Dan Rankin, for the Gazette
A 1,100 square foot addition to the Stratford-Perth YMCA lifestyle centre, due to be completed next month, is just the latest in a number of new things taking shape at the Y.
Other additions since the completion of the organization’s 2012 strategic plan last summer include modern cardio and weight-lifting gym equipment, a new desk and fireplace in the building’s main lobby and a digital events sign visible from Downie Street.
Besides the concrete changes, the strategic plan has also helped guide some policy changes for the organization, said Stratford-Perth YMCA CEO Mimi Price.
“We looked at where we’d come from and where we wanted to go,” she said. “We decided we needed to focus on what we do well.”
But first, they had to figure out what that was. They turned to the community, asking hundreds of people two simple questions: “What type of community do you want to live in?” and “With that in mind, how can the YMCA help?”
According to Price, they learned the community looks to them as “the deliverer of programs for youth.”
While the Y supports youth in the community by doing things such as running the youth centres in Stratford and Mitchell and providing meals at the Stratford centre for as many as 60 kids every Thursday night, the response let the organization know it needed to do more.
“We want to stand up for and be advocates for youth,” Price said. “We haven’t been advocating as much, we’ve been supporting, so we want to turn it around and now be a voice for youth.
“We want youth to realize that there is somebody on their side, and advocating for them in terms of health and services.”
Childcare began to become more of a priority at the YMCA in the 1980s and ’90s, and the Y is now the largest provider of childcare in Perth County, Price said.
“A lot of people forget about it, but we also look after about 400 kids in summer camp, and all those other times of the year when kids are off school we look after them then too,” she said.
“We’ve also added on more special holiday programs. So, Family Day is coming up, and there will be free open swims in the morning and afternoon.”
A new staff position, community and youth supervisor, was also created in response to the study.
Stratford Youth Centre co-ordinator Angie Adair got the job and is now responsible for, among other things, organizing the YMCA’s growing gymnastics program as well as the Stratford Star singing competition.
The gymnastics program now includes 150 kids from ages three to 16, Adair said.
Stratford Star, meanwhile, kicks off next month with shows planned for every Friday in February starting Feb. 1 at the Kiwanis Centre.
“This strategic plan was to remind people that we are their ‘people place,’” Price added. “We’re in the business of developing people and building stronger communities.”