For 30 years, neighbors in the north suburbs have been lucky.
They’ve had a place to work out, learn to swim, take part in activities for kids, teens and adults and more — the North Area Family YMCA.
And, according to Executive Director Lisa Pachmeyer, it’s a reciprocal relationship.
“The YMCA receives so much from [this] community,” Pachmeyer said. “I believe the community wins by having a YMCA, and the YMCA wins by having the privilege of serving the community.
The YMCA: A history
The YMCA’s service to this community started even before there was a facility. The YMCA started offering programs in the northern suburbs as early as the 1960s at the Pitcher Hill Community House, Slotnick Law Offices and Hollywood Park Clubhouse.
But for many area residents, that wasn’t enough. So in 1977, volunteers kicked off a capital campaign to construct the North Area Family YMCA.
“The YMCA is volunteer-founded, volunteer-led and volunteer-based,” Pachmeyer said. “This was no exception. This was a volunteer-driven process with many committed community members involved.”
Thanks to those dedicated volunteers, the North Area Family YMCA opened its doors on Sept. 9, 1979 at 4775 Wetzel Road in Liverpool. The facility was the first suburban branch of the YMCA of Greater Syracuse, an association that today includes the Downtown YMCA and East Area Family YMCA. Fundraising is underway to build a new branch in Baldwinsville, the Northwest Family YMCA, at the corner of Route 31 and Drake’s Landing.
Over the years, there have been a number of changes at the facility, certainly not the least of which is a constantly increasing number of members — there are now 9,551 members, up from 5,000 just 10 years ago.
“We have experienced tremendous growth over the years,” Pachmeyer said. “We’re very well-received.”
Other changes include a renovation and expansion in 2004, which added a 6,000-square-foot wellness center, family and special needs locker rooms, renovated the men’s and women’s locker rooms completely and expanded the front lobby to offer a central meeting place for members to social and spend time together.
A variety of programs
As the community has changed over the last three decades, so have the programs the North Area Family YMCA has offered. In addition to traditional fitness and swimming facilities, the North Area facility also offers a myriad of activities including licensed child care, day camp, tutoring services and tween/teen programs.
And members won’t be turned away because they can’t afford to participate.
“The YMCA is committed to serving all ages, abilities and incomes,” Pachmeyer said. “Our Membership For All program is a scholarship assistance program available to those unable to pay for YMCA membership and programs. The YMCA believes everyone should have an opportunity to participate in membership and programs and this program allows for that. Funds raised to support this program are raised by our committed volunteers.”
Pachmeyer said the scholarship program really sets the facility apart from others.
“This allows all people to participate even, those who may not be able to afford our services,” she said. “Our goal is to build ‘Strong Kids, Strong Families and Strong Communities,’ and this happens through our vast array of programs.”
Also unique to the North Area Family YMCA is Y Kids Inc., an inclusion program for children with special needs which has a waiting list for participation, along with a Military Outreach Initiative that addresses the needs of families of deployed military personnel by offering membership, program and child care to these families facing potential hardship and uncertainty due to military deployment. The facility is also one of 10 YMCAs across the country selected to offer the Livestrong at the YMCA physical activity and well-being programs for cancer survivors.
Pachmeyer said she expected the facility to continue to offer quality programs and activities to meet the needs of the community.
“I envision the YMCA being a strong force in this community for many years to come,” she said. “This organization has been a part of the community for 151 years and we look forward to continuing our service to all.”
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.