HARDYSTON, NJ – The Sussex County YMCA was packed on Saturday afternoon.  People from all over Sussex County came by to try out the new facilities and see the expansion and renovations.  Special guests spoke at the opening ceremony in the new gymnasium.

Jennifer Gardner, Executive Director announced special guests U. S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer, New Jersey Senator Steve Oroho, Freeholder Sylvia Petillo, Hardyston Mayor Carl Miller and Council Members Stanley Kula and Leslie Hamilton, Sussex County Chamber of Commerce President Tammie Horsfield.

Lisa Pompey Smith, Chair of the Board was in the gym as were co-chairs of the Capital Campaign committee Mark Aondoglio and Joseph Macaluso.

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Gottheimer had visited the construction project six months ago and he told the crowd, “I can’t believe how good it is.”

The theme of community was woven through the remarks of all of the speakers. 

“What I love about the YMCA is how it brings communities together; helps people get healthy, seniors have classes and families come together,” Gottheimer said.   

Gottheimer spoke of how the Y is an addition to the “great schools and great pizza,” for people looking to come to Sussex County.  “It’s wonderful for the community and will draw even more people.  You need centers like this to attract families,” Gottheimer said. 

Oroho, a lifeguard a the Y in his youth, agreed with Gottheimer about the connections fostered at the facility.  “When you walk in the front door you see it’s a community; people saying hello and having a cup of coffee.”

Oroho said he told his wife Rita they should join again, having been members as a family in the past. 

“When you walk in the front door you can’t help but feel better,” Oroho said.  He filled out his registration form before leaving the event.

Pompey Smith, now Chair of the Board of Trustees said she started coming to the YMCA when her daughter joined the Swordfish swim team.  Her journey to the board position began when she was tapped to volunteer with the team and then to work on the Strong Kids campaign before she even knew what it was, or even that the YMCA was a charitable organization.

“In a mother’s eyes there’s nothing better; great role models to look up to and learn from,” Pompey Smith said.  “It’s about raising confident children.  It’s about seniors having a place to socialize.  It’s about being there when people need the most.

“Thank you to the donors for your time and treasure to all people in the community to be a community.”

Aondoglio related his first donation to the YMCA through President Rick Gorab. “I gave him a check and told him to never call me again.   Now I look back and say, ‘I want to do that again.’ I called my friends and got them to give substantial donations as well.”

He told the crowd, “the Y doesn’t waste money.” He encouraged them to “make the initial investment and you’ll find you want to do it again

Macaluso said the building has served its purpose.  It could now be considered the second largest ‘city’ in Sussex County with 9400 members. 

“The Y is not a building.  The building is magnificent,” Macaluso said.  “It’s not the people who work here, it’s their dedication.  They are dedicated to a cause.  The Y is your children.  It takes two people to raise children and children don’t always get to see their children.  This is so important, it’s the largest afterschool program.

Speaking about the fiscal part of his endeavor Macaluso explained the project was paid for because people “volunteered to give” the money.  Further, outside of the capital project, the YMCA raises about $210,000 to keep the outreach programs going.

“We are investing in our fellow citizens,” Macaluso said.  “When you invest in that you raise the whole county.”

Gardner said the CEO of Lakeland Bank Thomas Shara gave the first gift, a donation from the bank.  The new wellness area will bear the name Lakeland Wellness Coaching Center. 

She thanked the efforts of Edward Phillip COO of the Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges and Brian Sheafer, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives for having been the project managers. She thanked Greg Albers, Vice President of Marketing and Communications and Lisa Kelly Chief Development Officer for “marketing and messaging.”

Gorab, thanked everyone for attending the event saying he “believes in the impact of the project and the generosity of the donors.”

Thanking Gardner he said “Leadership is everything.  Jen provided outstanding leadership and always with a smile.” 
Despite the inconveniences of construction Gorab said under Gardner membership grew by eight percent and they raised more than $200,000 in the annual campaign and $2 million for the project. There was a standing ovation for those comments.

“It’s been a lot of work,” Gardner said, “and it’s been a lot of fun.”

“Today we invite all,” Gorab said.  “We open our doors even wider to people to achieve, to belong and to connect.”

 Taking a cue from Macaluso’s comment that ‘there will be a next’ Gorab said “Today is the day we can start to talk about the next phase.  To begin to design the plans for the new field, goals still to be defined but will be beneficial to our kids and families.”

Tweaking the crowd Gorab said there were recently completed plans for the next step, “something that could potentially save kids’ lives” though he would not give specifics. “The sky’s the limit at the Sussex YMCA and it starts today.”


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