How the Fall River YMCA Has Stepped Up to Help the Community and Why It Needs Our Support Now More Than Ever

If you grew up with a YMCA in your town, you probably thought of it as the place to learn how to swim. In fact, HIG’s Chris Hadley, principal and insurance broker, has some distinct childhood memories of his brother going to the Fall River YMCA to take swim lessons.

The pool was so old that the filtration system couldn’t handle it if you wore any type of clothing, even something as simple as a bathing suit. So my brother had to take lessons in his birthday suit. Thankfully, boys and girls were separated for swim classes!

Fortunately for Chris and others who have taken swim lessons post-1960, the Fall River YMCA has evolved significantly since those earlier days. Through its membership dues, state and federal grants, and, most importantly, annual fund contributions, this branch has become a valued community center. A new pool, squash courts, a wellness center, an educational achievement center, and so much more have turned this YMCA location into a spacious and inviting place that is accessible for people of all ages and from all walks of life.

Today, Chris serves as the chairman of the Board of Advisors for the Fall River YMCA, which is one of six branches associated with the YMCA Southcoast. He follows in the footsteps of his grandfather, father, and brother, who have all served as advisors. This means that the Hadley family has been involved with the Fall River YMCA for more than 100 years.

We have always participated in the community and supported local nonprofits, but the YMCA especially has our hearts. YMCAs across the country are so much more than just a swimming pool these days. They are a safe, welcoming spot for children and adults to come together, have fun, and learn.

The Fall River YMCA, which is just around the corner from the HIG office, is a great example of what these organizations often offer their communities. The programs at this particular branch have included diabetes prevention, nutrition counseling, adult cancer survivor fitness classes, preschool and after-school care, sports for youth, and countless family-friendly events. The Fall River YMCA has truly become an epicenter of the community.

For this reason, when the Fall River YMCA had to temporarily close its doors due to COVID-19, it could have left a gaping hole in the community. But, while the staff could not offer many of their typical programs and services, the situation did not stop them from continuing to be a source of critical support for the community.

One of the most important initiatives during the shutdown has been a collaboration with the Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB). When the GBFB announced it needed additional food distribution locations, the Fall River YMCA did not hesitate to raise its hand to participate. The branch currently offers a Mobile Market every first and third Thursday of the month, managed entirely by YMCA staff and volunteers. Every vehicle that comes through the Mobile Market receives two full grocery bags of prepackaged food items. The Fall River YMCA has also been offering a safe place for vulnerable populations to have a hot shower.

In addition, the Fall River YMCA staff forged ahead with their annual summer day camp program, adhering to all required safety and social-distancing protocols. Fifty-five children enrolled in this summer camp, which was extended until September 11th due to the late start to the school year. The YMCA offered financial assistance to ensure that as many children as possible were able to enjoy this experience and learn important social and developmental skills.

Now that the fall has arrived, and kids are returning to school with either a hybrid or fully remote schedule, the Fall River YMCA is once again reaching out its hands to help. The YMCA staff and advisors, many of them parents themselves, understand that all families, but especially lower-income households, are having a tough time coping with the competing demands of kids’ remote/hybrid learning and parents’ work responsibilities. So they have partnered with the Fall River Public Schools to be a safe and supervised place for children to go during the day to do their virtual schoolwork. All 70 enrolled children receive breakfast and lunch, and technology is provided to kids in need.

These kids require assistance and supervision with all their learning needs, and we are doing our best, in collaboration with the Fall River Public School system, to make sure that they get them consistently, whether they are sitting at their desk in school or are on their computers here at the Y. Now, more than ever, families need their YMCA.

The Fall River YMCA, along with its five sister branches of the YMCA Southcoast — Dartmouth, Mattapoisett, New Bedford, Swansea, and Wareham — are slowly beginning to offer some traditional programs to members who preregister, such as fitness training and group exercise classes, child care, and lap and family swim. At the same time, these organizations are committed to keeping up the services that they initiated over the past year to assist people and businesses impacted by the pandemic.

As a longtime member and advisor to the Fall River YMCA, Chris knows that these community centers cannot sustain all these activities based on membership dues alone.

In addition to everything the YMCA offers our community, I’m not sure a lot of people know that the YMCA accepts all member applications, even from those who cannot afford the membership fees. Anybody in need can request a reduction in dues. The Y does not turn anyone away.

All YMCAs need the financial support of their larger community or they won’t survive. For this reason, Chris and HIG have decided that it is more important than ever to try to help raise funds for all the branches of the YMCA Southcoast. As part of their effort, the team has developed a Halloween-themed coloring and activity book that you and your family can download — for free.

Wondering how this will help the YMCA financially? Every time a book is downloaded, HIG will donate a dollar to the YMCA Southcoast, and Safety Insurance will match our donation. Together, our goal is to raise $800 for this wonderful organization.
Of course, we are perfectly fine with you skipping the coloring and activities and donating directly to the YMCA Southcoast. Either way, you will be making a greatly appreciated contribution to an organization that has been, and we hope will always be, a vital part of our community.