With a colourful climbing wall as their backdrop, Greater Napanee Mayor Marg Isbester and YMCA of Central East Ontario chief executive officer David Allen met at the town’s North Fredericksburgh Hall to put pen to paper and make official a new partnership.
The pact will see the YMCA take over as the town’s sole provider of youth summer day camps, as well as camps offered during Christmas break, March Break and school P.A. Days. The recently renovated North Fred Hall will serve as the main location for the camps.
“It’s so good to see a building used again that has been part of the history of our area, part of the amalgamation,” said Isbester. “There’s great pressure on us to make sure we try to utilize our buildings in a way that is good for everyone and not say we don’t need this, they’re outside the urban area.”
The transfer will take effect immediately, meaning the YMCA will oversee the town’s 2019 summer day camp program.
“It isn’t that we haven’t supplied a quality product, but I think this will be a different way to look at things,” said Isbester. “It’s the inclusive, the educational (aspect).”
The town will pay the YMCA $11,000 while in return the charitable organization will design the programs and oversee the hiring of youth staff.
“A day camp program for us is not just a place children come and spend eight or nine hours a day,” said Allen. “It’s about an opportunity to work with these young children and help them develop.”
Allen says the program will include the YMCA’s ‘core values’, which includes more than just keeping the kids active. He says they will also focus on social development, encouraging the kids to play together and build friendships. The camps will be geared towards ages 5 to 12 while youth leadership programs will be offered for those 13 to 15.
“We really look at working with municipalities to look to how we can enhance what you may or may not already do,” said Allen. “How can we bring our expertise to enhance the program and to alleviate some of the burden and responsibilities that municipalities may have to deliver certain programs.”
The agreement now in place, the YMCA staff is now working on putting together the summer 2019 program.
“We’re just putting together the plan right now, but we will offer some specialities,” said Allen. “We’ll look at a dance program because we’ve got this facility (North Fredericksburgh Hall) here, we’ll do some nature activities, we’re looking at various other things, like how can we bring water here so we can set up something so the children are spending time outside where they can keep cool. A lot of our activities also deal with the kids doing things together. Games where they have to work together.”
Isbester was quick to quell any inevitable rumours that may arise from the town partnering with the YMCA and what it could mean for the bid to bring a pool back to Greater Napanee. Though the idea of partnering with the YMCA, among other agencies, has been discussed at council in the past, Isbester says the summer day camp agreement is in no way tied to a pool.
“Would we look to the YMCA, perhaps for (aquatics) programming? Sure, but there are other ones we’d look to as well,” said Isbester. “This is to supply the highest quality of day camp that we can.”
Along with housing the revamped summer day camp, the North Fred Hall will also serve as a meeting place for members of the Greater Napanee Area Arts Association, Seniors Outreach Services programs, Communities in Bloom projects and there are talks of using one of its rooms as a musical learning centre as well. With 15.7 acres of land surrounding the building, which includes soccer pitches and softball diamonds, Isbester described it as an intergenerational gathering spot for members of the community. There are plans to search out provincial funding to fund some renovations to turn the former LARC building into a more accessible space for all ages.