Additional YM-YWCA Facilities 1977. Despite the financial problems of the early 1970s, additional facilities in the new YM-YWCA were needed. Oliver Gaffney (See Queen Street) chaired the building fund committee to add a gym, handball and squash courts and a physical fitness area. The target was $500,000 including $76,000 to wipe out the existing capital debt. By October 1974, the amount raised was $504,405. Construction began in 1976 and by February 1977, the new gymnasium, some additions and renovations were opened and dedicated with some 300 in attendance. John Killer was there once again but this time as chair of the building committee rather than as Mayor, a position he held at the time of the dedication ceremony of the new YM-YWCA in 1968. The jogging track suspended above the gym was opened a week later, and in March 1977, the handball-racquetball court was opened. Cooper-Bessemer who now occupied the former railway property donated land for that court and more parking, valued at $21,500. Overall, it had been a $700,000 project.
An Olympic Connection. John Hertell, who became executive director of the Y in 1976, revived the health club, and through connections he had made working in Windsor, purchased one of the two balance beams used by 14 year-old Nadia Comaneci at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal. It was delivered in September just when the Stratford Gymnastics Club was enjoying a rebirth in the almost completed new facilities.
New 1970s Outreach. In Stratford, the Y involved itself with the ministry of correctional service through TAP (the Temporary Absence Program) which provided free use of the Y facilities for inmates of the city jail who had fewer than three months remaining on non-violent sentences. They dressed in street clothes, visited the Y in lightly-used hours, and were accompanied by a guard.
Growth in the 1980s. Most of the growth in the 1980s was positive. There was an expansion of programs for pre-schools including a kiddie-camp which involved a working arrangement and a sharing of facilities with seniors at Spruce Lodge. A learn-to-swim program was initiated with the county board of education for grade four students. Aquafitness was introduced and there was a greater interest in youth gym and swim teams. Junior teen dances returned to the Y. Weightlifting and general fitness facilities were expanded and new equipment purchased. One of the three racquetball courts was converted and squash became the Y’s newest sport. Membership stood at 2400.
Stratford Y Foundation. In 1979, The Stratford Y Foundation was incorporated to ease the monetary problems that have always accompanied the Y. The aim of the foundation was to make the Y appear more local in character and more financially independent. The foundation allowed the Y to concentrate on programs and took over financing on an annual basis. As a perpetual trust, it also receives donations and bequests and makes them available for the ongoing and systematic replacement of the Y’s building and equipment. In the first decade, the foundation covered the costs of more than a dozen capital-type projects.
Decision to merge Stratford Perth YMCA 2020
CBC News is the source for the two paragraphs that follow.
In 2020, the YMCAs of Cambridge and Kitchener-Waterloo, the YMCA-YWCA of Guelph and YMCA of Stratford-Perth have officially joined together and will now be known as the YMCA of Three Rivers. The groups said they took this step in an effort to remain more relevant and sustainable at the local level and to increase their current and future impact in their communities. The hope is over time that they will be able to expand their reach and do more, provide more wellness programs, more child care, more camps and more services for the community to come together.
Mimi Price, CEO of the YMCA of Stratford-Perth had this to say at the culmination of a 37-year tenure with the Y. "It's exciting that as I'm transitioning into my retirement, the YMCA of Stratford-Perth is also transitioning into a new phase, one that will afford increased relevance and impact in our community." Area YMCAs merge with a promise to increase impact in communities | CBC News
Key Personnel. Dean Robinson lists the many people who served both the YMCA as board members and staff from 1858 to 1965 and the YWCA from 1904 to 1965 until amalgamation and though the records are not complete, they are impressive. Robinson also lists those who served on the combined YMCA-YWCA boards from 1961 to 1983 and Stratford Perth County Family YMCA staff and board members from 1984 to 1991.
It is a record of commitment and service in many levels and in different ways. The names are names of those who served Stratford and the community in many ways.
Several individuals stand out. James Risk (Jim) Mercer served for 15 years as YMCA general secretary from 1929 to 1944, spending his days and most evenings in the building. He established clubs for young men during his tenure, most notably the Educated Ducks and the Socii Vitae. He fostered a close relationship with Rotary beginning in the 1930s and many Rotarians have served as YMCA presidents. During the Depression, he met most of the 4,000 wandering, workless men who came through Stratford and needed a place to sleep at the YMCA. During WW2, he provided the same kind of hospitality to more than 5,000 enlisted men who stayed there.
Mercer staged dances for couples and to diffuse opposition from the local ministerial association, he and his wife acted as chaperones, allowing only couples on a guest list to attend. He initiated free swimming lessons for elementary students and pressed educators for the introduction of elementary school physical education. In 1960, in his retirement, in Stratford, he received an award from the National Council of YMCAs at the Stratford YMCA Annual Meeting that year. He lived to see the new YM-YWCA building in 1968 and declared, “It’s a wonderful place, a wonderful place.” He died less than a year later, at the age of 85.