READING, Pa. — YMCA locations in Reading and across Berks County are opening their doors to active duty military members for free. The new initiative allows them to use the facilities during periods of leave, for two weeks at a time, up to five times a year.

"We were really looking to give back, especially around the holiday season, and we felt why don't we do what we do best and keep people active in mind, body, and spirit," said Ashley Shannon, a spokeswoman for the YMCA.

Active-duty military members can have access, free of charge, to all of the things a regular YMCA member gets, like the gym, basketball courts, pool and online wellness classes.

Shannon said it's the perfect time, as many will be home on leave for the holidays.

"We are hoping to see, especially with the holidays coming around, a really strong response and a lot of people out to to see what the Y has to offer," she said.

The staff at the Y is hoping the initiative will inspire other organizations in the area to offer more to military members that goes beyond a "thank you for your service."

"This is a very tangible way to show we appreciate you, and we want you here, and we want you to feel like family while you're home," Shannon said.

Active-duty members of the armed forces just have to visit any of the YMCA locations in Berks County and present their military ID to start using the program.

"We are the first in the area doing it this type of way," Shannon said. "There is an initiative from Y USA, but this is running independent of this initiative."

The new initiative is not just for the holidays. It will extend year-round.

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