Tag Archives: Westport Family Y

Last Call For The Old Y’s Guys

Annual meetings of the “YMCA Association” are generally humdrum affairs.

They’re legally required, but most business is routine. Official business is conducted; youth, staff and volunteers are honored; new members join the boards.

Folks got het up a while back over the Y’s plan to leave its longtime home downtown for the Mahackeno property, but that’s a done deal. Now it’s back to well-we-gotta-do-’em annual meetings.

This year, though, will be different.

The 90th annual meeting of “the Association” is the last one in the 1923 building. So the Y is honoring its history there.

The Bedford Building lobby in 1923. Former staffers and ex-members can see it again on June 16.

The Bedford Building lobby in 1923. Former staffers and past members can see it again on June 16.

At 12 noon on Monday, June 16, former staffers and past members are invited to an open house. It’s the last chance many will get to see the old Y (and the newer, narrow, already crumbling 1978 addition).

They can enjoy a workout and swim, gratis.

At 4 p.m., the “extended Y family” reunite in the gym. Old photos and displays will highlight the Y’s presence in Westport since the Harding administration.

There’s a reception at 4:30 p.m. The general meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. If anyone is still there.

Earthplace Will Add Childcare

With the Y skedaddling from downtown, and no childcare facilities available in the new Mahackeno building, Westport parents are scrambling for alternatives.

Earthplace hopes to help.

EarthplaceIn September the non-profit adds an innovative all-day, 12-month program for 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds to its already popular nursery school, summer day camp, nature programs, interactive natural history museum, live animal hall and 74-acre wildlife sanctuary.

The childcare program will run from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. During the school year, children will be based in the nursery school. In the summer they’ll participate in the summer camp.

Taking traditional childcare one step further, Earthplace will offer a developmentally appropriate environment that is immersed in nature. The program will include animal encounters, trail walks, habitat exploration, music, singing and gym.

The teacher-to-child ratio is 1:6. Teachers will schedule home visits to meet families before children enter the program.

Earthplace hosts an open house this Saturday (May 31, 10 a.m.-noon) for interested families. For more information, call 203-557-4400 or click on the Earthplace website.

The Most Important Downtown Question Of The Day

For decades, Westporters have marked the arrival of spring by this spectacular sight in front of the Y:

YMCA spring 2

It lasts for only a few days. But it’s as much a part of Westport as — well, the Y itself.

A few months from now, the Y moves to Mahackeno. Construction will begin on Bedford Square, an exciting retail/residential/office complex that could remake downtown Westport as we know it.

But will it be done with — or without — these 3 beautiful trees?

Thank You, Allen Raymond

Allen Raymond has lived on Compo Cove since 1922.

The unique, beautiful spit of land drew his parents to Westport nearly a century ago, and kept Allen here ever since. (He added a house on King’s Highway, which is perfectly fitting. It’s the most historic part of town, and no one knows Westport’s history better than Allen Raymond.)

Allen is 91 years old now, and his heart is failing. This afternoon — the 1st sparkling day of spring — he visited his beloved Old Mill home. It’s rented out, but he sat on the porch, gazed at the rippling high tide and spectacular views of Compo Hill, and reminisced.

Allen Raymond this afternoon, in the Compo Cove home he has loved for 91 years. (Photo/Scott Smith)

Allen Raymond this afternoon, in the Compo Cove home he has loved for 91 years. (Photo/Scott Smith)

Allen spoke about his childhood days on the water, his summers growing up, and the life he’s lived here — and loved — ever since.

What a remarkable 9 decades Allen has spent in town.

He’s served on more boards, brokered more good and smart deals, and contributed more to every facet of life — educational, recreational, spiritual — than anyone since the Bedfords. (And there were a lot more of them than him.)

The Westport Y has named the entrance road to their new facility at Camp Mahackeno after their longtime friend.

The Westport Y has named the entrance road to their new facility at Camp Mahackeno after their longtime friend.

Allen has contributed unfathomable amounts of time, energy (and money) to the Green’s Farms Congregational Church, and the Y. He led the Westport Historical Society into (paradoxically) the modern era, and Earthplace to sustainability.

He has advised nearly every elected official in town, at one time or other. He’s saved many of them from political disasters, and us from the financial fallout.

It is safe to say Westport would not be the town it is — nor would we be the people we are — without the love (sometimes gentle, sometimes tough) that Allen Raymond has lavished on us for longer than nearly any of us have been alive.

Perhaps his greatest gift to the town, though, is the 169 acres on South Compo Road known as Longshore.

Allen Raymond, circa 1963.

Allen Raymond, circa 1963.

Few Westporters realize that our town jewel camethisclose to being something else entirely. In early 1960, the privately owned Longshore Beach and Country Club — with a golf course, tennis courts, pools, marina, inn/restaurant and play areas — came up for sale.

The typical Westport response — build houses! — was strongly considered.  But First Selectman Herb  Baldwin and his kitchen cabinet decided to make a bid, on behalf of the town. Baldwin put his best adviser in charge of the project: Allen Raymond.

The group had to act quickly. In just 18 days they put together a $1.9 million package — then earned approval from the Board of Finance and RTM.  The latter vote was 38-0. (The RTM doesn’t even name bridges or approve jUNe Day unanimously.)

A month and a half later — on May 28, 1960 — Longshore Club Park opened to the public. It’s been one of the town jewels ever since.

As has Allen Raymond.

He is a remarkable, inspiring, truly wonderful man.

Allen Raymond, last month. (Photo/Scott Smith)

Allen Raymond, this winter. (Photo/Scott Smith)

It’s Official: Y Closes Early Learning Program

Last November, the Westport Family Y warned that if a suitable site was not found by January 1, its much-heralded Early Learning Program would close.

