lisa-christianThe Y’s new executive director, Lisa Christian, outside her Middletown office. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)


It was anything but a smooth, low-stress transition for Lisa Christian when she stepped into her role as the Community YMCA‘s president and CEO in June.

“It’s been interesting,” Christian said. “I started the job and went into two litigation discussions (with Red Bank). That’s a very unusual component in a new job.”

Now that those two lawsuits the Y filed against Red Bank — one over the zoning board’s rejection of a proposed expansion, and another over the sale of the previously borough-owned building at 51 Monmouth Street — are poised to end amicably, Christian can focus her efforts where she wants: the community the Y serves.

“I think our donors and our supporters, and even the people who aren’t very close to us, are very happy that The Y is not going to be spending time in court, but doing what we’re supposed to be doing,” Christian said.

On tap for Christian and her staff is an expansion of its Maple Avenue facility and a hard-hitting campaign to attract new members, which got started last Friday.

That’s when The Y launched a new program offering special free memberships to all K-8 Red Bank students.

With the Healthy Kids Membership, students will get scheduled use of the Y’s gym and pools, supervised recreation and regular events for their families, said Andrea Plaza, vice president of family health & fitness. The initiative, good until August 21, will be paid for through private donations.

The membership includes use of the youth gym between 5 and 6:30p on Mondays, and the entire family will be able to use the family gym from 4 to 6p on Saturdays. The Y will also hold family swim nights from 7 to 8:45p Fridays. New activities will be added throughout the year, Christian said.

The idea is to expose the Y to a new pool of children and families, but to also offer more for those the Y already serves.

“We’re getting kids for one-time events or short programs, but we’d like there to be regulars — make it a lifestyle,” Christian said. “We serve 45 percent of the kids, but that doesn’t mean they’re going in and out of the Y, which is what we’d like.”

There’s more coming.

In February, The Y will roll out a new sliding fee scale membership program to tap into a pool of potential members who may otherwise be too strapped financially to cover a membership. It’s yet to be finalized, but the new scale will adjust the rates for households with an income of less than $48,000 a year. Individuals and families will fall into set income brackets, with individual rates ranging from $25 to $69 a month, and family rates between $40 and $92 a month.

Christian said the new sliding scale is designed for families on a fixed income, or, for example, a college graduate who could use a little help.

“We’re just trying to make our services more accessible,” she said.

Speaking of more access, that’s on the horizon, too.

Earlier this month, the zoning board approved a scaled-back, revised expansion of the Maple Avenue facility, which will include a new pool and wellness center. With that approval, the Y can resume its fundraising efforts to cover the estimated $10 million for the addition. While that ramps up, Christian said the Y will prep the facility by knocking down walls and undertaking various interior renovations.

“We’re doing what you’d call kind of a lead-in to the expansion,” she said.

The construction timetable will be determined by the fundraising, Christian said. Once it starts, the expansion will take between 12 and 15 months to complete.

By then, she hopes, there’ll be an abundance of new faces to see it.

“I think we’re recognized,” Christian said. “I don’t think people are beating down our doors right now. We want that.”

Christian, who now lives in Atlantic Highlands, says she “grew up in the Y,” and has worked for YMCAs for 30 years, having previously done stints in north Jersey and San Francisco. She came to the Community Y from Pittsburgh, where she was chief operating officer of a Y with 18 branches.