YMCA’s summer programming on track, but ‘different’ this year

YMCA’s summer programming
on track, but ‘different’ this year

Staffing challenges notwithstanding, Oneonta’s YMCA and the City of Oneonta will partner again this year to provide summer programming and services for area youth eager for activity.

“The Y’s core mission is to find solutions to community problems,” said YMCA Executive Director Frank Russo. “This summer, like every summer before it, we will work to the best of our capabilities to provide whatever services we can.”

“We will offer our summer programs in some way, shape, or form,” he said. “I like to say it will be ‘similar but different.’ We intend to have the swimming pool operating. The community is very quick to be worried that there will be nothing to do this summer, but that’s not the case. That’s not to say that we don’t need employees and volunteers — we’re just like any business facing a shortage these days.”

“This is not a money issue for us,” he said, noting the Oneonta Y’s competitive wages and opportunities. “We’re losing some of our past collaborative partners because their own programs have suffered. Everybody is feeling the pinch.”

In his online Weekly Report for April 16, Oneonta Mayor Mark Drnek addressed the need for volunteers who can keep city programs alive.

“We’re all in this together,” he said, acknowledging his 2021 campaign theme. “I’m here to talk with you about ‘The Big Need,” an immediate need for volunteers willing to offer a few hours each week to the Y and City summer camp.

Mayor Drnek made a pitch to city residents “from aged 18 to 80” who could help with the city’s Children’s Summer Camp program, asking them to call 607-432-0010 for information.

“Let’s give our kids a memorable Oneonta summer,” he urged.

Reiterating the Oneonta Y’s mission — to find solutions — Mr. Russo described the YMCA’s commitment to pushing through even during COVID’s shutdowns.

“COVID forever changed every community service,” he said. “We stayed open when nobody else could open. We had lessons year-round to try to keep people safe.” Noting that drownings increased during the pandemic because people were swimming either without lessons or without lifeguards, he said the Oneonta Y wanted to work with the community as best as possible despite the conditions.

“The bigger issue here is that nobody wants to commit to working,” he said. “We have lifeguard training classes throughout the summer and no one has signed up for them. We’re competing with traveling sports — there’s so much of that all summer that it pulls the kids away from being able to do things like lifeguard. The baseball camps and restaurants all need employees, too.”

Mr. Russo won’t let the YMCA relax its standards for workers, however, insisting on a strict best-practices and training regimen to ensure safety for members and the community at large. He continues to work, too, on addressing the city’s child care shortage, meeting with state legislators and local officials on a problem deeply affecting Oneonta.

“We’ve not been able to do full-time child care in nine years,” he said. “Even back then there were challenges to the workforce struggling to balance work and child care. The shortage in workers makes it impossible to provide everything we would want to provide.”

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