More than 500 memberships, representing 1,300 people, already in place, By Nancy Kriz MONROE - Neil Countryman listened attentively to Kristi Wickes, one of the personal trainers at the new South Orange YMCA, give instructions on how to use one of the facility’s fly/rear delt machines, designed for upper body strength. Countryman, a Highland Mills resident, was eager to begin his New Year’s resolution - obviously a few weeks tardy - of losing weight through diet and cardiovascular exercise. “I need to lose weight and get with the program,” said Countryman on Tuesday. “That’s why I’m here.” Now, with a family membership at the new Y - also known as “SOFY” in Monroe, Countryman feels good knowing he can exercise and develop a cardiovascular workout program for himself while his wife and twin sons can involve themselves in their own fitness activities. Everyone, Countryman felt, will benefit. And through diet and exercise, Countryman hopes to lose and keep off 100 pounds. As Countryman launched his own fitness plan, so did others at SOFY, which officially opened for business last Monday morning at 5:30 a.m. With 515 memberships (80 percent of those are family memberships representing 1,300 people) in place as of opening day -well beyond the 300 to 400 officials hoped to have - the Y is planning to make its mark as a community center which will improve the quality of life for families through fitness and wellness programs. Family oriented “People know what we’re going to be doing,” said Ira Besdansky, the Y’s chief executive director. “They want a place to go as a family.” Last Tuesday, SOFY’s rooms were bustling with activity, as adults worked out on treadmills, cycles and weights while toddlers were cared for in child watch rooms. Children, aged six to 12, played games in the youth center. When the number of kids grew, staff took them onto the basketball court for supervised dodge ball and hula hoop games. Later, a basketball game took place in the gym, with players giving serious attention to their shooting skills. And upstairs, others worked on strength enhancement equipment while the first Zumba class had about 50 people - with all levels of expertise - jumping to hip hop/salsa rhythms. “There was just a good community buzz and what we offer is what the community wants,” added Besdansky. While her high school freshman daughter and friends were working out with balls of different sizes, Monroe resident Patricia O’Boyle rode one of the cycles downstairs. It was her second time in one day she was at SOFY. “This place is much needed,” she said. “You can feel it already. It’s family-oriented.” O’Boyle, who admitted she’s hooked on exercise, had already taken several of the group exercise classes. “I’ve always gone to gyms, but this is the first Y for me,” she said. “We’re (her family) so excited about this. It’s a breath of fresh air, it truly is. And I feel so welcome here.” Upstairs, her daughter Deirdra O’Boyle and friends Katie Fico and Kelly O’Halloran were walking around, getting a feel for the facility’s layout. “This is a place your friends can come to and you can all stay in shape together,” said O’Halloran. “We’re seeing other kids from school here. “ For Fico, one other thing was important: “Your family can come here.” Youth Center Like a proud father, Besdansky spoke of what happened on opening day. “This was cool,” he said. “There was a car parked outside at 5:10 a.m. waiting for us to open. It was busy during the day and packed at night.” That evening, added Besdansky, lines of people were quickly processed. “We had 30-35 kids in the youth center,” he said. “We took them into the gym for dodge ball. They had a blast, being loud kids and playing. We noticed the parents working out on the above level were hearing the noise, too. Then we realized they were taking a break and standing along the railing watching their kids in the game, smiling. That’s it. That’s the vision.” Besdansky admitted things are yet to being close to perfect at SOFY. “We have plenty of work to do there,” he said, adding the plan is for children’s programs to begin for a March/April session. “The key is to support us. Make this your place. Give us feedback, it’s important we hear from you
what do we need more of?” Branch Manager Ross Miceli said there’s about 38 different programs currently available to members at the Y. “As members grow, I’d like to think we can get classes up to 50-60-70 per week,” he added. In the meantime, Miceli wants to hear from members about what they like and what SOFY needs to address. This is your Y,” he said. “We want to know what you want. There’s a place for everybody here. This is the place for families to stay together and get healthy.”
There was just a good community buzz and what we offer is what the community wants.’Ira Besdansky, the chief executive director for the South Orange Family YMCA and Middletown YMCA, speaking about the Y’s first official day of operation last Monday.
Getting there may not always be a breeze MONROE - Ira Besdansky, chief executive director for the South Orange Family YMCA (SOFY) and the Middletown YMCA, realizes getting to SOFY may be challenging.The road configuration where Route 208 splits by the Mobil station (near Schunemuck Road and North Main Street) and the Y’s entrance road on the Gilbert Street Extension can be jammed at certain times of the day, making a left hand turn onto the Gilbert Street Extension difficult. “We need support getting a second egress,” he said. “We’ve made a $2.6 million investment getting this Y into the community. We have to figure out a good solution where there’s no real burden on taxpayers.” The South Orange Family YMCA is still in the midst of its $625,000 capital campaign, and those funds cannot be used for road improvements.The Monroe Town Board has been very accommodating with approving a request to create a second entrance, he said. “But we have no money to pay for it,” he said.