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Mystic YMCA celebrates completion of $7.5 million project

Mystic — About 150 people filled the soaring atrium of the new Naik Family YCMA Thursday afternoon to celebrate the completion of a $7.5 million expansion and renovation project and thank the many people who helped make it happen.

One of those was Sekhar Naik, who along with his wife, Archana, donated $1 million for the project.

Naik told the crowd that when he first moved to the area and didn’t know anyone, the Ocean Community YMCA was a place where he made a lot of new friends. He said it was where he and his family learned to swim and where his children attended summer camp and celebrated birthday parties.

“The YMCA became an integral part of our lives,” he said. “We are recipients of the American dream. We’ve done reasonably well and wanted to give something back to our community.”

He added that the YMCA supports everyone regardless of race, religion or economic background.

“It doesn’t discriminate. It’s a wonderful institution and we wanted to be part of that,” he said.

A total of 294 individuals, organizations and businesses made contributions that ranged from $5 to $1 million, resulting in $4.6 million for the project. The YMCA is borrowing the rest of the money and fundraising is continuing.

“Every donation counted and every donation brought us closer to our goal,” said Ocean Community YMCA President and CEO Maureen Fitzgerald.

The fundraising was led by co-chairmen Tom Sanford and Rob Valenti along with Todd O’Donnell, Harry White and JohnPaul Morales.

Morales, the chairman of the YMCA’s board of directors, told the crowd that when the former Mystic Community Center merged with the Westerly-Pawcatuck YMCA to form the Ocean Community YMCA in 2003, it had stacks of bills and a vision. Now, 16 years later and thanks to the passion and generosity of the donors, the new facility will play a major role in the holistic health of the community, he said.

In presenting the YMCA with a congratulatory proclamation from the General Assembly, state Sen. Heather Somers, R-Groton, joked that “you guys are so good at fundraising we might need to get your names for the state of Connecticut,” a reference to the state’s budget deficit.

On a more serious note, Somers said she is “always astonished at how much this community gives back.”

Stonington First Selectman Rob Simmons said that so far the town has contributed $60,000 towards the project and waived $37,000 in permit fees. He added the town would be placing another $40,000 in the 2019-20 budget to fulfill its promise to provide $100,000 for the project.

The project includes a new two-story entrance that orients the building to overlook the Mystic River, a large atrium with 30-foot ceilings and a fireplace and a 7,500-square-foot fitness space on the second floor with large glass windows that also overlook the river. There are also two large rooms for exercise and yoga classes, a spinning room, teen center, child care space, new family locker rooms, renovated men’s and women’s locker rooms and gym and a new community room.

Fitzgerald said that since the project was completed on Oct. 15, 2018, 1,200 new members have joined the YMCA.

She added that the new facility means more opportunities and programs for more people and more scholarships so more people can afford to be members and families can take advantage of such programs as its summer day camps for children.

The YMCA distributes $700,000 in scholarships each year.

Fitzgerald said the Ocean Community YMCA is already involved in its next project, finding land in Richmond, R.I., to construct a new building to replace its Arcadia branch. She said the cost of that project is to be determined but that a capital fundraising campaign will be undertaken as was done in Mystic and at its Westerly-Pawcatuck headquarters, which underwent an $8 million expansion and renovation in 2013.


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