Summit Area YMCA, More Than  Swimming


Article by Chatham & Short Hills Lifestyle

Photography by Chatham & Short Hills Lifestyle

When we think about our local YMCA, the thought that comes to mind is "swimming lessons" for our kids. They are so much more than that! They are a local 501(c)3 organization that lives by their mission: To nurture "the potential of every individual, promoting healthy living and fostering a sense of social responsibility."

Our local Summit Area YMCA, serves seven local towns with three locations; The Summit YMCA, The Learning Circle daycare and early childhood education facility in Summit, and the beautiful new 40K SQF Berkeley Heights YMCA. They stepped up when it mattered most for their members, their staff and their local community. 

Community Support during COVID19:

Staff Support: Those of us that enjoy the "Y" may not know that they are a non-profit organization who's operating costs are covered by the fee based programs they offer, while their free programs and financial assistance are provided by the generous, private donors from their local community. They closed on March 20th due to Covid 19 and kept their staff on full time for the next 16 days, not knowing how long this pandemic would last, to support them and their families. 

Caring Members: Their CEO, Paul Kieltyka did not want to charge their members while closed so decided to temporarily hold all memberships. Many members asked the Y to keep their program fees as a donation and opted out of a temporary hold. The response from their members is heartwarming and shows just how much they believe in the Summit Area YMCA.

Wheels On The Bus: Integrated into the community fabric, even their school bus driver lives by their values. He misses the kids so much that he starred in a video, driving around the Learning Circle and through town playing "Wheels On The Bus" and waving to the kids to see them smile! They also hosted “drive by parades” so families and children could drive past the school to see their teachers cheering them on.

“Family Backpack” Program: What really stands out, is their “Family Backpack” program to address food insecurity within our local community. Although closed, and not generating income, they continue to support local families in need by giving out weekly food packages to nearly 1,500 families impacted by Covid 19. This number has increased from 175 families prior to Covid 19. For those of you not from our area, these are very well to do communities. They shared a story with me of couple from nearby Berkeley Heights, who both were working professionals in NYC, lost their jobs during Covid 19, and are part of the “Family Backpack” program. Prior to Covid, the “Family Backpack” Program worked in partnership with area schools. For each child in the program, teachers discreetly put the food package into the child’s backpack each Friday to ensure they have enough to eat during the weekend. With schools now closed, the Summit Area YMCA has become both a collection and distribution center. The Learning Circle, which serves over 250 families, is also providing free educational content, while the Y’s certified instructors are providing workouts and mental health support online to stay connected and support their members.

Summer Fun for Local Kids

 I think we are all done with Covid 19 seclusion! There is finally a bright light ahead! On June 15th the Learning Circle reopened with new safety protocols to support parents called back to work and be assured that their kids are in a good place, with familiar faces and staff that feels like family! On July 6, their summer camp opened, giving a very much needed solution to kids who have been home for over 4 months. And if you are still economically impacted, no worries, the Summit Area YMCA offers financial assistance for childcare, and day camp for those that show the need as well as Veteran families. How? Via grants that are offered from generous sponsors and donors. #staywithus is what they are posting. Check out thesay.org

On September 12, 2020 the Summit Area YMCA will host their annual fundraising and comedy event, LOL which will now be virtual - and you can count on me joining the fun! Actions speak louder than words. They stepped up when it mattered most! 

The Summit Area YMCA, so much more than swimming! ;)  

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