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Telegram & Gazette (Massachusetts)

 

The Tri-Community YMCA of Southbridge is merging with the YMCA of Central Massachusetts to become the regional association's sixth branch, thus broadening its service area to nearly 70 communities.

The boards of directors for both YMCAs signed a merger agreement in February, and the organizations continue to work toward an official joint venture.

"We don't have a date," said Kathryn Hunter, chief executive officer of the YMCA of Central Massachusetts. "We still have some administrative tasks to finalize. We're acting as if we're integrating. We're talking about roles for staff, systems, efficiencies and learning from each other. I'm thrilled at the strength of coming together. I can see added value for everyone."

When the merger takes effect, the Southbridge Y hopes to be called the Tri-Community YMCA Family Branch, said Glenn Juchno, its executive director.

"We're adding the word 'family' to really tell people what we're all about, and what we focus our energies on," Mr. Juchno said.

The Tri-Community YMCA has close to 4,600 members and about 220 employees, most of them part time. It has about 30 full-time employees.

"One of the things that people think about when they hear the word 'merger' is loss of jobs," Mr. Juchno acknowledged. "From Day 1, that's not even a conversation that we're going to have, because there aren't enough people do the work that we need done. We're very fortunate to have a great group of people here servicing our community, and they will stay here continuing to do the work that they're doing, and hopefully we will be able to grow and expand as we see fit."

The YMCA of Central Massachusetts' 2017 annual report reported $1.7 million in cash and more than $29 million in net assets.

It includes the Central Community and Greendale Family branches in Worcester, the Leominster and Montachusett Community branches in northern Worcester County, and the Boroughs Family Branch in Westboro.

In becoming part of a larger organization, Mr. Juchno noted, the Southbridge program, instead of having one aquatics instructor running a pool, will have a network of people it can connect with more easily.

"We're excited about the staff networking and professional development for our staff, and ultimately being able to turn around and provide more services to the folks in our community," he said.

There are programs the Southbridge Y is doing that the Central Massachusetts program isn't, and vice versa, the CEOs noted.

Ms. Hunter said she finds the Tri-Community YMCA's family child care program, which has a new center on Marcy Street in Southbridge, "fascinating." The center gave the Southbridge Y the ability to deliver "beautiful quality child care," she said.

"We have child care located in our branches, but we don't do standalone child care, and I think that's really exciting and is meeting a community need that maybe we could replicate somewhere else, and learning more about what family child care is all about," Ms. Hunter said.

On the flip side, the Central Community Branch in Worcester's Main South offers a Minority Achievers Program for post-secondary education preparation that is a prospect for replication in Southbridge, which has a large Hispanic population.

The Tri-Community YMCA recently started a teen leadership program, and Mr. Juchno said it is hitting the tip of the iceberg with its offerings for teenagers.

"With the Southbridge public schools and their need to have a turnaround plan in place, we're hoping to be able to help them with their work, with things like Minority Achievers and continuing with the teen leaders work," Mr. Juchno said. "Bringing that model down to south Worcester County would be something that we're very excited about at this point."

Day care and the achievers program are just two examples the officials immediately foresee.

"I think when you get a bunch of great minds in a room talking together, things happen," Mr. Juchno said. "We're yet to discover between the two."

Ms. Hunter and Mr. Juchno began general discussions about two years ago around how both Ys were doing, and the possibility of working together on programming and sharing services.

"It's not uncommon for Y's to do that," Ms. Hunter said. "As we got to know each other and learn about what our Y's mean to our communities, we saw some great opportunities and synergies, and thought, why don't we meet with our volunteers (board members) and see if they feel the same way."

In May 2017, both boards appointed a task force to explore and evaluate how bringing the two Y's together could provide greater impact throughout the county.

In a statement, Debra Savoie, the board president of the Tri-Community YMCA, said the organization is pleased with the outcome and looks forward to advancing the Y's mission and cause throughout the communities it serves, as well as throughout Central Massachusetts.

John Doyle, board chairman of the YMCA of Central Massachusetts, said: "I share in the excitement. The combining of strong volunteer and staff leadership will bring more of the best resources to the communities each Y serves."

 

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