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FedNor funding to boost accessibility at YMCA Sudbury location

FedNor pledged $195,393 toward YMCA facilities in Greater Sudbury and Timmins, of which approximately $60,000 is going toward a new front desk and enhanced accessibility and security measures at the 140 Durham Street location in downtown Sudbury

A new front desk and extensive renovations to improve accessibility will grace the YWCA Sudbury’s downtown facility later this year, thanks to a funding boost from FedNor. 

The federal regional development agency announced $195,393 toward the YMCA of Northeastern Ontario during a media event at their 140 Durham Street location on Wednesday.

Sudbury Liberal MP Viviane Lapointe made the announcement, noting the organization offers “critical services to people of all ages.”

“Local infrastructure investments are so important to building stronger, healthier and more inclusive communities,” she said. “This initiative delivers on all fronts, making our region a better place to live, work, play and visit.”

Approximately $60,000 of the funding is staying in Sudbury, while the balance is going to Timmons, where that community’s YMCA building will be fitted with green and structure upgrades designed to increase safety and efficiency and reduce its carbon footprint.

The Sudbury portion will go toward a new front desk at their 140 Durham Street location within the Centre For Life, which includes such facilities as a pool, recreational facilities and space to operate immigrant settlement services, youth programming and a day care.

The property will also undergo “extensive renovations,” according to a media release, to improve accessibility by adding push buttons and creating barrier-free access throughout.

Central to the front desk design is accessibility and security, YMCA of Northeastern Ontario president and CEO Helen Francis told Sudbury.com following Wednesday’s announcement.

“We want to make sure we can cater to any member of the public regardless of their needs,” she said, adding the desk will be accessible to people of all heights and will be a wheelchair accessible space.

Electronic barriers will be put in place to ensure those entering the facility are registering and the many children who use the centre’s services are secure. 

The desk is being designed by students of the McEwen School of Architecture, who were represented at Wednesday’s event by third-year student Siah Klassen. 

“This is actually a very important part of the facility, because everything revolves around this point,” he said of the front counter space. Although his gut reaction when first presented with the project was that it would just be a simple desk, he said its potential quickly unfolded.

“We were very careful to make sure in our new design that we were making sure everyone was safe, that there was a very good flow,” he said. 

“We’ve got quite a bit of open space behind the desk and in front of the desk, so it’s very easy to navigate for people.”

Wood elements contrasting with glassy metal backing will “bring in the lesson of the Sudbury rock,” he said, which appears rough on the outside but filled with wealth.

The YMCA is slated to undergo the renovations later this year, Francis said, which will push it outside of their prime summer months to lessen the impact to users.

As for the centre’s operations, she said they recently hit a membership level 75 per cent as great as pre-pandemic levels

“I would say that our membership revenue, our membership model, is bouncing back slowly,” she said, “We’re quite positive we’re coming the right way.”

The organization plans on working with the city to ensure they’re making the best use of their Durham Street location, which Francis told city council has proven to be their “Achilles’ heel.”

Although the organization as a whole remains in the financial black, the Durham Street location has been hemorrhaging money.

“What we really need to do is make sure we’re continuing to be proactive in terms of re-evaluating the different programs our community members need, hopefully coming out of COVID,” she said, and diversity in programming and a focus on mental health supports will become stronger priorities.

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.