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Our Opinion

Our Opinion: A 'game-changer' for Berkshire Family YMCA and a win for Pittsfield community

After a year and a half of construction and millions of dollars invested, Berkshire Family YMCA’s shiny makeover reflects some much-needed optimism in downtown Pittsfield.

Monday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony welcomed officials from across the community and commonwealth, including Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer and state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier as well as U.S. Rep. Richard Neal and Sen. Edward Markey.

It was a fitting occasion to come together, given the team effort to get this project over the finish line. The historic North Street location of Pittsfield’s YMCA — the main building was built in 1930 — was in need of essential renovation.

“The weight of the deferred maintenance was going to put us in an untenable spot,” Berkshire Family YMCA board member Matthew Scarafoni said at Monday’s event. “So we either acted or collapsed.”

And act they did, with multiple community stakeholders contributing to the possibility of this project’s success. Mr. Scarafoni, who is also president and chief financial officer of Scarafoni Financial, chaired the capital campaign to raise funding for the $12.4 million project. Meanwhile, leaders at all levels who know the importance of this institution to the Pittsfield community helped to leverage public investment. The YMCA received $250,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds as part of Mayor Tyer’s plan to put $8.8 million of the city’s COVID relief funding toward local nonprofits. Rep. Farley-Bouvier on Monday flagged $2.3 million in state funding. The project also qualified for the federal new market tax credit program, which Rep. Neal, the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, knew could be an important piece of the funding puzzle for the YMCA’s renovation just as it was for the Colonial Theatre’s in the mid-2000s.

We’re glad to see these officials see the importance of investing in this community institution in the heart of Pittsfield. We frequently hear from our readers and neighbors that the city needs more safe, healthy, communal opportunities, particularly for our youth. The Berkshire Family YMCA is a critical conduit for such opportunities, and we’re happy to see its vitality rebounding from COVID. While the pandemic halved the Y’s membership, those numbers are back up to pre-pandemic levels, according to Mr. Scarafoni. He said that all programs have grown in recent years and particularly noted a 40 percent increase in day care enrollment.

We don’t always see the necessary collaborative and strategic investment in the community institutions that serve young Berkshire families, but when we do it’s worth highlighting — especially when it means investing in a sustainable future for the Berkshire Family YMCA. That’s certainly worth celebrating, even if one morning’s salutations do not fully capture the critical behind-the-scenes work of fundraising, grant-writing and lobbying for life-giving investment. For those efforts on behalf of the greater Pittsfield community, we are grateful.

“We did it,” Pittsfield YMCA Executive Director Jessica Rumlow told attendees Monday. And just as many hands helped with the lift, many minds, bodies and souls will be elevated because of it.

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