The Mid-Island Y JCC has been a fixture on Manetto Hill Road in Plainview since the 1970s, but the history of this multi-purpose community center serving Nassau and Western Suffolk County goes back much further than that.
The Y JCC—the “Y” being an abbreviation of “Young Men and Young Women’s Hebrew Association” and “JCC” standing for “Jewish Community Center”—is a nonprofit organization offering a wealth of programs and resources for residents of all ages from a variety of towns. However, it started on a far more humble note, according to CEO Rick Lewis.
“The Y JCC was founded in 1956 in a house in Wantagh. In the early 1970s, the Y wanted to expand and bought the current Manetto Hill Road building from the Plainview school district when their enrollment numbers were shrinking,” he said. “In the 1980s, we built onto and expanded the original 1950s era building, and we’ve continued to expand the facilities and our services to the public ever since.”
Initially started to facilitate after-school programs to keep kids off the streets and out of trouble, the early success of the JCC saw an expansion in scope and services. Communications director Wendy Klonsky notes that the JCC has striven throughout the years to constantly expand their services and remain relevant for anyone, young or old, and at affordable membership prices.
“Over time, early childhood programs have expanded to earlier in the morning and later in the afternoon. We now bus kids in from school so that working parents have a place for them to be in the afternoon,” she said. “We have a very broad array of programs that are all family-based. We have something for everybody. You can come in and have your kids swimming in the pool, you can talk to a social worker, take an art or exercise class or play basketball in the gym. We’re really seen a substantial amount of growth in recent years.”
Impressive amenities that have been added to the JCC over the years include a multi-purpose gymnasium, locker room, an indoor running track, a full-size Olympic swimming pool complete with swimming lessons and a fitness center—consisting of a healthy amount of machines and free weights—that could easily compete with any commercial gym.
Current year-round programs address attendees as young as six weeks old and up with a comprehensive full-day Early Childhood Center that features fun daycare options including art, sports and educational pursuits, all managed by a team of accredited teachers and assistants.
On the other side of the coin, many programs are provided for the adult and senior members of the community as well. For more athletically minded-individuals, the JCC also boasts a great deal of outdoor playing fields able to accommodate just about any sport you can think of—adult and child league play is welcomed and the JCC will sometimes host younger players at no cost.
JCC can be there to help through the hard times as well. An expanded array of social workers are available—including an expanding selection of counseling services—as are programs for special needs individuals, particularly for those within the Aspergers/Autism spectrum.
“We have many programs that prepare individuals with special needs to live and work on their own,” Klonsky said. “We even have a café in the building where many of them work, making sandwiches and ringing people up, and they gain valuable job experience and social skills.”
Starting in July 2016, the JCC will be celebrating their 60th anniversary and Lewis noted that several events are planned to get the public involved in the festivities.
After having served as CEO of this organization for the past three years, Lewis said that he is proud of the positive, all-inclusive impact the JCC has had on the surrounding communities and is looking forward to expanding their services further in the future.
“We are a Jewish community center and we do have a Jewish flavor to everything, but we welcome everyone and everybody,” he said. “It’s an incredibly satisfying experience to know that we have an organization that’s here for the community and is here for everybody and what they need. As a nonprofit we get significant support from private donations and foundations for what we do and that just adds to the satisfaction and the fun of the job—that there are people out there that appreciate what we do.”