Northern Berkshire YMCA seeking donations


NORTH ADAMS -- After more than 127 years of extensive community service, the Northern Berkshire YMCA is again seeking help to continue that history.

The Northern Berkshire YMCA was established by a hard-working group of community volunteers in September of 1886. Since mid January 2014, hard working YMCA volunteers have been involved in the annual fund drive.

This year, the Y is trying to raise $60,000, said Justin Ihnes, CEO of Northern Berkshire YMCA.

The Y offers programs for adults and children, including swimming, day care, after school programs, youth sports leagues, health and wellness, sports and summer camps and gymnastics. It also provides fitness equipment, access to a pool and a gymnasium as well as racquetball courts.

There are 25 different adult fitness classes each week, including yoga, zumba, water aerobics and indoor cycling, Ihnes said.

Working in close conjunction with Brayton Elementary School (the two stand side by side and share the YMCA gymnasium), the Y serves as a close friend to the school, and has many of its students in the after school program.

"So, for a not-for-profit organization, there are a great many personal enrichment programs," Ihnes added.

The YMCA team is made up of about 350 volunteers, and 51 full and part time staff members.

The standing policy at the Northern Berkshire YMCA, Ihnes noted, is "we do not turn anybody away for an inability to pay."

Last year, the Y provided $126,000 in scholarships to children and adults who applied for aid to join a YMCA program, or for a membership, or to use the after school program or summer camp.

"It’s very important that we are successful in our campaign to offset the financial aid we provide the community," Ihnes said.

The Northern Berkshire YMCA operates in a working-class community where many people work two or three jobs to provide for their families, and some who are unemployed or underemployed. With the Great Recession dragging on, both groups are having trouble making ends meet.

Membership at the Northern Berkshire YMCA has been growing the last few years, and this year’s membership count is up to roughly 1,600 people.

So far, the campaign has raised nearly $30,000. The fund drive will end in mid March, Ihnes said, so he is hopeful community members will respond to the call for support.

Ihnes said the fund development committee is made up of volunteers "that have always been very loyal to the Y, and are very good at getting in front of people and explaining to them just how important the Y is to this community," Ihnes said. "Doesn’t matter if it’s $1 or $10,000, It all helps. So we go one person at a time."

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