NORTH ADAMS -- A gift of $275,000 from the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund, on behalf of the James and Irene Hunter Charitable Donor-Advised Fund, will allow the Northern Berkshire YMCA to upgrade parts of its fitness center, implement personal and group fitness training programs and pay off some of its commercial debt.
Northern Berkshire YMCA Chief Executive Officer Justin Ihne said the funds will not only provide debt relief, but also allow the agency to move forward as it focuses on helping the community obtain healthy lifestyle choices.
"When we think about helping people achieve healthy life goals, we think of it in terms of sustaining a healthy lifestyle," he said Thursday. "It's not just about the upcoming New Year's resolutions, but about doing it in small steps that aren't overwhelming. We'll now be able to provide our members and the community with a state-of-the-art wellness center."
He added, "Over the past few years, the YMCA has had some certain commercial debt that has created some strain for us. Debt relief was built into the proposal as well as our focus on healthy living."
Improvements to the fitness center, located on the lower floor of the building, include new flooring, lighting and updated strength-training equipment.
"We are so grateful for this incredible gift, which will help the Northern Berkshire YMCA modernize our fitness facilities," Patricia LeClair, chairwoman of the board of directors, said in a release. "And just as important, part of the gift is directed at reducing our debt, eliminating this drag on our annual operating budget. This allows the Y to focus on improving our great services to our members and the thousands of children we work with every year."
Ihne said that while the fitness center also includes cardio equipment and a weight room, no changes will be made to that equipment, as much of it has been replaced over the last few years.
"We'll be getting new circuit- and strength-training equipment," he said.
Upgrades to the equipment and improvements to the fitness center are expected to be complete by the end of the year.
"We're really pushing for it to be an early Christmas gift for our members," Ihne said. "But it may end up being an early New Year's Eve gift, depending on how things work out."
Over the next 12 months, the YMCA will focus on creating personal and group training classes to help members meet fitness goals.
"One of the important pieces is to match the individual with the right equipment," he said. "We don't want members to be intimidated by a piece of equipment. We also want to help our members use the right equipment to meet their individual goals. We want to match the tools to the person."
The YMCA is also partnering with several local banks and businesses to create healthy living plans for their employees.
"Nationally, the Y is spearheading pre-diabetic programming," Ihne said. "We're looking to get on board. There are some staggering facts being released by the Centers for Disease Control. In 2010, there were 10 million Americans over the age of 65 with diabetes. For Americans, age 20 and younger, that number was 250,000 individuals with either Type 1 or Type II. The numbers are getting higher and we need to do something to help out the community."
The YMCA has already started looking at ways to get kids up and active and recently partnered with Becki Miner, of Zumba in the Berkshires, to provide Zumbatronics, an afternoon fitness class for children.
"We need to teach children to make exercise part of their day, but do it in a way that is fun," he said. "We need to do it with things they already love and embrace -- basketball, swimming and dance."
Ihne said the work being done at the YMCA could not be achieved without the support of its board of directors, ambassadors and community supporters. It's annual Reach Out for Youth Campaign recently raised $80,000.
"This is a community coming together," he said.
For more information about the Northern Berkshire Y or membership information, visit www.ymcanb.org, or call 413-663-6529.
To reach Jennifer Huberdeau, email email@example.com.