Beach residents lament loss of YMCA

Residents of the Beach must look for alternative nursery school services, as the East City YMCA at 907 Kingston Rd., has been put up for sale.

Programs offered at the facility, such as the nursery school and summer camps, will stop this year. Nursery programs will end in June, and the summer camp programs will end for good as of Aug. 29.

YMCA vice president of communications Steven Heipel says that they did consider finding another site in the Beach.

“The East City program participation has been in decline,” Heipel said, “and it is just not fiscally feasible to maintain a program centre there.”

The decision to close leaves parents in the area worrying about where their children will go when service stops. Mother of two, Cheryl Titus, started a group on the social networking site Facebook, where affected parents can discuss the issue.

Titus’s daughter attended YMCA programs from the age of three months, now a Junior Kindergarten student. Her two-and-a-half-year-old son currently attends programs at the facility, and Titus is upset that he will not be able to continue.

“The staff is wonderful, the programs are wonderful, and you walk in and they know your name, they know your kid’s names,” Titus said. “They’re part of our family – they’ve been an extension of our family basically.”

‘There is no other nursery school in the vicinity’

For Titus and many other parents in the Beach area, cost of such services matters. Titus has checked out some childcare services in the Beach and as a stay-at-home mom, remains unhappy about financial matters.

“As soon as you move down to Queen Street, you’re paying a lot more,” Titus said. “The rates (at the YMCA) are affordable, and if you have more than one child looking at some of the programs in our area, it can add up.”

Heipel says that a list has been given to YMCA members of other services in the area for parents to explore. Councillor Sandra Bussin, however, does not think the list will be much help for residents.

“(The YMCA) said there are other resources,” Bussin said. “But in fact, there is no other nursery school in the vicinity; the next one is up at the Danforth.”

Titus received the list, but only after she called the YMCA to follow-up on rumours she had heard about the closure. After confirming the truth about the closure, Titus received a letter in the mail explaining the situation.

“They gave us a list – but I can only look at things within walking distance because I’m a stroller mom,” Titus said. “A lot of them are not in walking distance and they don’t offer the same kind of programs. And the very important thing for me is a lot of them don’t have outdoor play areas.”

Despite attempts by the YMCA to ease the transition for its members, the closure will have many Beach residents scrambling to find similar services. While parents are keeping up hope that some good news will come, they continue to search for alternatives.

“In all reality there’s not a lot available in the area that is comparable to the (YMCA) programs,” Titus said. “There’s no other place where a mom and baby can start at three months and that child can have a continuous flow right up to kindergarten and beyond.”