Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 23
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
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“Green, Respectful, and Growing”: The YWCA Makes Plans for Bramwell House Renovation

Ellen Gilbert

Doodie Meyer, a member of the YWCA Board of Directors and a Campaign Co-Chair for the Y’s upcoming capital campaign, was speaking in earnest. “This is not a luxury; this is a mandate,” she said of developing plans to raise money to refurbish Bramwell House.

Purchased in 1985, Bramwell House is situated adjacent to the current building that houses the YWCA. Campaign Co-Chair Barbara Purnell sings praises for the women who had the prescience to purchase it. “We were fortunate to have a group of farsighted women 25 years ago,” she recently observed. At the time, Bramwell House was, according to the Y’s timeline, “purchased as an annex for growing program, meeting and administration needs.” With the still-growing popularity of YWCA programs, however, the space isn’t big enough these days. “We’re just bursting at the seams,” said Ms. Purnell.

A top priority is more room for the Y’s Breast Cancer Resource Center (BCRC). A reference point for many area physicians, the Center is seeing more women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer than ever before.

For Ms. Meyer, the BCRC is an essential service. “It’s amazing,” she said. “The BCRC serves all the women who come through the doors at no cost.” Now, however, “the facility is just not adequate for the numbers, and the status quo is not acceptable if we want to continue.”

Other YWCA activities are also straining for elbow room. “We’ve got a lot of great programs, but we need more appropriate spaces for some,” noted Ms. Purnell. Existing rooms already do double-duty for programs like English as a Second Language (ELS) and the Y’s preschool, which both have long waiting lists.

While campaign plans are still evolving, the architect Michael Farewell of Farewell Architects has been selected for the renovation. “This is a very exciting project,” said Mr. Farewell. A concept plan, he reported, provides for a “schematic design that expands the building significantly and gives them the ability to accommodate offices, teaching spaces, and multi-use space.”

CEO Judy Hutton is excited about the fact that the new structure is going to be built according to sustainable building guidelines. “We want to talk with anyone who will listen to us about what our dream is; how we can be green, respectful, and grow at the same time.” Plans for expansion, she noted, are the result of a strategic planning process that was completed several years ago.

“The Y is doing this in the best possible, most responsible way,” observed Campaign Consultant Jamie Sapoch. “They went through a strategic plan; identified areas of need; looked around, and saw this resource — Bramwell House.”

Describing the project as “very unique,” Ms. Sapoch also credits the spirit of the original “Bramwell women” who purchased the house for setting the tone of the current campaign. The YWCA, she said, is “really finding innovative ways to be self-reliant.” She, too, described the BCRC as “a phenomenal resource,” with a “huge” need for additional space, along with “fundamental services” like ESL and pre-school programs.

“It will be a several years haul,” observed Ms. Purnell. “We’re just gearing up to talk to people.”

For more information, contact the Y’s Chief Development Officer, Jennifer M. Vriens, at (609) 49-2100, ext. 316 or email her at Additional information about the YWCA and its programs is at

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