LIVINGSTON, NJ — In the spirit of `The Greatest Show on Earth,’ the West Essex YMCA on Monday took center ring to kick off its six-week, circus-themed annual campaign to raise $155,000 for families and individuals in need.

“Lasting personal and social change can only happen when we invest in our kids, our health and our neighbors,’’ West Essex YMCA Executive Director Helen Flores said at the kick-off event, held at the Hanover Manor in East Hanover.

“Unemployment and poverty, chronic disease, and educational disparities drag down our communities, and it is up to us to band together and create solutions to these societal problems,’’ said Richard K. Gorab, president and CEO of the Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges.  

Sign Up for E-News

The West Essex Y is one of six branches of the Metro YMCA, the largest association of YMCAs in New Jersey serving more than 35,000 individuals. Together, the West Essex Y, East Orange Y,  Fairview Lake YMCA Camps, South Mountain Y, Sussex County Y, and Wayne Y strengthen communities by nurturing children’s potential, promoting healthy living and fostering social responsibility.

The Metro Y this year set a fundraising goal of $1.1 million to provide financial assistance.

“We want to ensure everybody, no matter their circumstances, has the opportunity to live a more healthy, confident and secure life,’’ Metro Y Chief Development Officer Lisa Kelly said.

The Y not only provides programs for children, adults and seniors to stay active and socialize, it develops innovative programs to tackle obesity, bring awareness to child sexual abuse prevention, address the achievement gap, provide quality child care, and face other community challenges, Kelly said.

The Metro YMCA has earned the trust of the communities it serves. Charity Navigator, the nation’s largest charity evaluator, has identified the Metro Y as one of the top-performing nonprofit in the U.S. Last month, Charity Navigator awarded the Metro Y its top rating for the fifth year straight in recognition of the organization’s sound fiscal management and commitment to accountability and transparency. Only six percent of charities have achieved that standing.

“We know our generous supporters expect their donations to be used prudently to further our mission,’’ Kelly said. “We are proud to be recognized as careful stewards of that generosity so together we can make impactful, enduring improvements in our communities.”

To contribute to the annual appeal, contact Kelly at lkelly@metroymcas.org or 973-758-9622, or visit our website at metroymcas.org.