Photo by Tessa Marie Images
Meet Chester County’s czar—or czarina—of healthy living. Denise Day is the head honcho of the YMCA of Greater Brandywine, the newly formed organization created by the January merger of Upper Main Line Y and YMCA of the Brandywine Valley. Day’s expansive realm now includes 80,000 members at nine facilities from Berwyn to Kennett Square.
MLT: Why create such a huge organization?
DD: To be more efficient as an organization by bringing together our financial systems, human resources, IT and other departments. And, more importantly, this makes sense for our members. There was a lot of overlap in the geography served by the branches. For example, the Upper Main Line Y and the West Chester branch are 6 miles apart. Now, when you join the YMCA of Greater Brandywine, you have access to all nine of our locations.
MLT: Was it a merger of necessity? Was membership lagging at some branches?
DD: Not at all. In January alone, we added more than 1,600 membership units, with one unit being either a family or a person.
MLT: Are any branches slated to close?
DD: No. In fact, several are expanding. Jennersville and Lionville have, or are in the process of adding, new wellness centers and space for kids’ arts and humanities programs. The Upper Main Line Y renovated its lobby last year and added an indoor play structure for kids, and we launched a capital campaign to raise funds to replace its 50-meter pool with a new one. We’re planning a new pool for the Brandywine branch and expanding the Coatesville branch.
MLT: How does the merger affect the Y’s summer camps?
DD: Directors from all the camps got together to share programs that are the best of each location. This summer, we’ll have the Brandy Olympics in July. More than 1,000 kids from Chester County are coming together to participate in those games. We’re also having kids from one branch’s camp travel to other branches to take advantage of those facilities, like Upper Main Line Y’s 54 acres—to which we’re adding zip lines—and the Kennett branch’s 50-foot alpine-tower ropes course.
MLT: What are the biggest challenges facing kids?
DD: I have a 12-year-old and 14-year-old. I think they’re faced with lots of pressures, including peer pressure. They see their peers engage in a lot of risky behaviors. Where the Y can help is in providing safe, productive, fun environments for kids. We want to give them good things to do—not just to keep them busy but also to contribute to their lives.
MLT: If you were given $10 million to put toward one dream project, what would it be?
DD: We’re one of the wealthiest counties in the state, and probably in the country. But in Chester County, we have pockets of people in need. One of those is the city of Coatesville. The crime rate is high, as is the dropout rate. But there’s the potential for change in Coatesville. There are good people there. I’d utilize the money to create programs to address the issues that affect Coatesville’s children. I believe we could make a major difference in their lives.