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.