A 9,000-square-foot addition will allow the Sussex County YMCA to launch sports leagues and expand community wellness programs that address some of the county’s pressing concerns: obesity, diabetes, cancer and the rise in abuse of alcohol, tobacco, and illegal and prescription drugs. The Sussex County YMCA will break ground on the $3.8 million project in May, building a full-size high school gymnasium and expanding the wellness center by 2,000 square feet to meet a growing need.

With more than 9,000 members, “we are at full capacity and are expanding so that we can best meet the wellness needs of all of our members,” Sussex County Y Executive Director Jennifer Gardner said. “The addition gives us much-needed room and flexibility to expand programs that promote residents’ wellness and increase youth and family programming.”

“The YMCA is a great asset that can fulfill the needs of so many in our community,” Sussex County Chamber of Commerce President Tammie Horsfield said. “I believe the Y’s expansion will allow more opportunities for our residents, assist in improving Sussex County’s quality of life, and help to make our community healthier.”

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A 2016 Community Health Needs Assessment of Sussex County found that rates of substance abuse, obesity, cancer, diabetes, depression and anxiety are increasing. One in four residents of Sussex County is obese, and it is among the 25 percent of counties nationwide with the highest incidence of cancer rates. Original plans for the Y, built in 2005, included a gymnasium.

“The Room to Grow Campaign allows us to complete the building and make state-of-the-art renovations,” said Richard K. Gorab, president and CEO of the Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges. The Sussex County YMCA is one of six branches of the Metro YMCA, the largest association of YMCAs in New Jersey. “We are thrilled that we already have secured $2.9 million in commitments for this much-needed project, but we need to raise another $900,000 to ensure we have the resources to complete all the exciting renovations,” Gorab said.

The addition will increase the Y’s size by 28 percent, to a total of 41,500 square feet. The project is expected to be completed in January 2018. If fully funded, the project will include lobby and welcome area renovations, a cycle room for spin classes, a social gathering area, and upgrades to locker rooms and bathrooms.

The Y plans to offer league sports in basketball, volleyball and pickleball, a game that combines elements of tennis, badminton and Ping-Pong. Partitions will allow the gymnasium to be divided and used for multiple activities at once, Gardner said. With the added space, the Y will expand community programs that encourage people to pursue healthy lifestyle changes. Those include: diabetes prevention; the Y First Physicians Referral Program, in which adults and children struggling with specific chronic health issues receive a prescription from their doctor to participate in a free 12-week fitness plan at the Y; and LIVESTRONG at the YMCA, a program that helps cancer survivors regain stamina, strength and emotional wellbeing.

The Y will continue to offer free memberships to more middle schoolers. A total of 208 sixth, seventh and eighth graders are participating in the program’s first year. Research shows that children in middle school are reaching the age of making independent decisions about their health and well-being, Gardner noted.

Meanwhile, the Y’s senior membership has seen a steady increase, and that is expected to continue as the county ages. Seniors come to work on balance and strength, and to enjoy the company of others, Gardner said.

“Our chair yoga class is so popular, we can’t fit another chair in,” Gardner said, noting the new space will alleviate that problem.

“The Y has been an important community center for more than a decade, and that role will only grow as we expand offerings and address some of Sussex County’s serious health concerns,” said Jarrod Cofrancesco, Chairman of the Sussex County Y’s Board of Managers. To contribute to the Room to Grow campaign, contact Metro YMCA Chief Development Officer Lisa Kelly at lkelly@metroymcas.org or 973-758-9622, or visit the Sussex County YMCA for a tour.

ABOUT THE Y Established in 1885, the Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges is the largest association of YMCAs in New Jersey, serving more than 35,000 individuals and providing nearly $1.3 million in direct financial assistance. Its six YMCAs, located in East Orange, Livingston, Maplewood, Hardyston, Stillwater and Wayne, are committed to nurturing the potential of kids, promoting healthy living, and fostering a sense of social responsibility. They offer an array of programs that build spirit, mind and body for people of all ages and all circumstances.