In August 2017, our Berkeley Heights YMCA (BHY) staff, myself included, met with the Berkeley Heights Diversity Committee (BHDC) to see how we could partner up to celebrate diversity in our community. We were excited to meet with them because it would mean more opportunities for collaboration with local groups and bring the Y's culture of being welcoming and inclusive to more people. When we met, we first talked about past events that the committee had organized as well as the Y's mission in working with our neighbors to build bridges, serve all, and strengthen community. One of the events they previously held at the Berkeley Heights Public Library, which is now closed, was the Diwali festival.
Once we started talking about Diwali, our thinking caps sparked. We could hold the Diwali festival at the Y facility, where there was more room. Our Y marketing team could help with the marketing of the event to help expand our reach so that more people could attend and experience Diwali. Our staff and volunteers would be able to offer childrens crafts and decorations. We were really excited. Our Y volunteers and the Berkeley Heights Diversity Committee started planning immediately--BHDC set up the entertainment and brought in Bombay Bistro and Neelam Indian Cuisine to sell food, something that had not been done before, while the Y took care of the marketing, kids activities, decor and logistics.
During the event, it was so great to see all of the families attend--we had families from all different cultures come together at the Y. Local council men and women from the Berkeley Heights Township attended who had heard about it through social media and marketing buzz, members of the New Providence Diversity Committee also attended--the outpouring of support was unprecedented and encouraging that we were doing the right thing for our commuinty, with over 250 in attendance. The event was entertaining, inviting and educational. The dancers from the Sanchari School of Dance & AATMA Performing Arts were talented, amazing and beautiful. Many families were able to socialize and meet new friends during the event. So many people complimented the event and thanked me and my team for hosting and planning the event. It truly showed me and the Y that what we worked for was worth it and truly making a difference in the community. The event itself brought together so many different people, and I didn't see a single unhappy face.
We're already making plans for a Lunar New Year Festival in February 2018, which will also be brought to the community from our partnership with the Berkeley Heights Diversity Committee. The Lunar New Year Festival, which is popularly known as Chinese New Year, is also celebrated by a lot of other Asian countries like Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and more. The vastness in which the holiday is celebrated throughout Asia is a perfect way for the Y and the Diversity Committee and to bring all the diverse cultures in our communities together. We're planning on bringing in restaurants and providing activities, storytime and more to share the richness of Asian culture with our community. My team and I am really glad that I can be a part of such a great organization like the Y that is so inclusive of all, and that we can work with local groups like the BHDC that share those same values. Save the date because it's going to be awesome!
Berkeley Heights YMCA Executive Director
(P) (908) 464-8373
"The YMCA has been such a big part of my life. Over 14 years ago, my daughter started taking swimming lessons at the Summit Y through the Parent and Child Swim programs. From there, my children attended the child care & camp programs at both the Berkeley Heights YMCA and the Learning Circle YMCA. As a working parent, The Y has had such a positive impact on my family. I love coming to the Y to see all of the members, staff & children. The Y is my second home."
Phone: (908) 464-8373 ext. 2012