LYNN — The new Lynn YMCA building on Neptune Boulevard will be named for Lynn businessman Thomas Demakes and his family.
The new 70,000 square-foot facility, which is adjacent to the current Y building, will open in the spring of 2021. And when it does, it’ll be called the Demakes Family YMCA, in recognition of the family’s “legacy of giving back and lifetime of philanthropy.”
Demakes is the CEO of Old Neighborhood Foods on Waterhill Street, Lynn. He and his family spearheaded the capital campaign for the new building, raising more than $12 million in capital donations from dozens of contributors. The YMCA secured new market tax credits and other financial instruments that made the completion of the $25 million project possible.
“We looked at the idea of building the new YMCA in another location, but ultimately we decided that we wanted it and needed it to be right where it is,” Demakes said. “This new building is going to be something special and will be a feather in the cap of our city.
“People who see the construction happening have no idea how incredible this building will be. Once they see it and use it, they are going to be thrilled and so proud to have one of the most advanced YMCAs in the Commonwealth, and probably the country, right on their back doorstep.”
Demakes grew up in Lynn on Franklin Street, about a half-mile from the old YMCA building on Market Street, where he was a member. After serving in Vietnam, he came home in 1967 to see construction of the current building. Now, he said, he is excited to see the next generation of families in Lynn benefit from a new, state-of-the-art facility.
The Demakes Family has dedicated much of its philanthropic portfolio to benefit children in Lynn, with support for early-childhood education and after-school programs that give youth and teens safe and supportive spaces to learn and grow, according to a statement from the YMCA of Metro North. The new Lynn YMCA will continue to partner with other organizations in the Lynn Education District area to enhance its programs and services for children and families.
“Our family has a particular focus on supporting programs that enhance good outcomes for our children,” said Demakes. “That said, the YMCA is impressive in the way it reaches every age group and gives seniors, adults, and kids a place to go where they can gather with others and feel part of their community.
“The YMCA is a strong organization. They have a sound business model and financial plan which gives us confidence that the organization is well-positioned to make a long-term impact on children and families. Our family has been an advocate of the Lynn YMCA since we were little kids. It has always represented the core values that help form young children,” said Andrew Demakes, who is a board member of the YMCA of Metro North.
“Being involved as an adult has only further confirmed how much of a positive impact the YMCA has on local kids in the Lynn area. We feel very fortunate to be associated with such a great organization and hope that this new facility can be used and enjoyed by all people who live in this community,” he said.
In addition to its aquatics center, gymnasium and fitness areas, amenities at the new Lynn YMCA will include a healthy kitchen and café, a wellness and health screening center, a technology center, and four new preschool classrooms for its Y Academy education and child care center. The existing building will be renovated into a dedicated youth and teen center creating a YMCA “campus” on Neptune Boulevard.
“This opening could not come at a better time,” said Kathleen Walsh, president and CEO of the YMCA of Metro North. “This past year the pandemic has exacerbated the inequities in our cities: food insecurity, a digital divide, economic instability, and poor health outcomes.
“This new YMCA will be a full-service community center and a key player in creating solutions that enhance educational, employment, and wellness opportunities as we recover from the pandemic and look to a better future,” Walsh said. “I cannot begin to express my gratitude to the Demakes Family, our donors, and the City of Lynn. This YMCA will be transformational and we would never have done this without the encouragement of all our supporters along the way.”
The Lynn YMCA has secured partnerships with other organizations like Lynn Community Health Center to operate its health clinic and Lynn Vocational Technical School and Northeast ARC, who will staff its healthy café and technology center through their Cooperative Education program.
“We’re creating 200 new jobs that will contribute to the economic revitalization of the city,” said Andrea Baez, senior branch executive at the Lynn YMCA. “We project to see 25,000 visitors each year making the Y a downtown destination and anchor for other area shops, restaurants, and service providers.
“We’ll also be expanding our Y Academy early education and out-of-school time programs for youth and teens to serve hundreds of additional children and families. This will include an expanded food and nutrition program and more scholarships and financial assistance so more people can access YMCA services.”
The YMCA has a month-long plan to open its facility gradually and bring more spaces online as restrictions from the pandemic lift.
“I want to invite everyone to come for a visit. You will be amazed at how much is here to enjoy,” Demakes said. “I was never truly happy with how the current facility was built in 1965. This is our chance to redo the Y in a first-class manner and shake off the old perceptions about what the Y is and does in Lynn. This is a modern, state-of-the-art facility built to welcome everyone as our city grows and develops for years to come.”