Andrea Lee gives her local picks

After graduating from Alliance High School, Andrea Lee (then Andrea Sapp) thought she’d leave the city for college and never come back.

After graduating from Alliance High School, Andrea Lee (then Andrea Sapp) thought she’d leave the city for college and never come back.

Not only did she return, but she and her husband, Jordan, are now raising their 1-year-old son, Eric, here and she has become one of the city’s cheerleaders.

“You think you know what you want when you are 18, then you hit 25 and think, ‘Why did I ever think that was what life was about?’ ” said Lee, a 2007 Alliance High School graduate who earned a bachelor’s degree in business from Chatham University in Pittsburgh. “You see that life is about different things.”

Lee, the health, wellness and youth sports director for the Alliance Family YMCA for the past two years, said returning to the city has allowed her to fall in love with the community again.

“I love Alliance for the community that it is and that everyone is close and knows each other,” she said. “You remember things from when you were growing up, like the Carnation Festival, and that’s the kind of community that I want my kid to grow up in, too.”

At the YMCA, Lee, an avid lover of softball, outdoor activities and exercise, oversees the group exercise classes, wellness programs, the wellness center, community outreach and youth sports for the branch that serves roughly 3,000 members. You’ll also see the certified personal trainer at times teaching some of the group exercise classes, such as the popular POUND cardio classes, in which members use a weighted drum stick to get a full-body workout.

Outside of the YMCA, Lee, who previously worked as the coordinator for Keep Alliance Beautiful, also serves on multiple community committees. She has chaired the city’s Christmas event for the past three years and organizes an annual Turkey Trot that she co-founded six years ago that helps buy Christmas presents for Alliance families.

“I love Christmas,” Lee said. “And especially now having a little one, you take a little more pride in those kind of things because you want them to grow up and have those memories.”

Lee’s local favorites:

Favorite restaurant:
Polinori’s Palm Garden Inn and Don Pancho’s Tex-Mex Cafe in Alliance. “They are owned by local families. The food is delicious, and the atmosphere is welcoming.”

Favorite theater:
Firehouse Theater. “It’s right here in Alliance, and you see so many familiar faces performing in the shows.”

Favorite theater performance group:
Carnation City Players (see above)

Favorite place to shop:
Mainstream Boutique in North Canton and Lingenfelter-Brill in Alliance. “They both offer clothing and accessories in small batches so you don’t have to worry about showing up somewhere with someone wearing your outfit.”

Favorite lunch spot:
“The College Inn for their French onion soup and homemade house dressing.”

Favorite place to see live music:
George’s Lounge, Passion Blues Restaurant & Club or Gervasi Vineyard. “All of these places have a great atmosphere and GREAT food!”

Favorite coffee shop:
Esso Coffee in Alliance or Cultured Coffee & Waffles in Canton. “They have THE best coffee, and the waffles at Cultured Coffee & Waffles are so unique. They offer savory and sweet!”

Favorite event:
Greater Alliance Carnation Festival festivities. “This is an Alliance tradition, and even if you move away, chances are you come home to go to the festival. There is so much good food and fun activities to do with your family.”