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Re-Building What Matters: Family Y Update, Nov. 6

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Family Y staff gathered on Tuesday in the darkened Stauffer Pool area to discuss efforts to resume operations as soon as possible.

“The good part? Realizing how important our Y is to peoples’ lives when it’s not around,” said Membership Coordinator Midge Deverin on Wednesday at a gathering of Westport Weston Family Y staff on the bleachers of the darkened Stauffer Pool.

Midge was relating her heartwarming encounters with Y Members and friends during a recent trip to the local Stop ‘n’ Shop, who stopped her in the aisles to inquire about her own family’s welfare (all fine) and to ask about our Family Y’s status and efforts to resume operations.

It was the first all-staff meeting since the facility was heavily damaged and temporarily closed by Superstorm Sandy on Monday, Oct. 29.

What follows is an update about our recovery efforts as of Tuesday afternoon, Nov. 6:

Bottom line: The Family Y is likely to remain closed through next week as we strive to restore power, heat and other essential services (such as fire-safety measures) to the facility.

In the meantime, Y Members are encouraged to avail themselves of the reciprocal privileges that allow them to use other local YMCAs.

Family Y staffers are also trying their best to arrange temporary alternative sites for certain classes and programs, as feasible.

For example, Sally Silverstein, who heads up our Sports & Recreation program, has scheduled practice time at the Norwalk YMCA, starting Tuesday afternoon, for some of our Y’s gymnastics students, who are busily training for upcoming competitions and performances.

Ellen Johnston, head coach of the 200-member Water Rat Swim Team, has used the Wilton Family YMCA and Staples High School for practice sessions. She’s also been able to shift this weekend’s home swim meet to Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT.

Their Y colleagues are in the process of trying to arrange temporary use by Y Members of local facilities for swim lessons, aqua fitness classes, volleyball, yoga and other Y classes. We will strive to keep Y Members and especially participants of these programs informed of these developments and their schedules as soon as possible.

The Family Y’s Kinderkids program has joined with our After School program for older students at Long Lots elementary school, with that program resuming on Wednesday.

Significant progress has been made in cleaning out the Child Care Center, submerged under feet of water.

Tasha Dennison, senior director of Child Care and School Age programs, continues to work with state authorities to secure a temporary license for hosting our other Child Care programs at the Y once heat and other services are restored and while our Child Care Center, located in the lower level of the Bedford Building, is remediated, rebuilt and restocked.

We’ve detailed the damage done, as well as the complicated task of making repairs to antiquated, “grandfathered” mechanical and electrical systems damaged by the tidal surge that flooded the sub-levels of our circa 1923 Bedford Building, the equally vintage Firehouse that now serves as our two-level Fitness Center, as well as our Weeks Pavilion Aquatics Center, added to the Y in the 1970s.

Pat Costanzo, our super “super,” sounded an optimistic note at Wednesday’s meeting when he cited tentative plans to install a second temporary external generator that would supply power to the Weeks Pavilion, which also houses our Gymnastics Center and racquet courts.

Our schedule could change for the better, allowing members to utilize parts of our building, such as the fitness center, sooner,” said Pat, our Senior Director of Facilities Management, on Wednesday.

“My goal is to give you back your building,” he added to the 30 or so program directors, teachers and instructors, warmed only slightly by the ambient heat of the Stauffer Pool’s water. “Your jobs will be to make our classes fit with what we’ll have, at least to start off with.”

Many of our Y’s instructors have taught at the Y for years, even decades, and for them, it’s less a job than a calling. Ruth Sherman, who has taught aqua fitness classes at the Y for more than 40 years, spoke of how she has phoned many of her students, some in their 90s, to check in on them and to let them know of the Y’s status.

Other Y staffers are engaged in similar efforts to reach out to Y Members personally, particularly our seniors who may not have access to updates on our website and emails.

Our Family Y’s roots run deep and remain strong.

“This is not a speed bump; it’s a speed mountain,” said Family Y CEO Rob Reeves on Wednesday. “We hope our Members will hang with us, but we will honor requests by members who want to or need to freeze or cancel their memberships.”

“But know this,” Reeves added. “We’re not looking for a way to ‘get out’ of our old building at this critical point. We are intent on continuing our mission of service to our Members and community as soon as humanly possible.”

We also promise to keep you up to date about the latest developments in our recovery effort and how these efforts may impact the timing and scope of our reopening.

If you have a specific question or would like to volunteer your support, please contact Rob Reeves directly, via rreeves@westporty.org or 203-226-8981, ext. 131.

To support our Family Y with a financial contribution, please click here to access our online donation form, or contact Paul Bernetsky, Chief Development Officer, at 203-226-8981, ext. 115 or pbernetsky@westporty.org. (Use the Comment box to give us specific information about processing your gift. We thank you.)

More information about our Family Y, including additional photos, may be found at www.westporty.org as well as the Y’s Facebook page.

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