Good evening. My name is Sara Crowe. This July will begin my 4th year as the proud president of this wonderful organization. From our early days on the Grand Concourse as the Young Men’s and Young Women’s Hebrew Association of the Bronx, to our humble Riverdale beginnings on 250th Street and Henry Hudson Parkway, to today, the Riverdale Y has been enriching lives and building community in the Bronx for more than 110 years.
Throughout the course of this evening you will have the opportunity to learn more about some of our notable accomplishments of this past year, our plans for the upcoming year, and some of the challenges we are facing as an organization. You will have the privilege of meeting some of our most loyal and dedicated volunteers, without whom we would not be able to bring you all of the tremendous programs and services that you have grown to love. You will have the pleasure of being entertained by our very own Riverdale Rising Stars, and you will have the honor of electing our slate of trustees for the upcoming year, which begins July 1.
This annual meeting is a first for the Y in this format. Last year, our board revised our bylaws, which included a change in election process. Now, for the first time, we ask you, our members, to have a voice in electing your board of directors for the year. I thank you for taking this responsibility seriously by joining us this evening. And I hope that by the end of the meeting, you will feel inspired to get even more involved in this amazing organization. Bring a friend to join you at the next show, or volunteer with us for a day of service, or lend your talents in helping to organize one of our many sports or arts programs. Most importantly, we invite you to let us know how we can serve you better. We welcome your time and your talents in making the Y the best community center it can be.
In the Jewish community, there is a tradition to begin all official business with a brief moment of learning. So, to officially begin this evening’s meeting, we will hear a D’var Torah prepared by Rabbi Joseph Robinson, Director of Community Engagement at the Y. However, since Joseph is currently exercising his most important duty as “Abba” to his 3 beautiful children, his words will be delivered by his wife, our Early Childhood Director, Emily Hausman.
What a blessing, and honor it is to be here tonight. One of our greatest tasks at hand is to usher in our new board members. So it is to them that I primarily address my next few words. This week the Torah portion begins with a profound statement by God…
אִם־בְּחֻקֹּתַ֖י תֵּלֵ֑כוּ וְאֶת־מִצְוֺתַ֣י תִּשְׁמְר֔וּ וַעֲשִׂיתֶ֖ם אֹתָֽם׃
If you follow My laws and observe My commandments and practice them… [then you will be blessed for the coming year]
The sages of our tradition noticed that there are three verbs in this statement: Follow the laws, Observe the laws, and Practice the laws. Why not just give us one, as they all basically mean the same thing? We learn from this that our task is three fold. We are required to study and to teach as well as to do the sacred work in this world for us to be a holy people worthy of blessing.
Therefore, may it be that your work this coming year is one filled with the study of the community’s needs; one filled with teaching and speaking on behalf of the Y; and a year where we do the sacred work of moving this organization and community from strength to strength.
State of the Y
I have had the great privilege of leading this organization for nearly 5 years, and in that short time I have seen some amazing accomplishments. When I arrived in the fall of 2014, the Y was still recovering from the throes of the great recession and its aftermath. Membership had been decreasing month over month for 9 straight years, the city was planning to close our UPK program, and the building was literally crumbling, with emergency repairs of the glass blocks along the eastern facade. Standing here today, I am proud to tell you that our membership has since more than doubled, our early childhood center (including its two full UPK classrooms) is thriving, and we have conducted a number of significant upgrades to our facility. But that is just the tip of the iceberg.
Just over the course of the past year alone, we have created new programs, provided expanded services, and performed many upgrades to our “house.”
