Ridgewood Ymca Now Rolling Along

Chapter Looks To Expand Community Role

More than a year after reopening its doors following an extensive renovation, the Ridgewood Y is as busy as ever, offering a variety of services and programs aimed on making the community healthier in body, mind and spirit.

Ridgewood Y Executive Director LaKeshia Harris (at left) and instructor Miriam Alicea are shown in the fitness center at the Catalpa Avenue chapter.

“We’re really off to a great start,” said LaKeshia Harris, the Ridgewood Y’s executive director, who took the Times Newsweekly on a tour of the branch last Friday, Mar. 2. The center underwent an $8 million transformation that took several years to complete, but the end result is a stateof the-art facility that serves twice the number of members it had prior to reopening.

Formerly known as the Catalpa YMCA, the Ridgewood Y includes a large fitness center where members can work out on an array of weight equipment, treadmills and cardio machines. There is also the Helen Marshall Early Childhood Center-named for the borough president, who provided millions to the Y’s renovation-which offers free universal pre-kindergarten classes for youngsters in the community.

Many community rooms and studios at the renovated center play host to a variety of activities for visitors of all ages; the facility also has a spacious and bright atrium which lies adjacent to a basketball court in the area where a courtyard once divided the building.

From early in the morning to evening hours each day, the Ridgewood Y offers something for every resident living in the surrounding community, Harris said. But the center’s management wants to do more to reach out to senior and youth groups outside of the facility to serve more people in the area.

“We are not of the belief that all of the programs have to happen here,” she stated, pointing out that the Ridgewood Y will continue to operate part of its youth summer camp at Covenant Lutheran Church, located two blocks away on Catalpa Avenue. The Y has also reached out to both the Peter Cardella Senior Center and Ridgewood Older Adult Center about bringing additional exercise and wellness programs to elderly residents.

The Ridgewood Y also works with the Kiwanis Club of Glendale and has a partnership with the Greater Ridgewood Youth Council’s youth internship program.

“Since I started here, we’ve also expanded a lot of teen programs,” Harris added. Every Saturday night, the Ridgewood Y opens the center exclusively to teenage members from 8 to 11 p.m., providing basketball games, dance classes, fitness classes, a game room and movie viewings for up to 60 youths in the area.

The center will also play host to a teen dance on Saturday night, Mar. 17, as well as a “youth summit” on Apr. 24, in which teenagers from YMCA chapters across the city will convene in Ridgewood to discuss domestic violence, sexual abuse prevention and other community issues important to them.

“The great thing is that we do a little bit of everything,” she said. “It’s a center that offers comprehensive services. We’re really about doing as much as possible.”

But with all the work that is being done at the Ridgewood Y, the center could always use a little more help. Harris noted that the organization is forming a “board of managers” comprised of local residents in the community who volunteer their time at the center and assist with the administration of services and raising funds.

Six slots have already been filled, and Harris hopes that the board will expand to 10 before the year ends. In the years to come, she indicated that the full board of managers could have up to 18 members.

The YMCA is also in the midst of its “Strong Kids Campaign,” with the goal of raising $45,000 to help support families in the area and offer low-cost membership. Last year’s campaign proved successful, Harris noted, as the Ridgewood Y raised over $58,000, well over its goal.

Registration has begun for the Ridgewood Y’s summer camp, which last year served 170 local children, the center’s director said. Among the daily activities offered to members include swim instruction; though the Y lacks a pool, the children will be bused twice a week to the Long Island City YMCA, where a pool is available.

Harris stated that the Ridgewood Y is concentrating on boosting membership among area families, as 60 percent of its current members are single adults. Management is trying to spread the word about the center’s programs through social media and by reaching out to area schools.

“Although fitness is a big piece of what we do, it’s not everything,” she said. “It’s about those pieces and social responsibility and youth development. We’re not all about gym and fitness, but we do so much more than that.”

The Ridgewood YMCA is located at the corner of Catalpa Avenue and 64th Street, across from the 104th Precinct. For more information, call 1-212-912-2180 or visit www.ymcanyc.org/ridgewood.