A fixture on the Post Road in downtown Westport since 1923, the Family Y is more than just a place to swim a few laps in a pool. Community events, such as First Night Westport/Weston; monthly Youth Fun Nights; and fundraisers, such as Autism Aloud, are all thanks to the Y. During the aftermath of Hurricane Irene and October’s surprise snowstorm, the Family Y opened its doors for everyone—not just members—to enjoy much-needed showers, access to electricity for cellphone charging, and a warm place to enjoy the company of others. The place even offers free memberships to local seventh graders at a time in their life when they need education and physical activity the most.
The list goes on and on. It’s clear that for nearly ninety years, the Y has been a center of community. Now, it’s asking the community for help.
This is a story years in the making. In 2004, plans to move the facility from downtown to a new 102,000 square-foot facility on the Y’s thirty-two-acre Mahackeno day camp center came to light. That raised red flags. Town residents worried about the additional traffic that the facility—situated close to the Merritt Parkway entrance—would bring. There were also concerns about the location—the middle of a residential area. Now that the court has ruled in favor of the Family Y, and the opposition will not be filing an appeal, the Y is free to move forward.
Next issue: Funding. The Y's initial plans were ambitious. The new facility was hung with a $56 million price tag—and most of it was meant to be met through donations. Now the Y has re-prioritized its goals and plans to complete the project in phases, to ensure the financial sustainability of the project. Phase I of the project, which will cost $37.5 million, focuses on building the 55,000-square-foot main building, and is scheduled to break ground in October.
Even though the budget had been slashed, there was still a bucket of cash to raise. This past March, when the Y first announced the need to close its huge fundraising gap, it faced a do-or-die moment. The Y made an agreement to sell the Post Road property in two years. If they didn’t raise the funds to complete the Mahackeno facility, it meant no Y at all.
On May 15, 2012, though, the Y met another major milestone. During a meeting with the Board of Trustees and Board of Directors, the Y announced that they had received 115 contributions and pledges—totaling a staggering $4.4 million. Thanks to a groundswell of support from the community, the construction plans not only have a green light, but the whole project is now financially better off.
The Family Y isn’t in the clear yet. Continued fundraising efforts are still key, so that the Y can reach its end goals. But this is certainly proof that when worthy organizations reach out for help from Westporters, the community answers in force.
Architect’s model of the new Family Y