Spearheaded by community leaders who value the Sussex County YMCA's contributions to the county, the YMCA’s $3.8 million Room to Grow Campaign will officially kick off May 10 at a groundbreaking ceremony for the 9,000-square-foot addition designed to accommodate a growing membership. The Room to Grow Campaign already raised $2.9 million during its quiet phase, so the YMCA needs to raise $900,000 during the public phase.

With full funding, the project would include a full-size high school gymnasium, an expanded wellness center, a cycle room for spin classes, and a climbing structure in the lobby as part of renovations to the lobby, locker rooms, and bathrooms. It will allow the Y to offer league sports and expand community wellness programs and continue its free middle school memberships.

The project is expected to be completed in January 2018. The groundbreaking will be held 2-4 p.m. Wednesday, May 10, at the YMCA, 15 Wits End Road in Hardyston. Guests include Senator Steve Oroho (R-Sussex), Hardyston Township Manager Marianne Smith and Sussex County Chamber of Commerce President Tammie Horsfield.  

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The Y’s Capital Campaign Committee championing the project is made up of volunteers “who believe in what we’re doing,” said Jennifer Gardner, the Y’s executive director. It’s led by Joseph Macaluso, founder of The Macaluso Group, a Fairfield-based company that provides high-tech marketing support programs to the health care industry, and Mark Avondoglio, vice president of Perona Farms in Andover Township.

“They know so many people in the community, and make a strong endorsement of this project because they recognize the project is for the entire community,” Gardner said. “Supporting the Y is the easiest decision, because it’s a proven, known result. You can see the good they’re doing,” Macaluso said. He noted the Y, with more than 9,000 members, has a population larger than many towns in Sussex County.

The longtime Y supporter — Macaluso has twice chaired the annual fundraiser — personally donated to make the expansion a reality, and has convinced other philanthropists of the project’s value to the community. The YMCA is at capacity; classes are full and exercise machines are always in use, Macaluso noted. The Sparta resident said he’s impressed to see people with disabilities working out through adaptive approaches, cancer survivors regaining their strength and confidence, and people achieving weight-loss goals. His wife, Jackie, is a cancer survivor who works out daily.

“You’re not going to find a more dedicated, knowledgable and well-trained and caring staff as we have at the Y,” he said. “You are welcomed in.”

Avondoglio is another strong advocate of the Y. Last month, he earned the Metro YMCA’s W. Daniel McCain Award for Youth Development for his dedication to the Sussex County YMCA. He has donated to the Y’s expansion and has strongly encouraged other movers and shakers in Sussex County to contribute. “I associate myself with organizations that spend their money wisely. The Y works well; they know what they’re doing,” said Avondoglio, a fourth-generation owner of Perona Farms, a 100-year-old family business specializing in weddings and other events. “Perona Farms has been here a long time, and we want to show the community we’re willing to give back,” Avondoglio said.

Perona Farms is now managed by the fourth and fifth generations of the family. The other members of the Sussex County Y’s Capital Campaign Committee also serve on its board of managers. They are: Jarrod Cofrancesco, Jim Downing, Carl Luthman, Edwin Muhlbeck, Lisa Pompey Smith and Ed Walker.

“We would not have the level of success we’re having without the engagement of our volunteers,” said Metro YMCA President and CEO Richard K. Gorab. “Joe, Mark and the other members of the committee have gone above and beyond, investing their energy and resources into this project because they recognize its lasting benefits to the entire Sussex County community.”

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 55,000 individuals, including 30,000 members, 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.