hike. A general rule when the Mendoza Family goes on trips? Never visit the same place twice. On their last trip, they went white water rafting in North Carolina for their 10th wedding anniversary. But nothing takes the place of the Portage community they have called home for the past 13 years.
“My favorite place is the Portage River Walk,” Mendoza said. “I got married there, and we always revisit it no matter the weather.”