How the Attleboro Norton YMCA is co-creating healthier futures for all through philanthropy and partnerships. (This story was updated on February 22, 2023)
The Attleboro Norton YMCA in Massachusetts was founded in 1867 and encompasses four locations: the Downtown YMCA, Pleasant Street YMCA, Sweet Community House and the Norton Outdoor Center.
Calling Main Street home since 1909, the Downtown YMCA includes 100,000 square feet of space within walking distance to many town amenities. Features include two state-of-the-art fitness centers, three gymnasiums, two swimming pools, four early education classrooms, a teen center, café and 14 full-time residents. The Pleasant Street location is currently providing childcare programs and fitness classes at the outdoor pavilion.
Two blocks away from downtown is the association’s newest addition — the Sweet Community House — with 5,000 square feet of dedicated meeting space and a full-sized commercial kitchen. It represents the backbone of the Y’s work with the community to provide food, nutrition and belonging activities for all ages.
And located on 80 acres of conservation land is the Norton Outdoor Center. The center is home to Camp Finberg, an eight-lane outdoor pool, playground, splash pad and interactive water wall; a challenge course with low, intermediate and high rope elements; basketball and pickleball courts, miles of hiking trails, and the 5,000-square-foot Fred M. Roddy Children’s Pavilion.
The 5,000-square-foot indoor pavilion provides program space to house the camp’s nature, STEAM, and class activities as well as the Y’s summer academic support programs. It also provides ample indoor space in the event of inclement weather. The Attleboro Norton YMCA’s Camp Finberg serves more than 450 children each day during the summer.
When community members think about a place to belong that meets all their needs, nobody does it like the Attleboro Norton YMCA, especially when it comes to philanthropy and partnerships.
Philanthropy and Partnerships
Meghan Hamilton, the director of annual giving and stewardship, has been at the Attleboro Norton Y for 12 years. While she’s filled multiple roles and worked in different Ys along her career path, she’s spent most of her life in the Attleboro community and described it as fiercely proud.
“We have some residents with extreme needs who need support to thrive in our community, and we have others who are very comfortable,” explained Hamilton. “The people working out in our gym side-by-side come from very different backgrounds — whether it’s age, gender identity, etc. — and their kids go to the same school. We have everybody, and that’s true for our community. The people who choose to live here are really proud of that, and they’re very community focused.”
A testament to this pride is the Y’s active board of directors and volunteers. Hamilton elaborated they’re not a group who just pop in once a month, rather many of them are in the Y daily, working out or attending a class.
“They’re just so engaged,” said Hamilton. “We always think of the word philanthropy as a big gift or major donor, but because our community is so diverse — one way being financial capability — we work hard to make sure everybody has an opportunity to feel like they’re engaged, giving and contributing to the good of the Y.”
To Hamilton, philanthropy is giving opportunities for people to feel like they’re contributing to and bettering their community, whatever their capacity is. This view continues to support many community partnerships.
One such partnership is with the Attleboro Schools to get every second grader into swim lessons as part of gym class. The whole class is bused to the Y once a week for eight weeks in the fall and spring. “It’s been a partnership with the schools who want to make it happen and there’s also been a partnership with different donors who want to support those efforts,” said Hamilton. “It’s been a collaborative approach to make sure every kid in our city knows how to swim and is at least able to be safe around water.”
Another partnership includes the senior meals program. While the need for this program was exacerbated by the pandemic, the Y also learned about the need to educate around healthy meals. “We were donated our Sweet Community House in March 2021 and the commercial kitchen will make sure we have the capacity to keep growing this program,” said Hamilton. “It’s been a huge community collaboration across volunteers, private and corporate donors, and a group called Empty Bowls Attleboro — another initiative to fight food insecurity — to make this happen.”
An additional example of co-creation as a result of the pandemic is the Stronger Together Fund. Rather than having separate funding, 30 nonprofits in the community came together to support the work they were doing through the shutdown. “One of the reasons we were able to mobilize so quickly during COVID-19 and have a community-wide fund was because trust in those partnerships and collaborations were already established,” shared Hamilton. “We weren’t reaching out to someone we had never talked to before — there was a good bond and a trust among the organizations that helped make it happen.”
Looking ahead, this trust is what the Attleboro Norton YMCA will continue to nurture and grow. “I’ve worked in a lot of different Ys,” said Hamilton. “And this one is just a rich, meaningful place to work.”
The 2023-2025 Strategic Plan
The Attleboro Norton Y set forth a bold, challenging and exciting 2023-2025 strategic plan with the vision to “Channel the collective energy of community to co-create healthier futures for all.” The strategy for the plan includes two key focuses:
The Y is recognized for providing – and partnering to provide – relevant programs and experiences for youth, families and older adults that have targeted outcomes to realize the Y’s vision. Main objectives include increasing reach, improving overall member experience and innovation to improve programs.
The Y executes a bold facility redevelopment and repositioning plan, supported by an engaged, stable and satisfied team of staff, volunteers and partners. Main objectives include efforts to imagine new, bold possibilities, expand year-round engagement, and improve the people and culture work environment.
Photos courtesy of Vail Fucci and the YMCA.