By Donna Ames, Special to the BDN
“The Y means different things to different people. For some people it is a place to go and exercise. For others it provides essential day care for their children. And for many people it offers a sense of community. For me and my family, it’s like a second home.”
These are the words of Troy Curtis, executive director of the Penobscot Bay YMCA in Rockport. “I’ve worked here since 1999,” he said. “My wife, Jen, is currently the childcare director. My two children have both been through the Y’s day care program.” Clearly, Troy Curtis and his family have a deep commitment to the Y.
Curtis came to the Y as the director of the “Camp-A-Homa” summer day camp program. He subsequently served as the fitness director, then senior program director, before taking the helm in 2005.
“It was a bit of challenge to transition away from programming,” said Curtis, “where I would get that immediate gratification knowing that I had made a change in someone’s life, the way I did working as a camp counselor on a daily basis. And I always remind our new counselors of that at camp training.” But he does appreciate the importance of his role as executive director in enhancing the overall impact of the Y on the children and adults of Knox County.
The depth and breadth of the Y’s positive effect on our community is enormous. Child care is provided for more than 110 children each day. The Y summer camps reach another 100 children per week during the summer months. The Y Sailfish Swim Team has doubled in size in the past few years and now has more than 100 swimmers participating. In addition, the Y offers many other programs that address the health and wellness needs of our community. The total membership of the Penobscot Bay YMCA has grown to more than 5,000, and 14,000 people registered for Y programs last year alone.
Curtis and his team of dedicated board members have implemented many positive changes since he began his tenure. “The goal is to reach as many community members as possible and provide some of the tools they need to lead active, healthy lives,” he said.
In 2010 the YMCA merged with the Teen Center in Camden. While the doors are still open to teens after school free of charge, the Y has maximized the Teen Center’s space by offering adult exercise classes and by collaborating with the Camden Hills Adult Education Department to offer other programming.
In addition, a YMCA Fitness Center was opened in 2010 on the island of North Haven, through a partnership with the town that allows more than 75 year-round residents to exercise in a safe environment.
The range of programming offered by the Y for all ages is quite astounding. Staff members even provide exercise classes to seniors in retirement homes. More information about YMCA programs can be found in the online program guide at www.penbayymca.org, at the Y, or in local newspapers when the sessions change.
“The Y strives to reduce barriers to participation in its programs,” said Curtis. “Nearly 20 percent of our members get some sort of financial assistance. We won’t turn anyone away based on ability to pay. We have also begun to offer more programs at no cost to members, such as Group Power, Zumba and Learn to Swim.” The Y is also committed to finding ways in the future to reach those community members who live far away from the facility.
Working with the Knox County Community Health Coalition, the Y received an ACHIEVE grant from the national CDC to address physical activity and nutrition. With this funding the Y will provide a $10,000 grant to help the city of Rockland extend the Harbor Trail System along its waterfront and provide signage for the entire trail system. This trail will help make Rockland safer and more attractive for walking and bicycling. In addition, the Y will be able to offer mini-grants to Rockland businesses and organizations that will help them make policy and environmental changes to increase physical activity and improve the nutritional habits of people working and living in our region.
While promoting wellness through physical activity is an obvious goal of the Y, Curtis has also made changes that impact the nutrition of the children who are served by the Y. For example, soda is no longer sold in the vending machines. The parents of kids who come to the day care are given guidelines as to what kids can have for snacks, and food is not used as a reward in Y programs.
Obesity was recently named as one of the three top health concerns in Knox County. Curtis has been working with other community health professionals to address this issue. He has supported programs such as Zing! and the Playing Big, Living Lean program, by opening up the doors of the Y to participants in those programs. He has supported the Let’s Go 5-2-1-0 messaging throughout the facility (5 servings of fruit and vegetables, 2 hours or less of screen time, 1 hour of physical activity, 0 sweetened beverages every day). For more information on this program visit www.letsgo.org.
Curtis oversees a staff of 40 full-time employees and 200 volunteers. He works with a 20-member board of directors. “I wouldn’t be able to make this happen without a great board, staff and volunteers,” he said.
“We are very fortunate to have a YMCA of this caliber in our community,” Curtis added. It seems to me that we are equally fortunate to have Troy Curtis as the leader of this wonderful organization that serves our children, and the community as a whole.
Donna Ames, RN, coordinates Zing! — a program of Pen Bay Healthcare and its community partners designed to encourage children to adopt healthy eating and exercise habits. Online: pbmc.org/zing.