By G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD – The head of the YMCA of Greater Springfield told area elected officials the organization will need their assistance to complete a list of projects in the next few years.
A renovation and expansion of the current building on Chestnut Street are among those goals.
Kirk Smith, president an CEO of the YMCA, said that Springfield deserves “a shiny new YMCA” that would present activities and programs “from the cradle to the grave.”
Smith hosted Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, Agawam Mayor Richard Cohen, Springfield City Councilor Michael Fenton, state Sens. Gale Candaras, James Welch and Donald Humason Jr. as well as state Reps. Cheryl Coakley Rivera, Angelo Puppolo Jr., Aaron Vega, Michael Finn and Joseph Wagner. Congressman Richard Neal also attended.
The breakfast was an appeal to the legislators for their future support.
“We know that [the expansion] won’t happen by the YMCA alone,” Smith added.
The legislators also heard a presentation from the directors of the YMCAs in Westfield, Holyoke and Northampton detailing the program they have and their impact on those communities.
Smith explained the Y currently has 115,000 members in 14 communities with 16 different centers and almost 30 before- and after-school programs. He said the success of funding those programs comes from “a three-legged stool: government, other nonprofit partners and the business community.”
Smith said, “It’s important to collaborate when you’re doing this work.”
He added the fundraising climate has changed and potential donors ask questions on how money is being leveraged to make the desired outcomes available.
Smith said the Y is currently seeking a way to turn over the management of the single room occupancy units in the building to a different management entity.
Another way to control costs is renegotiating the loan on the Dunbar Y and Family & Community Center. Smith explained of the 3,500 people served at Dunbar, 85 percent receive membership subsidies and a better loan arrangement is essential to the survival of the center.
The YMCA is also in the process of expanding into Agawam, Smith added.
The renovation and addition of the YMCA’s building on Chestnut Street would require a capital campaign to help raise the $14 million the project would require, Smith explained to Reminder Publications
. He believes the campaign would start in 2016.
“Our mission is noble, but it’s an arduous task,” Smith said.