YMCA logoBecause a child care wing at the new Mahackeno facility is slated for Phase 2 at the new Mahackeno facility, for which no official timetable has been set, Y officials searched for an alternate site. Parents of the approximately 100 children — ages 6 weeks to 6 years — were devastated that the program’s engaging curriculum and community engagement would end. They were saddened too that staff members — some of whom were with the program for over 16 years — would lose their jobs.

Today the Y sent a letter to ELP parents. CEO Rob Reeves and child care senior director Tasha Dennison said that they were extending the service from June 30 to August 29.

However, that is the final day of the Early Learning Program.

The letter said:

Due to the complexities involved with establishing a new Child Care facility at our Mahackeno campus — approvals, public meetings, permitting, designs, site preparation and construction — we will not be able to complete this process in time to avoid an interruption in service. Therefore, Tasha and I, as well as the volunteer leaders who guide the Y’s operations, have had to make this unfortunate decision.

In an accompanying email, Reeves wrote:

Our staff have been touched by the feedback you’ve shared regarding the quality of our program which will be difficult for many of you to match. We remain committed to the care of your children and I want to personally thank Tasha and all her staff who have agreed to continue providing the love and care for your children until the last child leaves our care in August.

In my over 34 years of working for the YMCA, I have not worked with a more dedicated and caring group of teachers and care givers than what we have here at the Family Y and I’ll do all we possibly can to assist them in finding their next place of employment.

Quality day care is never easy to find. Today, dozens of parents begin looking for a program with the same dedication, care and love that they’ve lost.

An exterior view of the new YMCA at Mahackeno.

An exterior view of the new YMCA at Mahackeno.

Warm Up At The Y

Power out? Pipes frozen? Just plain cold?

The Westport Family Y is open to anyone seeking relief from the extreme weather.

“We want everyone to be safe, and find warmth and comfort — or a workout and a hot shower — at the Family Y as long as these hazardous conditions persist,” says CEO Rob Reeves. Just check in at the Member Services Desk near the  entrance on Church Lane.

For more information, call 203-226-8981 or click here.

This was the view the other day from inside the Y. Don't worry -- the icicles were outside. It's plenty warm indoors!

This was the view the other day from inside the Y. Don’t worry — the icicles were outside. It’s plenty warm indoors!

Y Would Anyone Even Think Of Parking This Way?

Sometimes I think the “entitled parking” photos sent in by alert “06880” readers are spoofs. Set-ups. Something other than real.

Because how in the real world could anyone come up with a parking idea as self-centered and obnoxious as this?

Y parking

But it actually happened, today in the lot behind the Y.

As the photographer noted, today’s weather featured sleet and ice. It was particularly treacherous for anyone needing a handicap spot.

But this driver (New York plates) took up not one but both handicap parking spaces — clearly marked with lines and signs.

And no, there was no handicap parking permit hanging from the mirror. No driver in sight either.

“As a native New Yorker, living in Weston, I cannot come up with an explanation why someone would park this way,” the photographer writes.

“It is much more difficult than pulling in or backing in would have been, given the tight space. As someone walking with a cane in icy weather, this is pretty frustrating.”

I hope the driver had a good workout at the Y. Particularly on the cardio equipment. Because clearly this person’s heart needs serious work.

Brrrrring It On!

Temperatures struggled to reach the mid-teens this afternoon.

This shot of Patagonia — taken from the warmth of the Y — sums up the day:

Y ice

Tomorrow will be 25. On Sunday and Monday, expect rain — with temperatures in the mid-40s.

Tuesday, it’s back down to 12 degrees.  That’s the high.

Welcome to New England!

Childcare And Gymnastics: Y CEO Responds

Rob Reeves issued the following statement, in response to questions about the Westport Family Y’s childcare and gymnastics situations:

We thank the concerned parents for attending our meeting on Tuesday evening. The Family Y has been actively searching for suitable alternate sites for its child care services, as well as its gymnastics programs, for nearly 2 years, soon after the decision was made to proceed with constructing our new Y facility at Mahackeno in stages.

The first phase is a 54,000-square foot facility with all the features and amenities that will allow us to continue to offer people of all ages and abilities the opportunity to live healthier, more engaged lives. Ultimately, we intend to enlarge our Y at Mahackeno to the 102,000-square foot facility approved by all local authorities. That expansion is designed to include a separate child care wing and gymnastics center.

As we strive to open our modern new Y late next summer, we’re also continuing to explore all options to find suitable temporary locations in our service area – namely Westport and Weston, and possibly parts of Norwalk – for our child care and gymnastics programs. The problem has been in finding space that meets our standards, satisfies local and state licensing and zoning requirements, and is affordable. Such a location for our child care program simply hasn’t been on the market.

The Y’s after-school programs for school-age children, including Kinderkids, taking place this school year at Saugatuck Elementary School, will continue as currently structured. And we’re hopeful that a suitable alternate site for our acclaimed gymnastics program, with its own stringent requirements, can be found.

In the meantime, we’re hopeful that, somehow, we will be able to find a suitable location for the 35 families currently served by our NYAEC-accredited child care program in the time frame we’re working with. But we realize time is running short, and we see no alternative other than keeping our child care families informed so that they can make the best decisions going forward for themselves and their children.

Rob Reeves, Westport Family Y CEO.

Rob Reeves, Westport Family Y CEO.

One Small Square Step

Bedford Square sign

The Y’s new building at Mahackeno is moving toward completion.

The Kemper-Gunn House (above, background) — now next to the Y — will be moved across Elm Street, to the Baldwin parking lot.

And Bedford Square — the new commercial/retail/office complex on Church Lane — is moving ahead to find tenants.

All the signs are there for new excitement downtown.