Joint community center marks 15 years


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EDISON — Laura Staffin said not only did the Jewish Community Center of Middlesex County and the Edison YMCA give her a place to make new friends, but she said it helped her move on after the passing of her husband three years ago.

Staffin said before joining the Jewish Community Center (JCC) and Edison YMCA, she and her husband, Ken, were immersed with work and had little time to get involved in their community.

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“We had lived in [the] Colonia [section of Woodbridge Township] for 61 years and we were too busy in the adventures of our lives,” she said. “We had not met anybody and when we went out to eat, we didn’t know anybody.”

That all changed when Staffin walked in the doors of the JCC and Edison YMCA on Oak Tree Road.

“[My husband and I] had always passed by [the JCC] on our way home,” she said. “The parking lot was always lit up and I often wondered what was offered.”

Not long after Staffin became a member of the JCC and Edison YMCA, she discovered fitness classes that got her out of bed in the morning, knitting classes, cultural events and she has since met many warm and welcoming people.

“I see people that I know in the community and we wave to each other,” she said.

Staffin now is on the JCC board of directors for the 2017-18 year.

The Edison Community Campus that houses the JCC and Edison Y celebrated its 15 year anniversary on Dec. 14.

“It was early June 1998 when a first of its kind partnership began between the JCC and the Metuchen-Edison Y when officials announced they would combine services,” Dorothy Rubenstein, chief executive officer of the JCC, said.

The Community Campus is the first known collaboration of two sectarian-based organizations founded on different religious orientations, but who can work together for a common purpose.

Both agencies philosophically share the ideals of strength of mind, body, family and community. The collaboration enabled each organization to retain its own identity while sharing the belief of building strong community values.

The Community Campus facility features a state-of-the-art wellness center, a five lane swimming pool with locker rooms and a sauna, a gymnasium, an accredited preschool, a childcare center, meeting rooms and a multipurpose room for performances and lectures.

Membership is shared between the JCC and the YMCA. Since the Community Campus opened its doors in 2002, membership has grown to 8,000 active members and it has become a cornerstone of community life in the North Edison community.

Rose Cushing, executive director of the YMCA of Metuchen, Edison, Woodbridge and South Amboy, said she and Rubenstein are in the background of what has made the partnership so successful.

“It’s really about the staff that has set an example for our members,” she said.

Some $3 million was raised for the collaborative project. Money for the facility included a $500,000 special state legislative grant and a $50,000 grant from Middlesex County. Money was donated by a vast array of corporations, financial institutions, foundations, private individuals and businesses, including the more than 300 business owners in the Oak Tree Road area who make up the Indian Business Association.

Board Members and professional staff from both the YMCA and JCC organizations also supported the project financially.

In February 2013, the Edison Branch YMCA opened its new 6,000 square foot wellness area expansion to address the growing needs of the Community Campus membership for additional health and wellness programs and program space. The expansion enabled the YMCA to grow the selection of cardiovascular equipment available to members and provided space for the addition of adult locker rooms.

Leonard Carlucci, a local chiropractor, has been a member of the JCC and Edison Y for 14 years.

“My wife and I made the decision to join and we never looked back,” he said, adding that the comradery among the many diverse members of the JCC and Edison Y is unique.

He said the leadership of both the JCC and Edison Y has done an excellent job in making the campus a state-of the art facility.

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