Mid-Island Y JCC: In Service to Community

mid-island y jcc
Y JCC staffers from left to right: Chief Program Officer Marlie Cohen, CEO Rick Lewis, Coordinator of Healthy Adaptive Living Programs Barbara Sachs-Traina, and Facilities Director Gary Cellars.

From its humble beginnings operating out of a house in Wantagh in 1956, the Mid-Island Y JCC moved to its sprawling location in Plainview in the 1970s and underwent a major renovation, adding a state-of-the-art swim and fitness center in 1982.

“Since then, the Mid-Island Y has become the center of the community, offering services for children and adults of all ages, doing everything we possibly can to meet the needs of the entire community,” said Rick Lewis, chief executive officer.

That entire community ranges from early childhood services that start at 6 weeks old, to an annual summer day camp for about 1,000 kids, to programs and classes for adults and seniors of all ages, including the occasional centenarian.

“In between that, it’s full, early childhood programming, after-school programs and classes, teen leadership and development programs, and a full aquatic and fitness center, which currently has brand new equipment in it,” Lewis said, referring to free weights, weight training and endurance equipment, treadmills, spin bicycles and more. 

Funded by the UJA-Federation, the center offers a wide array of Jewish programming.

“All of our programs are offered within the context of Jewish culture, so we highlight the Jewish holidays with a general understanding and celebration,” Lewis said. “But the building is open to people of all backgrounds. We don’t discriminate against anybody: Everybody’s welcome.” 

Through its Rudman Family Food Pantry, the Y JCC delivers meals to more than 400 families each week and also provides nonperishable food packages for both pickup and delivery.

“During the last 18 months, the need has just increased incredibly, and the community has been wonderful in supporting that program,” Lewis remarked.

The Y JCC’s stellar senior outreach includes Naturally Occurring Retirement Community (NORC) programs, with nurses and social workers providing services, including food shopping, for seniors in their homes. They also connect seniors to county, state, or federal services, from transportation to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits – any and all services to help keep them living comfortably in their homes.

“In many cases, it’s just that their family or their children don’t live close enough to provide the daily care,” Lewis explained. 

These days, programs are offered both virtually and in person. For those uncomfortable with being in public indoor spaces, in-person classes for all ages and an outdoor fitness center are available in a big tent, which will stay up year round.

The YJCC recently started a health and wellness department which provides exercise and recreational programs for people with cancer, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, or Parkinson’s disease.

“We find many times that when people have these debilitating diseases, that they get stuck at home. So, we get them together through exercise programs,” Lewis said. “And sometimes the more valuable part of that is just the camaraderie that they develop when they realize that there are other people struggling with whatever the disease might be that they have.” 

One thing that sets the Y JCC apart from other centers is its Adler Center for Special Needs, one of the largest such programs on Long Island, which serves more than 700 families a year with educational and vocational opportunities, skills of daily living, and respite.

“Sometimes the families just need a little bit of time to themselves so they can pay attention to their typically developing child,” Lewis said. “We allow them to bring their child with special needs here so they can benefit from the recreation time and benefit from learning while they’re here, but at the same time, the family gets a little bit of respite.” 

Above all, the Mid-Island Y JCC is here to serve the community, which extends to patrons from western Nassau and Suffolk County.

“It’s our goal through our incredibly hard-working staff to make sure that we continue to meet the needs of the community,” Lewis said. “We’re really here to serve the community the best we possibly can.”

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