A Growing West Essex YMCA Wins Top Recognition

By: News and blog | Friday, May 3, 2019 | Healthy Living

Staff of the West Essex YMCA

Impressive growth in enrollment, programs and charitable contributions earned the West Essex YMCA the title of Branch of the Year for the Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges.

The West Essex YMCA, chosen tops among the Metro YMCA’s seven branches for 2018, was honored at the association’s 42nd annual awards dinner on April 11 at the Hanover Marriott in East Hanover.

“We are proud to be an integral part of our community, committed to addressing societal concerns like chronic illness, food insecurity, and the isolation of seniors, as well as providing opportunities for children and adults to strengthen their bodies and minds,” West Essex YMCA Executive Director Helen Flores said. 

Metro YMCA Senior Vice President/COO Edward Philipp said: “the West Essex YMCA met or exceeded every challenging benchmark its leadership set in 2018. The team added and expanded programs to reach more people — especially the community’s underserved populations —fulfilling the Y’s mission of youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility.” 

Flores attributed the branch’s success to the staff, board of manager, donors, and members, many of whom are part of the Y’s extensive volunteer network.

The long list of achievements includes the largest enrollment to date for the YMCA’s summer day camps. The YMCA locked in a 10-year lease at Caldwell University for Pioneer Trails Day Camp and built a new pool there so the 275 campers each week can enjoy lessons and recreational swim time. Campers’ parents give Pioneer Trails Day Camp a 98-percent positive satisfaction rating.

Pioneer Trails continues to hire extra staff to accommodate children with autism and other special needs at camp, thanks to a grant from the Lisa Beth Gerstman Foundation. Another program for special needs children, the YMCA’s Piranhas Special Olympics swim team, saw a 10 percent increase in membership and now serves 30 children. Funding for the Piranhas is underwritten by the Kiwanis Club of Livingston, one of the YMCA’s many Program Champions.

Through partnerships with the Livingston School District and the West Orange School District, the YMCA continues to invite students with autism to take swimming lessons, learn how to work out safely and socialize at the Y.

The Y secured $76,000 in grants to support community programs. Enrollment in La Vida Delicosa, its bilingual nutritious and fitness program, continued to grow, as well as engagement with the community garden at Edison Middle School. “Since many live below the poverty line, this was an excellent cost-saving way for the parents to get produce from the land, and for the children to learn about growing their own food,” Flores said. 

In the local schools, the YMCA integrated mindfulness into its after-school care programs. YMCA Youth and Teen Director Mike Lee introduced a running club and new enrichment workshops for children ages 7 to 12. The Y continues to run a sports program at Heritage Middle School and provide free YMCA memberships to middle schoolers. Membership in the YMCA Leaders Club for teens is growing, as is involvement with its travel basketball teams.

The YMCA attracted 90 senior citizens as new members, who take advantage of the many classes geared for healthy aging, such as the balance-building Keep on Movin', memory-enhancing Rockin’ and Reminiscing,” and Delay the Disease for those with Parkinson’s. The YMCA continues to bring exercise and socialization to homebound seniors through Healthy Aging at Home, a program supported by another Program Champion, Marlene Waldock, owner of 1st Impression Communications LLC. 

To address disease, the West Essex YMCA last year launched Prescribe the Y, which allows doctors to prescribe patients who struggle with obesity and other conditions a free 12-week fitness plan at the YMCA. Participants receive a tailored exercise plan, ongoing support from a wellness coach and nutritional education. The program includes a free three-month membership to the YMCA for participants and their families. The Y continues to offer LIVESTRONG at the YMCA, a wellness program for cancer survivors.  Additional health and prevention programming is provided by St. Barnabas Medical Center, the YMCA’s Signature Partner for Healthy Living.

“We are proud the West Essex YMCA is a problem solver for the community and continually demonstrates that the Y is so much more than a place to exercise,’’ Philipp said. To provide financial support for the YMCA’s community programs or volunteer, call the West Essex YMCA at (973) 992-7500.

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