YMCA kicks off annual giving campaign


By Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer

Naugatuck YMCA CEO Mark LaFortune talks during the YMCA’s annual giving campaign kickoff on April 19 at the Y in Naugatuck. -ANDREAS YILMA

NAUGATUCK — While the COVID-19 pandemic has forced people to stay a part, the Naugatuck YMCA is looking for the community’s support to bring people back together.

The YMCA kicked off its annual campaign April 19 at the Y on Church Street. The campaign seeks to raise $40,000 to help children attend summer camp and before- and after-school programs at the YMCA.

“We’re excited to really bring the global Y movement and teach people what it’s all about,” said Naugatuck YMCA CEO Mark LaFortune, who added the Y is working to help families in the community.

Harry Rock, who used to work for the YMCA of the USA, said the annual campaign raises critical funds to allow children access to programs.

“Never let price be a barrier to participation,” said Rock, one of two guest speakers at the kickoff.

Rock said children have had a “raw deal” during the pandemic and haven’t been able to socialize as much as usual with friends. He said the campaign will help provide children a bright and memorable summer as well as inform struggling parents the services available to them.

“The Naugatuck Y has been here a long time regardless of COVID. It’s going to continue to be here for a long time,” Rock said. “So they’re not going anywhere, and they’re continuing to serve the community, which is what their mission, their vision and their purpose is.”

Southern Connecticut State University President Joseph A. Bertolino speaks during the YMCA’s annual giving campaign kickoff on April 19 at the Y in Naugatuck. -ANDREAS YILMA

Joseph Bertolino, Southern Connecticut State University president and a board member for the Central Connecticut Coast YMCA, said people have a responsibility as a community to each other. He said the support and community available at the YMCA can make an enormous difference in people’s lives.

“This Y and all Ys are here to support the communities, not only in good times and to have fun, but when communities are in need, when they are struggling,” he said. “This year in particular, not only have people struggled physically and economically, but emotionally.”

The annual campaign is running in conjunction with the YMCA’s capital campaign. The YMCA is seeking to raise $225,000 through its capital campaign to help pay for improving the pool and the area for residents, and to install a HVAC system in the gymnasium. The YMCA was built in 1922.

The YMCA is already at 50% of its capital campaign goal, officials said.

Bob Dickson, president of the Naugatuck YMCA board of directors, said it’s inspiring to see the YMCA’s investment in the community.

“This YMCA is so instrumental in developing and working with the community,” Dickson said.

People can donate online at naugatuckymca.org or at the YMCA, 284 Church St. For information, call 203-729-9622.