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Philanthropy A to Z

Photos courtesy of Cape Cod YMCA


Text by Sarah Tietje-Mietz

Though well-known for their “gym and swim” facilities, the work done by the YMCA goes far beyond the reach of their fitness and health classes. The over 175-year old organization has had a lasting impact on Cape Cod and the Islands for decades, following the first U.S. location opening in Boston in 1851. The YMCA Cape Cod in West Barnstable has been serving the community since 1966, while the Gleason Family YMCA (Wareham) and the YMCA of Martha’s Vineyard have been dedicated to improving the overall health of their regions since 2004 and 2010 respectively.

It’s the long-running personal connections that membership coordinator Lindsay Webster feels make the YMCA of Martha’s Vineyard integral to the island. In her role, she has seen kids grow to teens and has greeted former high school teachers—even the physician who brought her into the world—from the front desk. The Vineyard Haven location boasts an ice arena, youth center, gym facility and swimming pool, all facilitating activities and fostering relationships that are vital on an island that becomes more isolated in winter months. “I’ve worked here for six years and my feeling has always been that we’re like the light in the darkness,” says Webster. Virtual learning and after-school programs support younger members, while a variety of services
and classes are available to their “Healthy Agers,” one of the fastest growing demographics on-island. 

In West Barnstable, just off the Mid-Cape Highway, the YMCA Cape Cod has devoted over 50 years of service to the Cape Cod community. When the pandemic created a pressing need for childcare for front-line workers, this YMCA proactively flipped five existing early childhood education centers to become emergency childcare locations, meeting all the strident state requirements to do so. Each center, with extended days and hours, were drop-in ready for any parent or guardian in need. 

Many programs for YMCA Cape Cod went virtual due to the pandemic. Fitness classes and afterschool programming were posted online, all starring beloved staff members, a feature President & CEO Stacie Peugh says made the transition from in-person to virtual less harsh. “These are critical relationships that children develop at all stages, where, if suddenly, that person is missing from their life, it’s like a loss,” says Peugh. “It’s all about the people in our organization who are members of the Y and who are employees of the Y; there’s this connectedness.” 

Spin-a-thon: photo courtesy of the Gleason Family YMCA

The Gleason Family YMCA in Wareham serves the area just west of the Cape Cod Canal. The state-of-the-art facility boasts an indoor pool, rock wall, health and fitness studios and serves as the site for an area summer camp. Aside from more general YMCA offerings, the Gleason Family YMCA helps combat food scarcity issues in their region by helping provide dinners to seniors, partnering with United Way for a produce pick-up, an annual turkey dinner package and as an upcoming mobile market location through a partnership with the Greater Boston Food Bank—all made accessible to those in need when possible. 

“The unique part about the Y is that it’s not always directed to the members—it’s really directed to the community,” says Debbie Fringuelli, Senior Executive Director at Gleason, “What we’re doing is always just a result of what’s needed in the community.”

The myriad of services offered by these YMCA’s are funded through individual and corporate contributions, as well as memberships (for which financial assistance is available), ensuring that each location can continue their vital work for the Cape and Island communities. 

YMCA Cape Cod:

Gleason Family YMCA:

YMCA of Martha’s Vineyard:

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