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Letter: Williamstown Youth Center Essential Community Component
Letter to the Editor,
02:30PM / Wednesday, January 11, 2023
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To the Editor:

I am writing to thank Pat Meyers for prompting me to share the many reasons why $77,000 is a reasonable request for the Williamstown Youth Center to make to the town Finance Committee. In fact, this amount is a bargain considering the sheer volume and quality of the programs we provide for our town's families.

First, I should clarify the numbers. It is true that the dollar amount of our request has increased in the past eight years. I would point out, however, that in 2014 the average daily attendance in our After School Program was around 80-85 students. This year, it is 110 out of a total enrollment of 161. To put things in perspective, about two-fifths of the enrollment at the Williamstown Elementary School are in our building from 3:10-5:30 at least one day a week. When you account for inflation, the truth is that we are providing more services for less money than we were eight years ago.

Unfortunately, this is only one of many examples of how Meyers' letter is misleading.

They say "the Youth Center needs to raise its fees and go back to having fundraisers to help offset its expenses." They will be happy to hear that this year we raised our program fees by 10 percent across the board, while providing an option for families to pay more if they are able. As for fundraising events, in the 17 years I have been part of this organization, we have had our annual Snowfest/Springfest fundraiser, regularly sent out appeal letters, and hosted events sponsored by corporations and other organizations. In fact, as I write this we are working on not one but three fundraising events that will be held in the next six months. I confess that I'm not sure what it is they'd like us to "get back to." The reality is that funding is not an either-or proposition; to be financially responsible, the WYC needs to both fund raise on its own and ask the town and Community Chest for support.

It is also useful to remember that many if not most communities in Massachusetts and elsewhere have recreation committees that are part of town government and that are wholly funded by local taxes. Many also have after-school programs that are included in school committees' budgets. I invite anyone reading this to point me to a municipal department that can operate for less than $77,000 per year.

Finally, Meyers' letter does not mention that the WYC regularly provides space for town government and other community organizations to host public events free of charge.

Given the content of the letter I have focused on numbers in this response. But of course numbers are only part of the story.

There is no way to quantify the impact we have on people's lives. For a century, the Youth Center has been counted on to provide high-quality safe and stimulating programming for young people and their families. This was never more evident than the summer of 2020 and the 2020-2021 academic year, when the WYC opened its doors to accommodate the children of working families who were not able to keep a parent home all day. I am still regularly thanked by people who tell me that they would have had to quit their jobs if not for the Youth Center.

As a Williamstown taxpayer and parent, I am grateful to have a community organization that provides essential services for a fraction of what they would cost in other towns. As the executive director of the Williamstown Youth Center, every day I am grateful for the support our community provides.

I am proud that the WYC is an essential element in what makes Williamstown such an attractive place to raise a family.

Michael Williams,
Executive director of the
Williamstown Youth Center





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