This year you have seen development of the Riverdale Performing Arts Center and its supporting Patron of the Arts fundraising program. RPAC has brought you: An Evening With…Chuck Todd, Sold out performances of Newsies and Grease – you’ll see a sample of these talented teens later this evening, Author’s Series with talk-backs from local authors Paul Thaler of “Bronxland” and Dale Atkins and Amanda Salzhauer of “The Kindness Advantage”, And our Patron of the Arts program has raised more than $70,000 to support high quality arts and culture at the Y, You have seen a renewed commitment to Social Responsibility with programs like:, MLK Day of Service, which engaged more than 400 volunteers throughout Riverdale, Intergenerational Plogging with kids and adults of all ages cleaning litter while walking and jogging around town , Expansion of our Riverdale Jewish Community Partnership (RJCP) which convenes the leadership of 18 Jewish communal organizations across the denominational spectrum, to bring you programs like A Sense of Riverdale, as well as celebrations and tributes for Lag BaOmer and Yom HaZikaron, And we are very grateful to the family of Stanley Lane, for enabling us to this year create a pilot program for the Stanley Lane Inclusion Basketball League, which brings together typical teens and teens with special needs And this year we have made several meaningful improvements to the facility including: Creating the first Co-ed Family Locker Room, which enables parents to accompany their children, seniors and those with special needs to have assistance from an aid, and people of all genders to have a comfortable space Created a more welcoming, living room feel in our refurbished lobby, Improved the air quality in the swimming pool with new HVAC
Over the course of the upcoming year, we plan to bring you:
New functional training studio with kickboxing and TRX classes, sports-specific training for athletes, and more
New treadmills and equipment in the fitness center
New access control, fencing, and other security measures throughout the building (as with all security, some is covert and invisible by design)
SAGE – LGBTQ
Ayeka – Soulful parenting
PJ Library events
ELI Talks featuring inspirational stories from those in our local community
An Evening With…”I’m not telling…”
And so much more
And yet, significant challenges still remain.
You may have seen the recent article in the Riverdale Press detailing our difficult decision to close our racquetball court based on the need to generate more net revenue to our bottom line. As the article described, our costs of operating have skyrocketed over the past 3 years. As a service organization, labor and fringe make up 80% of our operating costs. And with increases in minimum wage, union salaries, health insurance, pension costs, and more, it costs the Y almost $1 million more per year to fund the same operations as 5 years ago.
At the same time, our building, which we rely on so heavily, is nearly 40 years old. And as a middle-aged woman myself, I can tell you that time takes its toll. Plumbing, electric, roof, and HVAC all need to be repaired and updated, and that doesn’t include desired improvements to aesthetics, refurbishing or creating new spaces, or building new functionality in the Y.
Most people view the Y as a fee-for-service, transactional organization. Obviously, it’s true, we have to charge fees for our services, but those fees only cover about 70% of what it costs to run the Y. As a non-profit, community-based organization, we rely on philanthropic support to do so much of what we do. We want to continue to provide, and improve upon, the services you love, and find new ways to serve you better. This is where you come in. We can’t do it without you.
Despite our many challenges, we have created a phenomenal institution. The Riverdale Y brings together people of all ages, ethnicities, cultures, religions, interests, and social backgrounds, all under one roof. Children play, learn and grow together. Seniors laugh, learn, and socialize – and even take on the toughest 1K you’ll ever see. People of all ages experience music, dance, film, cultural events, sporting events, and on and on. But we cannot do it alone. We need you. We need your wisdom and talents, we need your time and your hands on work, and yes, we need your philanthropic support.
We have a number of fundraising events throughout the year. Our Broadway Gala this coming fall will honor January Akselrad and Jennifer Young for their powerful and impressive work to combat bullying among teens and tweens through their See The Wish Initiative. Our Riverdale Run, which was held only 10 days ago, raised almost $50,000 to support our senior center. It’s a tremendous accomplishment, but only a drop in the bucket of what it takes.
Next year, we will be launching 2 new campaigns to complement our successful Patron of the Arts Program. In the coming months you will hear about our new campaigns to support: Sports and Swim opportunities at the Y, Social Responsibility, including volunteerism, community service, and social action
While fundraising is crucial, it’s not the only way to support your community through the Y. We also need your time and talents. If you are passionate about the environment, then get involved in our new Sunday Market, or help us organize environmental events, or bring more greening awareness to our programs. If you are passionate about the arts help us organize film festivals and music series. The possibilities are limitless – if we work together. With our talented staff and our passionate members we can accomplish anything.
We invite you to join us as, together, we write the next chapter in our long, proud story.
Election of Slate of Trustees
Our final order of business for the evening is to elect our slate of trustees. If you open your programs you’ll see the slate that was originally sent to our membership one month ago.
I would now like to call the vote.
All in favor of electing the slate raise your hand.
Thank you and congratulations to our 2019 – 2020 Board of Directors. We ask all of you who are here with us this evening to please stand and be recognized.
And now, we hope you will enjoy some refreshments, and introduce yourself to a new person you haven’t met before. After all, it’s the Y. We build community.