BERNARDS TOWNSHIP, NJ - The planned merger of the Somerset Valley YMCA and the Somerset Hills YMCA, based in Basking Ridge and serving the Somerset Hills community became official on Jan. 1. The YMCA also is starting the year with some new programs.

"It's an exciting time for us," said Megeen Laska, vice-president of marketing for the newly merged organization. The association of the two YMCAs will be known as the Somerset County YMCA.

The two branches within Bernards Township will continue to be known as the Somerset Hills YMCA. The YMCA's main facility is at 140 Mount Airy Road in Basking Ridge. A second branch is at the Riverwalk Village Center in southern Basking Ridge.

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"If you are a member at one of our branches, which includes Somerset Hills YMCA, Somerville YMCA, Bridgewater YMCA, Hillsborough YMCA, you can participate in programs at the other branches at the member rate," Laska said.

Through the N.J. YMCA State Alliance, of which the Somerset Hills YMCA is a part, YMCA members can use other YMCAs in the state as part of their membership, as long as they use their home YMCA more than the host YMCA, she added.

The original Somerset Hills YMCA had been serving nearly 20,000 members in the Somerset Hills communities of Basking Ridge, Bedminster, Bernardsville, Peapack-Gladstone, Far Hills and Warren Township, as well as including some members from Morris County. The Somerset Valley YMCA brought in 15,000 additional members, said a spokesperson for the Somerset Hills YMCA.The combined association will have five branches serving the Somerset Hills communities as well as Bridgewater, Hillsborough, Somerville, Bound Brook, Branchburg, Bridgewater, Franklin, Green Brook, Manville, Montgomery, Raritan and South Bound Brook.

Details of new and continuing programs are on the Somerset Hills YMCA website. The website asks members to create a new user name and password before registering under an updated system initiated on the website last August.

Here are a few of some of the other upcoming activities and programs at the YMCA for 2015:

Registration for summer camp for the Somerset Hills YMCA is set to begin on Feb. 7, with a wide variety of camps for this year, including a new archeology camp.

Laska said a highlight of the upcoming activities and programs at the YMCA include Mental Health First Aid trainings, which educate community members on risk factors and warning signs of mental health issues common among adolescents, as well as a five-step action plan on how to support an adolescent developing symptoms. She said such training is especially valuable with the stress and pressure young people experience today. That training is set to begin on Feb. 19.

On Feb 18, the YMCA will kick off its annual campaign that raises funds to offer financial assistance to local individuals and families experiencing hardship, Laska said. Additionally, the campaign provides subsidies for mission-based programs that meet critical community needs. "The annual campaign allows us to provide opportunities for everyone to learn, grow and thrive," she said.

Along with volunteer projects at the YMCA, volunteers also can join in with the Togetherhood program, in which YMCA volunteers identify community projects and volunteer their time and effort to give back to neighbors and make local community stronger, Laska said.

Additionally, a variety monthly programs will be held for teens, active older adults and others, she said.

Looking ahead, she said the Somerset Hills YMCA will host its 25th annual Golf Classic on June 8, to which community members are invited, at the Roxiticus Golf Club in Mendham.