Dear Friends of the Y:
With Ontario beginning to re-open and many of us planning for a productive fall, it seems a good time to connect with you to share what has been happening at the YMCA of Eastern Ontario and to share our plans for the coming months. I plan to share these updates with you on a quarterly basis.
If I had one word to describe our work this year, it would be “partnerships” – a common theme you will notice throughout this letter.
In April, we announced our partnership with Providence Care in Kingston to bring to bring seniors and children together under the same roof. Our organizations are ushering in a new era of senior living and childcare programs with an agreement to open a Y childcare centre in the new Providence Manor, providing additional childcare spaces – very good news for Kingston families. The centre is scheduled to open in summer 2024.
While we are on the subject of childcare, the Y was pleased to introduce a few of our childcare families to Prime Minister Trudeau and cabinet ministers to discuss the needs of parents in this regard. I, and other YMCA staff from across Canada, also met with Minister Hassen to discuss how the new policy will be developed and the ongoing role that the Y will play in this process. I am very proud to be able to represent the needs of our childcare families with the federal government.
I can’t discuss childcare without mentioning our wonderful childcare staff. During the pandemic, which has provided additional challenges for everyone, our staff have performed to an exceptionally high standard, ensuring the safety of the children in their care while providing an engaging environment for them. Staff has adapted to each phase of the pandemic whether providing emergency childcare, regular childcare or school age care. They are to be congratulated!
Summer camps and partnerships
We were very happy to hear the announcement that summer camps would be allowed to proceed and have launched our recreational summer camps in Brockville and Kingston.
We are equally delighted to have entered agreements with North Grenville to bring summer camps to Kemptville; with the Town of Prescott to provide swim and aquafit lessons and lifeguarding to Centennial Pool; with the City of Brockville for lifeguarding at St. Lawrence Park; and with the City of Kingston to bring our popular Work Hard, Eat Well program back to Rideau Heights Community Centre.
Most recently, we announced a multi-agency partnership to bring our successful teen drop-in program to Joel Stone Park in Gananoque. Gananoque police and fire services, the Town of Gananoque, the United Way Leeds & Grenville and RNJ Youth Services have come together to provide teens with a safe space to gather, share food and activities, or simply to hang out with their friends.
As lockdown number three began, YMCA fitness instructors continue to demonstrate leadership by doing what they do best – helping people stay active. Each Monday to Friday, all may access free Virtual-Y fitness “classes” through our social channels and our website. I am very proud of my team for stepping up.
As part of our commitment to our community, we have also joined with the United Way Leeds Grenville to provide transportation to rural residents who have no other way of getting to their vaccination appointments. This is a partnership among various agencies and the Y is very happy to assist. Thank you to our staff who also volunteer their time to help.
The Y has a long history of seeking ways to meet the changing needs of its community and that is our strategy as we move through and emerge from the pandemic. The past year has shone a spotlight on community needs and we continue to look for new opportunities and partnerships to enhance our provision of services.
As has been the case through each step of the pandemic, our decisions will continue to place safety first. They must also be based on fiscal responsibility that demonstrates our good stewardship of our partners’, donors’ and members’ trust.
The pandemic has seen the permanent closure of a number of YMCAs across the country. Our keen focus on finding new ways and new collaborators to help fulfil our mandate to build healthy communities has helped our association navigate the uncertainties brought by the pandemic.
It has been a very long 16 months, but there is hope on the horizon as more of us receive our vaccinations.
This summer, I am looking forward to taking a road trip with my youngest son to visit my eldest who lives in B.C., whom we have not been able to see for some time. As you can imagine, our house is filled with much anticipation!
I wish you an enjoyable and restful summer and look forward to working with you as we bring more Y programs and services across our region.
CEO, YMCA of Eastern Ontario