The Ocean County YMCA (OCYMCA/the Y) is committed to helping everyone reach their full potential, with a focus on Youth Development, Healthy Living, and Social Responsibility. With programming for youth and seniors spanning across aquatics, health and fitness, day camp, sports and virtual sessions, there is something for everyone at the Y.

Last year, OCYMCA celebrated 50 years of being a hub for health in Ocean County. Unfortunately, due to COVID, the year did not go quite as planned. Just like the rest of the world, they were forced to temporarily close their physical doors in March of 2020; however, they continued to step up to serve our community’s most compelling needs.

Throughout the shutdown, OCYMA ensured that social distancing did not turn into social isolation. They used Zoom to get important news out to members and the community, and to safely continue running their programs. Here are some ways OCYMCA has shifted their services to keep members connected.

Warm Up America

Ocean County has the largest population of seniors in the state and senior isolation was an issue well before COVID hit. OCYMA found creative ways to keep seniors safely engaged. In addition to a virtual book club, the Y also hosted its Crochet Club over Zoom. Participating members could pick up the necessary supplies at the Y and meet virtually with their friends to crochet. They then donated the hats, blankets and other items they made through Warm Up America, a charity that motivates, trains and coordinates volunteers to knit and crochet afghans and clothing for people in need.

Remote Learning Facility

The OCYMCA has been using part of their space as a remote learning facility for all essential workers who need childcare for their kids. Children have a safe place to set up for their virtual school day and have access to any necessary assistance. They receive lunch and snacks daily and participate in fun activities outside of their school work.

Watching the children adapt to the circumstances and flow with the daily changes was inspiring. One of the parents noted that it was hard to imagine the kids wearing masks or consistently washing their hands but now it’s the kids who are teaching the adults how to be healthy and safe!

Summer Meals Program

In 2020, OCYMCA launched a Grab n’ Go Summer Meals Program. The Y, in partnership with Toms River Regional Schools, has been working to keep children healthy and well-nourished. The Y began serving meals on May 26, 2020 and continued to do so each weekday until the end of August. Participating youth received nutritious lunches and snacks daily.

This program is the first of its kind in Toms River and is being operated in partnership with the Capital Area YMCA. OCYMCA began serving 150 meals per day last May and increased to 700 to 900 per day by the end of last August. This summer, the Y plans to operate the Summer Meals Program on four sites.

OCYMA will host a Food Summit in May of 2021 to convene partners, community members, schools and other Y’s to develop the landscape of how the Summer Meals Program will look this year and how to get more meals out. Peter Rosario, President and CEO of OCYMCA said, “This year, we are focused on making the Summer Meals Program bigger and better with even more partnerships. The goal is to help make our community more food secure by providing 2,000 to 3,000 meals per day to those in need.”

Town Hall Meetings

The OCYMCA has always been a trusted voice in the community. They have utilized Zoom to continue pushing out real-time, valuable information from the census and meal programs to day camp and fitness center updates. They also held info sessions to ensure that members would be comfortable coming back when the Y was safely able to open. Discussions took place virtually with swim parents, athletes, kids and seniors who had questions about what the return to the Y would look like.

In-person programming started up again in July of 2020 and all at the Y are following the necessary safety protocols to keep staff and members safe, healthy and happy! In addition to fitness classes and other programs on site, the Y also has an archive of virtual fitness classes for those who feel more comfortable working out from home.

The Future

The Ocean County YMCA will always remain committed to providing everyone with the opportunity to reach their full potential. While hours and classes are limited, Peter and his staff are excited to have their members back inside the Y. With the help and support of the staff, members and community, the Y will come back stronger than ever.

Visit Ocean County YMCA's website to learn more and stay tuned for updates on the Summer Meals Program and other future initiatives!