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East Side Branch YMCA Fund
By Jean Cohoon / February 6, 2019 /   Loading Disqus...

“We’re trying to get kids who can’t afford it (Y membership) into the swim program,” states Steven O’Donnell, CEO of the YMCA of Greater Providence, of this endowment that was established to benefit the YMCA’s East Side Branch. “People believe in the Ocean State and want to help us give kids a positive outlook of the water so they can get out of the city, go to the beach, and enjoy themselves.”

He notes that the East Side Branch draws an economically diverse group of children, youth, adults, and older adults. While some are from the more-affluent East Side of Providence, 34% of current members qualify for the Y’s sliding fee scale.

The East Side Y provides a wide array of services for all ages – from childcare for infants to summer camps and a swim team for youth and from special family nights and family swims to programs geared for adults over 60 who wish to remain active. “We have active older adults who not only enjoy many of the Y’s general programs, but also participate in programs that are specific to that age group,” Steve explains, adding, “We’re trying to bring back a sense of community, to help people connect with others.”

He sees those connections as especially important for youth. “If we can get kids in here, we can help get them on the right path and give their lives structure. Our goal is to help every kid to thrive. I believe if we can do the social service piece, they won’t get involved with the police,” says Steve, who spent more than 30 years in law enforcement, retiring in 2016 as superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police, before taking on leadership of the YMCA.

“Relationships in this world matter,” he says, referring not only to his commitment to helping youth, but also to the Y’s decision to partner with the Foundation. “I know the Rhode Island Foundation and what you do. You’re good at managing investments. That will benefit us with our mission to help kids who can’t afford swim classes or memberships.”

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