For many members, mornings at the Hamilton Family YMCA aren't just for getting in some exercise. They're also an opportunity for people, particularly retired seniors, to socialize and meet new people.
Ooltewah resident Katye Hunt and daughter Suzanne come to the Y every morning as it opens for the 5:30 a.m. swim class. The Y provides free coffee in the mornings, and a group of mostly retired men gathers in the coffee area as they might have done in rocking chairs in front of the local general store in decades past.
About three years ago, one of the men — a TVA retiree who's referred to as the "mayor" of the Hamilton Family Y — told Katye Hunt in jest that he'd named her the official Wednesday morning baker. But for a woman who loves to bake as much as she does, that was no joke.
She's been bringing made-from-scratch muffins every Wednesday since, although she's skipped a week or two during the holidays. The group has served as her taste-testing guinea pigs for hundreds of muffin recipes, from zucchini to fresh apple with a caramel glaze. Next week, she's planning to bring German chocolate muffins for Suzanne's birthday.
"Some are winners, some are not," Katye Hunt said, adding that she keeps a calendar marked with which muffins she brings each week so she doesn't repeat recipes she's done recently.
The men sometimes give her a few dollars here and there to buy flour or other ingredients or chip in for new pans, she said, but she doesn't need any reward.
"I just enjoy cooking and they enjoy eating, and it's a way to make friends," said Katye Hunt.
Email Emily Crisman at firstname.lastname@example.org