In a March 31 letter, Hamilton Area YMCA CEO Diana Zita appealed to members for support, revealing the organization laid off nearly all its employees after the COVID-19 pandemic caused revenues to disappear “in an instant.”

The Hamilton Area YMCA’s John K. Rafferty branch is located on Whitehorse-Mercerville Road in Hamilton.

The Y closed its facility on March 15, as part of distancing protocols mandated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It cancelled all programming, including programs for those recovering from cancer, living with Parkinson’s or MS and those with disabilities. The closure and cancellations meant it could no longer reliably collect the membership and program fees that encompass its lifeblood.

As a result, the Hamilton Area YMCA laid off all 268 of its part-time staff and half of its full-time staff. Zita said the layoffs are temporary. The remaining 10 employees have taken a 10% pay cut.

“It was a heartbreaking decision,” Zita wrote in her letter. “These individuals are the backbone of our organization, and they maintain deep, meaningful relationships with our members and our community.”

The Y has shifted to focus its attention to assisting the community in other ways, distributing food through the schools’ free and reduced lunch program, hosting an American Red Cross Blood Drive March 27 and offering childcare for first responders. It also has begun offering virtual programs for its members.

Zita asked members to consider donating to the Y, or at the very least continuing their membership payments. Information on how to help is posted on the Y’s website.

“We can’t do it alone,” Zita wrote. “Please. Stay with us.”

The Hamilton Area YMCA has been a mainstay in the Hamilton community for nearly 70 years. In 1951, the Hamilton Area YMCA started, using sites such as schools and churches to provide its programs. A temporary facility built in 1984 on Whitehorse-Mercerville Road became permanent in 1991. The same building got a face lift and a new name in 2009, when it was dubbed the John K. Rafferty Branch.

The Hamilton Area YMCA also has a recreation and pool facility on Sawmill Road in the far southeastern corner of Hamilton Township. It also runs a youth baseball league out of Sayen Park, which it shares with Nottingham Little League, as well overseeing the operation of the Miracle League of Mercer County, a baseball league for those with disabilities.

According to a 2015 story in the Hamilton Post, the Hamilton Area YMCA had 14,000 members at the time.