AMHERST – It’s amazing the difference a few years can make.
Ten years ago, the Cumberland YMCA’s board of directors hosted a membership meeting at which time the organization’s bleak financial picture was shared with the community as well as the reality that the YMCA could close for the second time in its history – this time unlikely to reopen.
Today, the YMCA is flourishing as a key ingredient in the community with a number of activities and services its people have come to rely on.
“That members meeting 10 years ago was the catalyst to change, it was either go or no-go,” YMCA CEO Trina Clarke said following the organization’s annual meeting on Tuesday. “We were very close to no-go, but the community at that time rallied around and said they didn’t want to move forward without the Y.”
From that show of support, the YMCA’s funding partners came to the table, most notably the Town of Amherst and the Municipality of Cumberland. Both municipal units continue to support the YMCA financially and have representatives on its board of directors.
Clarke said staff were also important to the YMCA miracle, coming on board to develop and offer programs that people wanted to participate in and adopting a mindset of being a successful team.
“Every year, when we do our budget, I remind my staff that we can’t take our eye off the ball and get complacent,” Clarke said. “To this day, we still focus on making sure everything is done and done properly with a sustainable fiscal mindset. We have to or we run the danger of falling back to where we were before.”
Clarke said community is a key piece of the YMCA because the organization has realized it can’t do it alone. In 10 years, she said, the community has embraced the YMCA while the YMCA has fostered the partnerships necessary to move the organization forward for the next decade and beyond.
“We just have to keep charging on,” she said. “We need to continue seeking out the needs of the community. We recognize we have an aging community and they have needs, so we’ll work to meet them. We also have a vibrant child-care program and despite big changes coming we remain focused on that. Change is happening and we need to embrace it.”
YMCA board chairman Charlie Seymour said membership has played a prominent role in the YMCA’s resurgence.
“We’re up over 1,000 members. Back then, I think it was 500 or 600. We’ve doubled in that time,” he said. “We have to continue offering good programs and making sure they get value for their money.”
Seymour said the board is striving to work with the community to let it know how important it is the YMCA’s future. He said the YMCA is much better shape financially than a decade ago and now has a capital fund in place to assist with the funding of capital work as it arises.
The past year has also seen the continued growth of programs including its Community Support Program.
Last summer, the YMCA was presented with an opportunity from the Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia and Alison Lair was hired to head the Homelessness Prevention and Outreach Program that has served 33 people in need of various support measures such as eviction prevention, housing search and set-up.
This past January, a weekly drop-in meal service was launched. The community kitchen serves approximately 30 people each Wednesday and the committee is presently working on the development of an emergency shelter in Cumberland County.