Friday Morning Walk

Today I treated myself to an early morning walk along Swasey Parkway during pre-work hours. It was high tide, the moon was still hanging tough in the sun-filled blue sky. The wind was a tad gusty bringing in an ocean scent.

How I love Exeter. The river, skyline of steeples and historic places just shouts of quaint New England.

A new YMCA Facility is soon to be added on Linden Street. It is not as if Exeter is missing anything, but this new Y will certainly enhance the Exeter area. Almost like that perfect piece of jewelry adds a bit of sparkle to your favorite outfit.

The Y will offer health, wellness, a stronger community and so much more.

What a wonderful morning walk imagining the possibilities!

~Bev Bowles

The Y: A Hub Of Community

My Y story began nearly 40 years ago when the Valley Shore YMCA was built within walking distance of my home in Westbrook, CT. I have great childhood memories of participating in open swim with my friends and learning how to ski through the afterschool ski program at Powder Ridge, also fondly known as “Powder Bump.”

As a young adult I didn’t wander too far from the Y path; in 1988 I became the Assistant Physical Education Director at the Westerly-Pawtucket YMCA in Westerly, Rhode Island. It was there that my passion and understanding of the YMCA and its mission deepened. The Y was a hub of activity, people of all ages – from preschool to senior citizens – participated in Aquacise, Aerobics, Mommy & Me, gym and swim programs, basketball leagues, and Friday Night Teen Nights…the Y was alive and buzzing with the sounds of a community gathered together. The Y was the place where the whole family could participate in programs that focused on healthy bodies, mind, and spirit while incorporating the 4 Core Y Values of: Caring, Honesty, Respect & Responsibility.

My work with the Y continued at the Coastline YMCA in Waterford, CT. Because the Coastline Y did not include program space we collaborated with the local community to run our programs; great partnerships developed. The pool at Connecticut College was the home for our swim lessons and gym programs; we worked with the towns of Waterford and New London and ran our summer day camps at their town parks. Progressive Learn to Swim programs were offered at the New London elementary schools, during school hours, for all New London children in grades 1 – 3. This was an important program for these youth because many of these children, although they lived in a seaside community, due to economics, would never have had the opportunity to learn to swim unless a program was offered during the school day. The children traveled by bus to the high school where they participated in 45 minute swim lessons and then were transported back to their school. It was the YMCA at its best…providing a necessary program to a needy population!

Although my involvement with the YMCA has changed over the last fifteen years my passion for the ‘Y’ and its mission was re-ignited when asked to be a community volunteer and to help with the new Y that will be built in Exeter. It is so exciting to visualize a full YMCA facility that will serve the Exeter area community…I am thrilled to be a part of a community where the Y will be the hub of family and community activity.

Cindy Malinowski Driscoll lives in East Kingston with her family and is the owner of Meandering Path, a landscape design and installation company.

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Thank You, ECCA!

During a small reception last week, the president of the Exeter Center for Creative Arts (ECCA) presented a check of $26,522 to Southern District YMCA in support of the campaign to build a YMCA facility in Exeter. In September, the ECCA board voted to dissolve ECCA as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and donate its remaining funds to the Y, continuing its long-standing dedication to art education.

The Board of Directors for the Exeter Center for Creative Arts (ECCA) has enjoyed a two-year partnership with the Y-Arts program operated by Southern District YMCA.

“We have been so pleased that the Y-Arts curriculum provides high quality arts education for our community,” said Emma Dentinger, president, ECCA Board of Directors. “That was always ECCA’s goal. Looking forward, we are energized by putting the support of ECCA into the Southern District YMCA campaign to build a facility in which to continue art education classes.”

“It is our pleasure to carry on the wonderful legacy of ECCA,” said Cindy Dominguez, vice chair, Board of Directors, Southern District YMCA, upon accepting the donation on behalf of the YMCA. “The Y-Arts program provides learning through experience, which instills in young minds the value of creative expression. This kind of experience gives kids in-the-moment creative accomplishment that is critical in today’s world, and is perfectly aligned with YMCA goals of developing mind, body, and soul.”

ECCA’s vision of art education in Exeter will live on in the planned YMCA facility. Southern District YMCA is raising the needed funds to build a 30,000-square-foot YMCA at 56 Linden St., site of the old Exeter Area Junior High School. The facility will serve the community needs for youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility.

Read the full article here.

YMCA Thanks Exeter Area New Car Dealers

The campaign to raise the funds necessary to break ground on the YMCA facility in Exeter in April 2014 is off and running.

The Exeter Area New Car Dealers Association made a major down-payment to benefit the greater Exeter area, when they presented an award for a quarter of a million dollars to the Southern District YMCA to help build a new community center. The facility will serve as a home for individual and community wellness, expanding programs for all ages to include afterschool activities, teen programming, adult and senior fitness classes, and increased art education programs. The special presentation occurred on August 20 at the Portsmouth Country Club. Governor Maggie Hassan was in attendance.

This award leads the YMCA’s fundraising effort to raise the $3.5 million needed for the second phase of the project. The first phase of the project was fully funded by the Southern District YMCA and included the purchase and demolition of the old Exeter Area Junior High School at a cost of $500K.

“This relationship will change lives in our community,” explains Rob McGregor, Executive Director of the SD YMCA. “Whether it’s providing a place to go for a latch-key child who has no one home after school, or giving a chance for one of our older residents to get out of the house and come socialize with other people in the community, our YMCA will play a real and significant role in the lives of area residents. With this award, the Exeter Area New Car Dealers Association will have an enduring impact on the health and wellness of this community for generations to come.”

