I have lived in, and traveled to, a fairly lengthy list of places in my life, but for the past 18 years I’ve been fortunate to call Princeton home. It’s where my wife, Cathy, and I raised our children, but we were not new to the community when we moved here in 2000. We were coming back, having done our graduate school work at the Princeton Theological Seminary in the 1980s. In fact, Cathy was a lifeguard at the Princeton YMCA back then! So my family has a longstanding connection with the Y, where I’ve served in a number of volunteer roles, including two full terms on the Board of Directors.
Over the years, I’ve seen both Princeton and the YMCA grow and change, but the Y has always been a unique and diverse gathering place for the community, and welcoming of all. The doors are open to longtime and new residents alike, and membership crosses socio-economic, racial and ethnic lines. I am the senior pastor of the Nassau Presbyterian Church in Princeton and know, of course, that the “C” in YMCA stands for Christian, stemming from its historic roots. But I also know the organization is dedicated to inclusiveness, reaching into the community and embracing all faiths, reflecting the values of caring, honesty, respect and responsibility for everyone. The Princeton Y looks to engage and welcome all, and create a space where folks of different faiths can be together and learn from one another.
Learning is central to what the Y means to the community, especially for our young people. The Princeton Family Y has deep connections to local schools, and provides opportunities for educational enhancement, and affordable after-school programs. Children from all walks of life have the chance to come together and grow… and learn. When we have the annual celebration dinners, young people who are involved in the programs speak about their experiences, and it is a moving testament to their cross-cultural engagement with other children, and their recognition that they can make a positive difference in their own community. The Y is at the forefront of an ongoing conversation with area schools about how to address the issue of the educational achievement gap.
Speaking of learning, the Y is known far and wide for swim lessons, a tradition that has touched many lives. Teaching your children to swim, and have that as a life skill and a safety skill, has now spanned generations at the Y, with parents and grandparents bringing children to the place where they learned to swim.
Older members of our community also find a gathering place where they can maintain their health, fight loneliness and isolation, and focus on the importance of the connections between mind, body and spirit. There truly is something for everyone, at every age and stage of life.
During my time on the Y’s board, I witnessed a transformation of the business model and the fiscal health of the organization. Thanks to strong leadership from the staff and board, the Y has tackled some significant financial challenges, and turned a corner. It is now set for an even more positive future. The people of the Princeton YMCA are — and will continue to be — excellent stewards of the money they receive, deserving of our support, and appreciative of all donations. The time is now to create the facility we need, and that will mean so much to so many.
I know the REFRESH Campaign is vital to the success of the Princeton YMCA — and those it serves — in the years ahead. With our help and support, we can all look forward to the very good things that will be accomplished!