February 24, 2016

YMCA and YWCA to Reorganize Paul Robeson Place Campus

The Princeton Family YMCA and YWCA, longtime neighbors on Paul Robeson Place, are reorganizing operations to help reduce confusion about which programs and services are held in which facility. Following the recommendations of a task group made up of representatives from both organizations, the YMCA Board of Directors voted unanimously at its January meeting to sign a Letter of Intent with the YWCA to put the changes into effect.

The transition will get underway in June. By September, the YWCA will run services from the Program Building and the Bramwell House, providing the childcare and bilingual nursery school, the Newcomers and Friends Club, robotics, the Breast Cancer Resource Center, dance, English as a Second Language, and the High School Equivalency Training Center.

Next door, the YMCA will operate entirely from the Athletic Building, which will be the site of aquatics; sports programs; health, wellness and fitness programs; summer camp, and youth development. The YMCA will also continue to provide Childwatch services for members and all programs that operate off site, including after school and Princeton Young Achievers.

“It’s a shuffling of chairs on the deck,” said Kate Bech, the CEO of the YMCA. “It allows us to reduce confusion and become better partners.” Added Judy Hutton, the YWCA’s CEO, “We’ll continue to work together with certain programs. What’s important is that we respect what each other does.”

The two organizations have co-existed for more than 60 years, not always peacefully. Ms. Bech, Ms. Hutton, and the volunteer Program and Property Committee began negotiating the new plan in 2008. “It wasn’t easy,” said Ms. Bech. “But people were very, very awesome and said, ‘We need to do this.’ There were bumps in the road, for sure. But people saw that at the end of the day, this was an important step.”

The plan follows the lead of other YMCA and YWCA organizations throughout the country that have separated operations. “We’ve stayed together this far, and it’s been confusing,” said Ms. Hutton. “It created competition that’s not healthy.”

Plans call for repurposing of the one-story Program Building at the corner of Bayard Lane and Paul Robeson Place. All programs in both buildings will continue, with only a handful under new management. Administration of both is modeled after condominium associations, which will allow each to invest in capital improvements in response to community needs.

“Times change and needs evolve in a community,” said Ms. Bech. “Organizations need to be able to respond.” Ms. Hutton said, “We’ll each have an opportunity to shape a vision and move forward. We went into this saying our goal was to come out with two healthy organizations.”

YMCA and YWCA members were sent a letter this week informing them of the changes to come. The new arrangement was described as “very exciting news we believe will help enrich the quality of life in our community. While change is never easy,” the letter reads, “we believe that this plan will go a long way to enhancing both organizations’ ability to make a bigger and more meaningful impact with their respective missions. For our YMCA, we are excited to expand and strengthen our work in areas of youth development (especially for children with the fewest resources, with an emphasis on eliminating the achievement/opportunity gap), healthy living, and social responsibility.”