Building Bridges to Belonging
SHREWSBURY, N.J. (Sept. 5, 2023) – In a time of rising violence against people of color and growing xenophobia across the country, the YMCA of Greater Monmouth County (the Y) is spotlighting its commitment to help build stronger, more equitable communities during its annual Welcoming Week.
Scheduled to take place Sept. 11 to 15 at five YMCA locations in Monmouth and Middlesex counties, Welcoming Week is part of a national YMCA movement to celebrate diversity, promote inclusion and build connections among people from various backgrounds with a special focus on newcomer immigrants.
“We’ve all experienced moments where we felt we didn’t belong,” said the Y President and Chief Executive Officer Laurie Goganzer. “We believe that by collaborating with community partners, we can change that. Together we can create more welcoming, inclusive communities where everyone can feel like they belong.”
During Welcoming Week, the Y’s doors will be wide open to local residents to swim and workout at no cost and to participate in a host of cultural activities, register to vote, and learn about immigration services, mental health resources and other programs and services for Spanish speakers.
Community partners at Welcoming Week will include: the counties of Monmouth and Middlesex, Childcare Resources, Community Affairs & Resource Center, League of Women Voters, Literacy Volunteers, Lunch Break, Monmouth County Social Services, Middletown, Old Bridge and Red Bank public libraries, Visiting Nurse Association, Special Olympics, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, among others.
Goganzer said: “The YMCA is known for being a welcoming community space where everyone, regardless of age, income, religion, race, ethnicity and background, can grow stronger in spirit, mind and body.” However, Goganzer said, after the social unrest that erupted in 2020 following the death of George Floyd, the YMCA of Greater Monmouth County sought to strengthen its efforts to foster a more inclusive environment and improve its commitment to social justice.
A Y committee emerged called JEDI, which stands for justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. The committee partnered with local community organizations and volunteers “to identify inequities in our changing communities and to develop a framework to respond with meaningful support across all dimensions of diversity,” said Darcy Hazard, JEDI committee chairperson, and director of the Y’s Bayshore Family Success Center.
The JEDI team also developed an equity statement that drives how the Y team shows up every day for the organization’s 36,000 members, employees, volunteers, and visitors. The statement, which declares the Y as a “multi-cultural, anti-racist, anti-oppressive organization open to all people,” is proudly displayed at all Y locations.
In keeping with the JEDI promise of advancing diversity and inclusion, the Y recently hosted staff training on providing culturally sensitive services to transgender and non-binary communities, and a women’s empowerment networking event. The organization also celebrated June Pride and Juneteenth, and supported community events with local partners that promoted diversity, equity and inclusion.
The upcoming Welcoming Week is “a powerful expression of our commitment to equity and community strengthening,” Goganzer stated. “We’re grateful for our partners helping us to engage underserved populations and build bridges to belonging.”
Welcoming Week will take place at the following YMCA locations:
- Bayshore Family Success Center, located at the Henry Hudson Trail Activity Center, 945 State Highway 36, Leonardo, 07737
- Freehold Family YMCA, 470 East Freehold Road, Freehold, 07728
- Old Bridge Family YMCA, 1 Mannino Dr., Old Bridge, 08857
- Red Bank Family YMCA, 166 Maple Ave., Red Bank, 07701
- YMCA Counseling & Social Services, 166 Main Street, Matawan, 07747
For details on Welcoming Week activities at each location visit www.ymcanj.org/welcomingweek-2023. Learn more about the Y’s JEDI initiative at www.ymcanj.org/jedi. And for information on Y membership or volunteering, visit www.ymcanj.org.
About YMCA of Greater Monmouth County
YMCA of Greater Monmouth County is here for all – to empower youth and teens, improve health and strengthen community. Over the past five years, our Y has provided more than $5 million in financial assistance and subsidies to Y participants throughout greater Monmouth County. Our life-changing programs and services are anchored in eight communities: health and wellness facilities in Freehold Township, Old Bridge and Red Bank; an outdoor day camp in Wall; counseling and social service centers in Eatontown, Matawan and Middletown; a childcare center in Freehold Township; and integrated in over 100 schools in Monmouth and Ocean counties. Named a New Jersey Top Workplace in 2023 and 2022 by New Jersey Advance Media, we’re based in Shrewsbury, NJ. Learn more at www.ymcanj.org.