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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A Mother-Daughter Y Story

My Y story begins like this; a wintry night, a movie night, and a late arrival during the college winter break. My daughter’s good friend was late to our house for the gathering because she had been at an interview for a position at Camp Lincoln. She oozed enthusiasm about the camp. I mentioned that since Sarah had secured a job there, it would be great for Kayla to apply as well, in an effort to help with college costs. We felt that eating tuna casserole five nights a week was becoming intolerable.

Being quiet and reserved, my daughter immediately focused on the dreaded interview, which meant that she would have to talk to a “stranger” (I may have drilled that to the core in childhood.) Nonetheless, I forced her to call Camp Lincoln the next day to arrange for an interview, thus negating a full day of holiday spirit.

She wanted the job, just not the interview. Silence on the way over on her part, and “helpful” interview tips from mom. We left an hour early. We arrived at beautiful Camp Lincoln 40 minutes early. We sat. Finally, with 20 minutes to go until the interview, I told her to go in. She refused. I cajoled, demanded, begged, and, finally said, “Get out of this car now!” I was reminded how mean I was with a slamming of the car door.

While Kayla met with Jeff Gleason, I waited in the car and mentally reviewed all of my childrearing mistakes over the last 18 years. Finally, she emerged with a bounce in her step, and hopped into the car. “I love it here!” she exclaimed. “I would so love to work here!”

She was hired. She left our house every morning an hour earlier than her start time. She loved the activities and the kids. She taught responsibility, kindness, and the value of teamwork. She learned how to have and love a job. Above all, Camp Lincoln reinforced what we had taught her over the years, and she passed it on and blossomed. I cried at the first Family Night at camp, and at the night that she was named Counselor of the Year. Camp Lincoln had turned my child into a mature young woman. She looks forward to going back for her third year.

Sandy Janowski is a Camp Lincoln parent from Stratham, NH who also volunteers her time for Southern District YMCA.

Sandy & Kayla Janowski

Sandy and Kayla Janowski

Phillips Exeter Serves at Camp Lincoln

Hundreds of employees from Phillips Exeter Academy participated in three major community service projects in the local area on August 29. Offices closed as PEA employees gave back to their local communities while building and enhancing connections among its diverse employee population. A team worked tirelessly at Camp Lincoln to paint cabins, install and repair benches, install stairs in the Amphitheater and Lakeside Stage, and more. Thank you, PEA employees! We couldn’t do it without you.

Thank you, Phillips Exeter Academy faculty and staff, for extending the life of our cabins, making our footpaths safer, putting fresh life into weathered tables, and bringing your vibrant spirit of community to Camp Lincoln. Camp kids and staff are very appreciative!

See more photos, show your appreciation, join the conversation: #PEAserves

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Thank You From Youth and Government

Southern District YMCA received a final Thank You from the organizers of Youth and Government, a YMCA program that prepares participants for moral and political citizenship in local, state, or national government roles. We were honored to work with dedicated volunteers and intelligent, engaged students. Thank you to everyone who participated! We look forward to next year’s Youth and Government program.

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Camp Clean Up and Open House

Thanks to some generous volunteer groups, Camp Lincoln is in great shape, and almost ready to welcome thousands of campers this summer! Fifteen staff and their family members returned to camp on Saturday to move firewood, paint signs, and rake and sweep cabin roofs. Docks are back to their floating positions on the lake. On Friday, the office exteriors will be painted and camp’s token Adirondack Chair will get a structural makeover. Thanks to all these volunteers!

On Sunday, over 300 families attended an Open House at camp to tour the facilities and talk about summer camp with staff. Thank you to the eighteen staff members who helped out at the Open House!
Cyrus Champey and Ryan McKernon at Camp Clean-Up Day

Cyrus Champey and Ryan McKernon at Camp Clean-Up Day