Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

(UPDATED) Plainfield YMCA closing forever Thursday

The YMCA has stood at Watchung Avenue and
East 6th Street for 95 years. It closes forever Thursday.

[UPDATED at 11:20 AM: Board President Kieran Anderson informed me by text message Wednesday morning that while the building will no longer house the YMCA and is to be sold, the organiztion will continue to offer its programs at another location in the city.

Further, their labor attorney advises them that since there are fewer than 100 full-time employees (there are just 10), the WARN Act on noticing employees does not apply. -- Dan]

Word came out of the blue Tuesday evening that one of Plainfield's oldest and most cherished institutions -- the Plainfield YMCA -- is closing its doors forever as of the end of business Thursday, May 31.

Those who follow these things know that the YMCA has been in financial difficulties for quite some time -- since before the current CEO Ravenell Williams came on board.

The board has struggled valiantly to keep the organization afloat, and high hopes were helf out for the construction of a residential facility for those who "age out" of foster care.

Such a program was expected to provide individual living spaces for these late-teen young people as well as services to help them navigate the world of work, achieving financial stability and eventually moving out on their own.

Though partial funds for the project were designated by the state, the YMCA simply wasn't able to swing the deal.

According to the Plainfield Public Library (see here), which has one linear foot of YMCA records in its Plainfield collection, the Plainfield YMCA was actually organized in 1868, the year before Plainfield was incorporated as a city. That would make 2018 its 150th year of service to the community.

Though interest in a YMCA for African American residents surfaced in 1894, it wasn't until 1923 that a local African American dentist Dr. A. E. Thompson led a funding campaign that led to the establishment of the Moorland Branch.

When that building burned down in 1955, many in the African American community felt that it should not be rebuilt and that the Moorland Branch should be merged into the Central YMCA.

After much controversy, this was done, with the staffs and memberships of the Moorland Branch merged into the Watchung Avenue site.

In 1952, the creation of "family memberships" gave women and girls full access to the YMCA's programs, which was actually progressive for the time but had the unfortunate effect of putting pressure on its sister organization, the Plainfield YWCA.

2018 marks the 95th year that the YMCA has welcomed youngsters and adults to its nationally landmarked facility on the corner of Watchung Avenue and East 6th Street.

As sad as the closing is, it is even sadder that the YMCA and its Board did not see fit to give employees any more of a heads up than a notice on Tuesday. That certainly doesn't accord with state and federal law in these matters, but who you gonna complain to?

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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