A Plainview resident with roots in the community going back more than 20 years, Rick Lewis has been the CEO of the Mid-Island Y JCC for five years.
How have you seen the Plainview community change over the years?
During my time living in Plainview, I have experienced the cost of living here increase dramatically and I am proud that the Mid-Island Y JCC (MIYJCC) has been able to continue helping families during their times of financial need. I have also watched our community become more ethnically diverse and continue to make sure that people understand that the MIYJCC is open to everyone and everyone is welcome.
What do you love most about the Plainview community?
What I love about the Plainview community is the fact that the community comes together to help each other when someone or an entire family is in need. Whether it be the loss of a love one or a house fire, our community is quick to reach out and help when asked. We are also fortunate that we are located close to everything—shopping local is easy with great restaurants, great stores and all the services you could need. We are also lucky in that we have great schools, parks and walking and biking trails.
What is the JCC’s most important role in the community?
To improve the quality of life for everyone—starting with great child care, educational programs, tutoring for students, home visits for seniors, transportation, employment training, compassionate care for people with memory challenges, Parkinson’s, cancer and MS, incredible services for individuals with special needs and to feed families whose food budget doesn’t make it to the end of the month.
What kind of work goes into devising a curriculum at a community center that caters to so many different people?
The easy part is spending time listening and hearing what people think and need to make their lives better. The most challenging part is maximizing funding opportunities, finding new donors and getting our community to understand that a commitment to the MIYJCC of $100 per month (the cost of one family dinner out) for four years is almost $5,000, which is a meaningful commitment and will allow us to continue to do many things for the community. The lucky part is that all of this is possible because we have an amazing, supportive, dedicated and creative staff that together make it all happen.
Is there anything about the JCC that people might be surprised to learn?
• When you pay your membership to the MIYJCC you are not only getting a great fitness facility, but helping to support the entire community including your neighbors, your friends and your family with important social services, scholarships, a facility that is shared and open for community use and great people that are here for you in your time of need.
• The MIYJCC almost closed in 2010-11 because membership was declining and the organization couldn’t meet the payroll. Thankfully, membership has increased 50 percent since November 2012 and programs continue to grow.
• The MIYJCC has committed to replacing a portion of the fitness equipment every year with a complete turnover of the cardio equipment every three years.
• The MIYJCC attracts people from as far as the Queens and eastern Long Island to take advantage of our programs.
• We operate a Food Pantry that provides food for more than 100 families per month including your neighbors and friends.
• The MIYJCC would not be here if it wasn’t for generous finding from UJA-Federation of NY, many foundations and generous people like yourselves.
Why should people check out what the JCC has to offer?
Because I believe it is a pretty safe bet that we have something that would be an interest to you or something that your family could benefit from. We have programs and services for everyone as well as meaningful volunteer experiences that are as valuable to you as they are to our members.
What is the most satisfying part of your job?
Wherever I go, when people learn where I work, I very often hear incredible stories about their experiences at the MIYJCC. They were former campers, went to nursery school here, we took care of their parents, their best friend works here, etc. At a recent Chamber of Commerce meeting, when people were introducing themselves, one gentleman said he loved the MIYJCC, another member said her son participates in our Special Needs programming and finally another said that his dad passed away recently having been very well taken care of by the MIYJCC staff for the last few years and who visited him in the hospital before he passed away. Priceless.
What is the one cause that you are most passionate about?
As much as it is hard to pick one, I learned early on that when people have family members that are not able to take care of themselves, it affects the entire family. Whether they are suffering from an illness, memory loss, have special needs or a mental illness, the stress, the financial concerns and the lack of sleep on the part of the caregiver only makes everything worse. We try hard to do what we can to listen, provide respite and offer assistance whenever possible.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
If you want your business to succeed, avoid “business as usual.”