ALBION – It’s been a hard year for the recreation department in Albion.
Due to COVID-19, the city hasn’t been able to run recreation programs out of Marshall Opportunity High School, and three of the department’s four employees are furloughed.
Residents want to see expanded programming, but city resources are limited. Without changes to current operations, the department would face a $6,000 revenue shortfall next year, according to city staff.
To change that, Albion will partner with the Battle Creek YMCA and Albion College to provide recreation programming at Washington Gardner High School beginning next year.
limited, and I think by partnering with the different organizations in our community, it makes us stronger together.”
The decision will eliminate all city Parks and Recreation Department programming. The department will go from three part-time employees and a director to one employee that will oversee the farmer’s market and special events.
Programming — such as youth sports, swimming lessons, fitness classes and youth mentoring programs — will be taken on by the Battle Creek YMCA.
Battle Creek YMCA began offering activities in Albion this summer when the city had to cancel its programs. The YMCA provided outdoor fitness classes, summer camps and the state-subsidized Great Start Readiness Program for preschoolers.
“We built a really exciting platform of recreation offerings during a time when, obviously, the world for these kids was very different,” Battle Creek YMCA CEO Jill Hinde said. “We would like to continue that, and maybe build on a more countywide approach for youth and wellness.”
Albion College will partner with the Battle Creek YMCA and the city to provide space for programming at the Washington Gardener High School building, which is undergoing renovation.
“We intended for the building to be a community building,” Albion College President Mathew Johnson said. “It’s about the kids in the community and my belief that we need to have a place where they can call home, and this building seems to be the appropriate building to do that, given its history.”
In total, the program will cost the city $115,00. About $90,000 would go toward staffing, supplies for the YMCA, and the rest will cover rent at Washington Gardner.
Funding will be covered by the city’s Parks and Recreation millage, which brings in about $200,000 per year.
The current $25,000 contract with Marshall Public Schools expires this year and will be replaced by the new agreement.
Keeping recreation local
The YMCA is committed to hiring a local director and local staff for the Washington Gardner location, Hinde said. The community will have also have input on hiring a director and creating and implementing programs through a local advisory board.
The board would also serve as a liaison between the city, the YMCA and the college and work with the Parks and Recreations Advisory Committee that City Council established earlier this year.
“One of the things that we know is important for this partnership to be successful with The Y and the city is really local oversight and local involvement,” Hinde said.
In addition to Washington Gardner, the YMCA plans to use local parks, including Holland Park, Victory Park and McIntosh Park.
“It’s important to put recreation into the neighborhoods where local residents can access these programs,” Hinde said.
Albion College also will provide access to the Dow Center on campus for swimming programs and will use federal work-study funding to help the YMCA hire additional staff from the college’s student body.
Albion College is eager to deepen its relationship with the community, Johnson said, and hopes to open other spaces around campus to residents, especially young people, through partnerships like this one.
“We’re thinking about every way we can contribute to the community moving forward,” he said. “We are trying to better build connectivity between the youth and Albion and the college.”
Partnering with the college and the YMCA will provide new opportunities for the community as a whole, Mayor Pro-tem Shane Williamson said. He also noted that the willingness of Albion College to open its facilities to the public was an exciting change.
“This is a sharp shift in priorities at the college level as well, opening their facilities to the public, the citizens of Albion, and is an incredible step forward for our community,” he said. “This could be transformational for our entire community.”
Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled the last name of Battle Creek YMCA CEO Jill Hinde.
Article Originally Posted: https://www.battlecreekenquirer.com/story/news/2020/12/10/albion-partners-bc-ymca-albion-college-rec-programs/6498030002/