Jul. 24—The Greater Scranton YMCA plans to extend its reach into the Abingtons through a partnership with the Abington Area Joint Recreation Board.
With support from Clarks Green, Clarks Summit, Glenburn Twp., South Abington Twp. and Waverly Twp., the AAJRB manages Hillside Park in South Abington Twp., where the Y expects to offer after-school programming and exercise classes.
"We're just excited about the opportunity and especially that beautiful park," Greater Scranton YMCA President and CEO Trish Fisher said. "There's so much opportunity there and we really appreciate the AAJRB supporting us as well."
The recreation board issued a Request for Proposals in April from companies, organizations or individuals interested in a long-range collaboration for programming — especially at the Hillside Park Community Center — and infrastructure development.
Member Bill Risse said the board has been considering the potential for underdeveloped areas of the 100-acre park for about five years. After assuming operation of the center, the board started discussing what else could be offered there.
Risse said Clarks Summit originally built it as a senior center using Community Development Block Grant funding.
The AAJRB took on the building's operational responsibilities from the borough last year, transforming it into a community center for all ages. The Lackawanna County Area Agency on Aging still runs a senior center within the building, he said.
The AAJRB had informal discussions with members of the Y's board of directors about their interest in the park and eventually issued an RFP in fairness to other organizations, but only the Y responded, he said.
The timing couldn't be better, he said, because the COVID-19 pandemic underscored the importance of community recreation facilities. Hillside Park saw an increase in use throughout the pandemic, even in the winter.
"As a board, we feel as though we're moving in a direction that the population would support," Risse said.
The Y conducted a community needs assessment earlier this year for residents of the Abingtons because a significant number of its members live in Clarks Summit and surrounding areas.
"We will be addressing some of the issues that arose from that assessment," Fisher said.
Child care came out as one of the top two needs. Fisher said she isn't able to disclose the complete results of the assessment at this time. State approval is needed to introduce after-school programming at Hillside, and she said she hopes it can be up and running by this fall.
For the exercise classes, it's a matter of working with groups already using the community center to fill open time slots. Fisher said the Y wants to serve all ages through these classes, supplementing what the Area Agency on Aging already offers older adults.
"We're going to start out really small, talk to everybody and find out what the need is," Fisher said.
It's possible that the Y's partnership with the AAJRB can go beyond these initial plans, she said.
"We're exploring options but we're really in the very first baby-step phase of this formal partnership," she said.
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