The Exeter Area New Car Dealers Association is a non-profit coalition of business owners who have contributed to community causes, projects and non-profit projects for decades.  Founded in the 1950s, its members include:  Foss Motors Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep; Holloway Automotive Group Mercedes-Benz; Seacoast Volkswagen; Gary Blake Motor Cars; Exeter Subaru; BMW of Stratham; McFarland Ford; Hurlbert Toyota, Scion; Autofair Nissan, Wentworth Motors Volvo; Honda Barn;  and Porsche, Audi of Stratham.

EANCDA presents donation check


YMCA On Our Team

My Y story began far after I was of the age to canoe at summer camp or enjoy an after school arts programs. It began on October 30, 2007—the day my then 6-year-old son, Jacob, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

It was Halloween in Exeter. While kids were applying face paint and donning outlandish costumes, Jacob and I were in an ambulance headed to Children’s Hospital in Boston.

After a week-long hospital stay, we went home. Prescriptions and instructions in hand, we began educating our family, friends, schools—everyone who had contact with Jacob in his day-to-day routine. They became part of Jacob’s team—embracing the opportunity to support him and us as we settled into Jacob’s new lifelong reality.

The months flew by, and the New Year began. We had a great team caring for Jacob, and he felt safe and trusted those around him to help him in managing his disease. And, as the summer camp registration forms began to roll in, he looked forward to spending a summer outside exploring.

I stayed close to home when choosing a program—I work from home part time, so I can easily help in Jacob’s care. By mid-February we had chosen a program. It was close to home and promised lots of outdoor exploration. One more call to finalize details and we’d be set—or so I thought. After a month of discussions about Jacob’s care and my willingness to be available at a moment’s notice, the program’s Board decided that they weren’t prepared to care for Jacob. My heart sank. Summer programs were filling up and this program had seemed ideal. I hung up the phone and began searching online for more options. SDYMCA/Camp Lincoln came up.

I had heard about it through a friend, but I hadn’t considered it an option: Kingston, after all, is 15 minutes away, at best—outside of my comfort zone at the time. And was I emotionally ready for weeks of discussions with another program to convince them that we’d work together to keep my son healthy and safe?

I picked up the phone and left a message on Camp Director Jeff Gleason’s voicemail. No more than 15 minutes went by and my phone rang. It was Jeff. After a brief introduction, Jeff simply said to me, “Send Jacob to Camp Lincoln—we’ll take care of him.”

I vaguely remember the other details he shared—full-time camp nurse; great, responsible counselors; etc., but I didn’t need the details. “We’ll take care of him” were the words I hung on that day. They were the words I needed.

Jacob is now 12. He’s attended Camp Lincoln since the summer of 2008. And while it was Jeff’s simple statement that convinced me to sign up, there are far more things that have kept Jacob, and now his younger sister, Annelise, returning year after year. For them there have been mountain biking camps, cooking camps, epic card games, spirit paddles, counselors that remember them year after year and whom they are genuinely sad to leave at the end of a session. For me there have been thoughtful, attentive camp nurses and counselors, and the witnessing of Jacob take increased responsibility for his care in an inspiring, confidence building setting. But even more than this, what I’ve most appreciated is SDYMCA/Camp Lincoln’s sincere willingness to be part of our team.

It’s this sincere commitment that moved me to join the Board. And it’s this commitment that excites me most about our organization’s plans to build a facility in Exeter. It’s our opportunity to share with more families, individuals, and the community in general those things that my family has experienced: an organization that works to build positive experiences and genuine relationships with those around them. (Tweet this!)

By Carole Matthews, Southern District YMCA Board Member

Monthly News from your YMCA

Did you know that the Southern District YMCA sends a monthly e-Newsletter? This newsletter includes program updates, registration information, invitations to community events, and more! Sign up now to begin receiving our monthly news!


Environmental Responsibility

We are proud to announce that abatement and demolition of the school at 56 Linden Street is complete. By demolishing and abating the old Exeter AREA junior high school, the YMCA has completed the first phase to bring a full-service YMCA facility to Exeter. “Once we took ownership of the property, we sought expert advice on the condition of the structure,” explained Terry Sullivan, Chairman, Board of Directors, “When told that the building was unsalvageable, we determined that community safety was of utmost importance. And as a good neighbor, it was time to remove the eyesore as soon as possible.”

Although tearing down an abandoned school built in 1967 is complicated and costly, the Southern District YMCA worked with industry leaders to develop and implement a waste management plan for the demolition and abatement of the site.  The YMCA established rigid criteria to divert demolition materials from landfill and incineration disposal and recyclable materials were recovered and resources back to the manufacturing process.

The total weight of the school was 7,985 lbs. and over 99.6% of the building was recycled. Here is a breakdown of materials and resources that were recycled:

Concrete 7,480 tons – 100% recycled

  • 3,185 tons of concrete will be reused or resold as gravel base material.
  • 4,295 tons of concrete product was crushed on site and will be used by the YMCA as base material for the new YMCA roadways/parking. Crushing existing material on site minimizes the need to ship and haul materials.

Steel – 342 tons – 100% recycled

  • 20 tons (approximately 6%) of the steel will be reused in other construction projects
  • 322 tons will be melted and reformed

Miscellaneous products, wood, paper, plastic, other – 163 tons – 81% recycled

  • All materials were hauled to ERRCO, 6 miles from the site in Epping. The materials were sorted and recycled when possible.

The level of environmental responsibility of this project is a remarkable achievement. Our efforts to balance environmental sustainability and fiscal stewardship were met. As the campaign to bring a YMCA facility to the site progresses, this vision for social and environment responsibility will continue.