The order came quickly on March 12: The Westport Weston Family YMCA must shut down, effective that night.
Just as quickly, the executive committee met. They voted to continue paying all employees, for the next 2 weeks.
The Y employs 210 people: program directors, lifeguards, personal trainers, mebership services, administrators, maintenance staff and more.
Ninetey are full-time; the rest work anywhere from 2 to 3 hours a week, to 30.
The decision was important — and easy, says CEO Pat Riemersma. “We feel privileged to have this staff. They make this place what it is.”
The original 2-week shutdown was quickly extended, by Governor Lamont. The executive committee extended all employees’ pay too: through the end of April.
“If you saw someone here before we closed, they’re still being paid,” Riemersma notes.
If — as is probable — the closure continues into May, the committee will meet again.
The staff is exhilarated. One man had just bought a house. He told Riemersma he no longer fears losing it.
She thanks her board for being “so open-minded.” They recognize, as she does, that Y employees “are family. We want them to all to be here, and ready, when we reopen our doors.”
Another Y decision involves member dues. In the first days of the pandemic, the board asked everyone to consider continuing their regular payments despite the closure. In return — because the organization is a non-profit, and members are not receiving any benefits or services — any payments after April 10 will be treated as a tax-deductible donation.
Of course, Riemersma says, “we recognize that’s a financial hardship for some people.” They have the option to put their memberships on hold. About 25% of the 10,000-plus members are doing that.
The CEO looks forward to welcoming all members — and employees — back. Meanwhile, she says, the expansion remains on schedule.
Which means perhaps even more employment, when life returns to normal.
It’s great that the expansion is proceeding apace, but, as Ms. Riemersma says, it’s the people who make the Y what it is – a wonderfully warm and welcoming place with a true sense of community. Our hope that they would continue to be paid was a major factor in our decision to pay our dues during the shutdown. We urge the executive committee to continue this practice for the duration!
In a letter posted on the Y site, Pat Riermersma says, “When you belong to the Y, you belong to a community. We support each other, motivate each other, and recently, even protect each other. A community remains strong, even when not physically together. And the Y remains fully dedicated to supporting our members, our staff, and all those who rely on us. ”
It’s nice to see good things during these challenging times.
Dan, great profile. I also hope that members and nonmembers take advantage of the Y’s online resources at westporty.org – there are classes and wellness tips for every age group.