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Greater Joliet Area YMCA to permanently close Briggs Street facility

The Smith Family YMCA in Joliet will be closing its doors permanently next month, though the organization said the closure is not a “retreat.”

The Greater Joliet Area YMCA’s Board of Directors made the decision to close the facility, located at 1350 S. Briggs St. in Joliet, according to a news release. The last day of operation will be March 26.

Jim Watts, the president and CEO of the Greater Joliet Area YMCA, said while the news might be striking for some in the community, the organization will still be able to leverage partnerships with other entities to continue providing services for families in need.

“There’s obvious emotional ties and love for the (Smith Family YMCA),” he said.

Julian Contreras, 6, puts on his headphones as he prepares to start e-learning on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020, at the Salvation Army Joliet Community Center in Joliet, Ill. The Greater Joliet Area YMCA is one of the community partners of the United Way of Will County.

Julian Contreras, 6, puts on his headphones as he prepares to start e-learning on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020, at the Salvation Army Joliet Community Center in Joliet, Ill. The Greater Joliet Area YMCA is one of the community partners of the United Way of Will County. (Geoff Stellfox/)

The Smith Family YMCA has served residents of Joliet since 1978, but Watts said in recent years, its most impactful programs have operated outside of YMCA walls and in the community. Before the pandemic, he said the local YMCA served about 1,300 children per day, mostly with childcare and with before and after school programs, and providing multiple meals a day.

The pandemic made administering those services more difficult, but Watts said those partnerships with other organizations, like the Salvation Army, have been key to helping all families who need them.

“We don’t turn anybody away,” Watts said.

The organization raises money to “close the gap” of what families cannot pay for such services. Despite the pandemic, last year, Watts said the YMCA raised over $1 million to continue to provide its programs.

Children play a game during the Kidz Zone after-school program April 15 at the Smith Family YMCA in Joliet.

Children play a game during the Kidz Zone after-school program April 15 at the Smith Family YMCA in Joliet. (Lathan Goumas/)

In the coming weeks, the programming at the Smith Family YMCA will relocate to sites throughout Joliet. Two of the YMCA’s largest youth development programs, the Before and After School Kid Zone and Summer Day Camp programs, will move to the Salvation Army Building in downtown Joliet, according to the news release.

Beginning March 27, Smith Family YMCA members will transition to the Galowich Family YMCA, located at 749 Houbolt Road in Joliet. All employees at the Smith Family YMCA will have the opportunity to continue employment by moving to a new community program site or YMCA facilities in Joliet, Plainfield or Morris.

Watts reiterated that while the pandemic made operating the Smith facility “untenable,” the YMCA will still continue its mission of serving the families of the greater Joliet area.

“We’re committed to serving Joliet,” Watts said. “We’re not going to leave Joliet. We’re looking at furthering our partnerships.”

For more information, visit jolietymca.org.

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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