Kitchener-Waterloo

Area YMCAs merge with a promise to increase impact in communities

The YMCAs of Cambridge and Kitchener-Waterloo, the YMCA-YWCA of Guelph and YMCA of Stratford-Perth have officially joined together and will now be known as the YMCA of Three Rivers.

Regional group adopts YMCA of Three Rivers as its new moniker

The YMCAs of Cambridge and Kitchener-Waterloo, the YMCA-YWCA of Guelph and YMCA of Stratford-Perth have announced they're merging to form YMCA of Three Rivers. (Submitted by Victoria Ford)

The YMCAs of Cambridge and Kitchener-Waterloo, the YMCA-YWCA of Guelph and YMCA of Stratford-Perth have officially joined together and will now be known as the YMCA of Three Rivers.

The groups said they took this step in an effort to remain more relevant and sustainable at the local level and to increase their current and future impact in their communities. 

"Each of our organizations approached this from a position of strength, and with the mandate of doing what is best for the people we serve and the people who work and volunteer here," said Peter Sweeney, who served as CEO of the YMCAs of Cambridge and Kitchener-Waterloo and is the newly appointed CEO of the YMCA of Three Rivers.

"It's been a long year for everyone, with a lot of stress and uncertainty resulting from COVID-19. It feels great to announce the culmination of this work to our communities — to let our teams, members, families and partners know that now, more than ever, we're living our belief that we are stronger together and that we're here for good in our communities."

Peter Sweeney is CEO of the YMCAs of Cambridge & Kitchener-Waterloo, and newly appointed CEO of the YMCA of Three Rivers. (Submitted by Victoria Ford)

Sweeney said that throughout the process to merge, they have not only learned from one another as independent Ys, but also envisioned what they could become as they unified.

"While nothing will change in the immediate short-term, as we look ahead, we see many opportunities that we couldn't explore as independent Ys — benefits that will shape our staff, our work, the people who count on us every day, and, ultimately, our communities," he said.

Decision to merge was made pre-pandemic

Sweeney said the Ys made the decision to merge the YMCAs before the COVID-19 pandemic to enhance their reach and to do more for the community.

"Now that we're in COVID, we recognize the wisdom of that decision to allow us to come together to serve the community more effectively as we work through the pandemic and ensure the community is healthier on the other side," he told CBC News.

"The names of the buildings won't change. However, what we hope is over time we will be able to expand our reach and do more, provide more wellness programs, more child care, more camps and more services for the community to come together.

"We're in the business of human connection and we think that the world needs that more than ever right now," Sweeney added.

An example of work that matters

Meanwhile, Geoff Vogt, the new chief integration officer, said the unification process was an example of work that matters. 

"Through it, we're not just unifying the strengths of our independent YMCAs, but also building something new," Vogt said. 

"Our unified Y will encourage, empower, and enable our communities and our collective to be their best," Vogt added.

"This is my second time through a YMCA unification process, so I know first-hand how well this will serve our members, staff, volunteers, partners and communities. I truly believe that becoming one YMCA positions us better to serve the regions of Waterloo, Wellington and Perth."

Transitioning into a new phase

Mimi Price, CEO of the YMCA of Stratford-Perth sees this as the culmination of a 37-year tenure with the Y. 

"It's exciting that as I'm transitioning into my retirement, the YMCA of Stratford-Perth is also transitioning into a new phase, one that will afford increased relevance and impact in our community," Price said. 

"I'm encouraged by what this means for our incredible team of staff and volunteers, as well as for our current and future members, and especially the communities we serve." 

The four boards, along with an independent moderator, have been exploring unification formally for the past two years. The decision to unify was approved by all four boards, as well as voting members from each organization. 

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