NAUGATUCK — Growing up in Beacon Falls gives Mark LaFortune a bit of an advantage as he settles into his new role as CEO of the Naugatuck YMCA.
“Being a Valley guy I think will help me to essentially speak the language. I know what it’s like to be from the Valley, so I know both the successes and the struggles,” LaFortune said. “I think I could do a good job of navigating those and finding the folks that can help when it comes to struggles and then continue to move with the successes.”
LaFortune, 32, started as CEO on Oct. 28 after about eight months as executive director for the Glastonbury Family YMCA. He worked for about seven and half years at the Valley YMCA before taking the job at the Glastonbury Y.
LaFortune, who lives in Prospect, spent a lot of his time in the Naugatuck YMCA growing up. He’s now in a position to lead the organization into the future.
LaFortune aspires to attract new members to the YMCA. He wants to make it simple for people to join and doesn’t want finances to be a barrier for membership. The Y offers membership on a sliding fee scale to help potential new members.
“We are already accessible to all because we’ll never turn anybody away due to the inability to pay,” LaFortune said. “I want to ensure that everybody knows that.”
The YMCA will run a membership drive from Jan. 1 to Jan. 11. The nonprofit organization will also host open houses on Jan. 4 and Jan. 11 at the YMCA, 284 Church St., for prospective members to check out what the organization has to offer and meet staff and volunteers.
LaFortune wants the YMCA to be thriving and busting at the seams. He has his sights set on expanding the programs the organization offers, including increasing the YMCA’s preschool program to accommodate more families.
LaFortune also plans to offer Safety Around Water, a YMCA water safety program, free to the community early next year. The weekday program, which runs from 30 minutes to one hour depending on the age group, is designed to teach children to be safe around water.
“We will offer boating safety, swim techniques, waterfront safety and backyard pool safety,” LaFortune said. “Members will learn how to use a life jacket, floating techniques and jumping in and returning to the wall.”
LaFortune said the YMCA is planning additional winter programs, which are to be determined, and to upgrade the Y’s cardiovascular equipment. He wants to make fitness orientation and group exercises free to members.
The YMCA will also be hiring two new staff members by early next year, he said. One will oversee youth development and healthy living, and the other will focus on membership and marketing.