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From Family Y Back to Being Called YMCA

By James Lomuscio

Until recently, the large letters “YMCA” above the door of the Bedford Building at the former Westport Weston Family Y on Church Lane seemed like a vestige of the organization’s religious roots.

WestportNow.com Image
The new old look. Contributed photo

After all, the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) acronym—for years shrouded by trees and hidden by ivy—has appeared anachronous ever since YMCA officials in April 2005 rebranded the organization as the Westport Weston Family Y. The name change came the same day officials named capital campaign chairs for its then planned Mahackeno facility.  (See WestportNow April 28, 2005)

Many other YMCAs serving around the country already had done the same. Unlike YMCA or groups under its umbrella, such as Young Men’s Hebrew Association (YMHA) or the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), the new Y logo seemed a secular take focused on youth and families.

But now, the old logo and nomenclature are making a comeback. They will appear on new Westport facility on Allen Raymond Lane. In addition to the Adirondack-styled building, the YMCA logo also will reappear on all letterhead, email correspondence, annual reports, press releases, etc.

The reason for the return? The Chicago-based YMCA of the USA found problems with the new brand.

“They did a study, and less than 20 percent of the people realized that we were actually a service organization that was charitable and nonprofit,” said Scott Smith, spokesman for the Westport Y, er, Westport Weston YMCA. “So the Y USA has asked all Ys to be consistent with their roots.”

That was five years ago.

“We were in the midst of our capital campaign to fund and construct our new Y, so decided to wait until the new facility was open to follow through on the mandated request from Y-USA to be more consistent in referring to ourselves as a YMCA,” said Smith. “So what you’re seeing now is that effort to follow Y-USA branding guidelines.

“You can still call us the Y, but we’re officially the YMCA, proudly so, and part of a worldwide YMCA movement helping every community that we serve,” he added.

WestportNow.com Image
Westport/Weston families—the Gaults on the left side, the Mitchells in the center, and the Taucks to the right—unveiled the new Westport Weston Family Y name in April 2005. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

As a community service organization, the Y has an extensive financial aid program, offering camp scholarships, Smith said.

Started in England in 1840s and arriving in Boston a decade later, the YMCA burgeoned through the idea of giving young men from farms “a more wholesome place to stay” when they arrived in cities, Smith said.

“We’ve always been a “YMCA,” Smith said. “In fact, upon our founding in 1923 we were known as the ‘Bedford YMCA.’ “

That name eventually evolved to the Westport YMCA, and when the organization reached out to Weston in the 1970s, “our official name was changed the “Young Men’s Christian Association of Westport Weston Inc.”

“In the 1990s, along with any number of Ys around the country, we adopted the word ‘Family’ to emphasize our local nonprofit, charitable organization’s role in serving families and functioning as a community center,” Smith said.

“Over the years, many Ys got very creative in their use of the Y name,” he added. “About five years ago, the Y of the USA – the national organization that represents the Ys that operate in some 10,000 communities around the country—began a process for all these Ys to become more consistent in the use of the official YMCA name.”

Smith said the costs for logo changes would be minimal. He said he would start with his own letterhead, which in today’s email read, “Scott Smith, Communications Director, Westport Weston Family Y.”

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