Dodge YMCA hosts rollicking birthday bash


The Dodge YMCA celebrated 17 years of operation in Downtown Brooklyn on May 19, honoring supporters, board members and staff who persevered through the COVID-19 pandemic, which hit the Y hard over the past two years.

The gala brought in funds to help send Brooklyn kids to summer camp, Dodge Y Executive Director Jamel Davis said.

“One of the most important missions of the Y as an organization is that we promise to never turn people away because of their inability to pay. So anybody who walks through our door, regardless of their income status, the Y is there for them,” Davis said.

The get-together was all the sweeter after the restrictions of COVID-19, Davis said. The branch lost almost half its members at the height of the pandemic, and in-person fundraisers weren’t possible.

Roughly 150 guests attended the event held at the Green Building, a former brass foundry in Gowanus. Food trucks from Kinky Taco and the Red Hook Lobster Pound served up tacos and lobster rolls in the courtyard.

“We need more opportunities to come together and celebrate our connections, accomplishments and achievements, and this is certainly worthy of that great celebration,” said Sharon Greenberger, CEO of the YMCA of Greater New York.

“The Dodge community has grown stronger over time; our work together has grown stronger over time; the board of managers have grown stronger; and I just want to say thank you for strengthening that sense of community,” Greenberger added.

Dodge Y Board President Barbara Lowe could not make the party because there was a chance she had caught COVID, said Board Member Kim Soule, who read Lowe’s prepared re- marks in her stead.

“Though we have lost half of our members and half of our income to COVID, we have persevered, and I think that we are on the rise thanks to everybody’s support and belief,” she said. “It proves that what really matters is our connections to one another … Your money and support from this party is going to [fund] summer camp, so there’s going to be a lot of really happy kids!”

Lowe’s remarks praised Executive Director Davis, “who brings out the best in everyone.”

Guests were treated to entertainment provided by fourth- and fifth-grade students who are enrolled in the Y’s afterschool Afro- dance program at P.S. 11. Dressed in glorious golden costumes, their precision footwork brought enthusiastic applause.

“We provide the after- school program inside of the school so they don’t have to leave the school,” said program director LaToya Charles. “We have ages from kindergarten through fifth grade and serve about 160 kids every year.”

Guest speaker Tristan Lee Edwards, a 15-year-old sophomore who attends Specialized High School of the Arts, said he participates in the Dodge Y’s Saturday Night Lights program.

“Joining the Y gave me the opportunity to get together with my friends and make other new friends,” he said. “My basketball has improved tremendously since going to Saturday Night Lights.”

City Councilmember Lincoln Restler (District 33) said he grew up in the area. “If the Y had been there when I was a kid, I would have been there every night. We are so fortunate to have a YMCA in our community, serving the neighborhood.”

Restler added, “The Gowanus Houses [NYCHA housing project] is about three blocks away from here. It’s over 1,100 units of housing and we haven’t had a functioning community center there in over twenty years … The Y has been a lifeline for families in Gowanus and for families at Wyckoff Gardens.”

2022 Awards

The event honored Diane-Jean-Jacques, business manager of the Dodge Y; Kilvio Vargas, property director of the Dodge Y, Tim Ingrassia and the Ingrassia

family, long-time supporters; and the Dodge Foundation, which provided significant funding which allowed the Dodge Y to open its Atlantic Avenue location.

Diane Jean-Jacques: Business manager Diane Jean-Jacques started her career at the Dodge YMCA in January 2005 as a fund development associate, and was later promoted to business manager. “She’s very hard-working, very supportive, helpful and understanding, and she does not play when it comes to making sure all aspects of our business are running the right way,” Davis said. Jean-Jacques received the 2022 Commitment Award.

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