YMCA teen center opens

Jacques Gagnon invites the crowd on Saturday to come on in and check out the new teen center. His wife, Marfi, is behind him (right). — Photo by Ralph Stewart

Cross-currents of emotions swirled late Saturday afternoon at the official ribbon-cutting for the new Alexandra Gagnon Teen Center at the YMCA of Martha’s Vineyard. The thrill of completing last-minute work in time to show off the fabulous new space to the public was tempered by recollections of the girl it was named for, a 23-year-old who died way too young, but not before she’d left a lasting mark on all who knew her, growing up during summers in Vineyard Haven.

Nothing could tame the excitement of those who have longed and worked for decades to find a permanent home for a teen center, however. And what a home it is: roomy, light-filled, and full of modern equipment designed to foster fun and creativity.

In brief remarks before the ribbon was cut, Jacques Gagnon cited the indispensable contributions of Island contractors and tradespeople in getting the building over the hump. “If it hadn’t been for the extra effort of the workers and donations from the community, this place would be an empty shell,” he said.

Donated time and services ran up to approximately $250,000, one-fifth of the total cost of the new center. The balance came from the Alexandra Mary Martha Gagnan Foundation.

Upstairs, a large open space is centered around the entrance and the kitchen, perhaps the two most important spaces in most establishments. And then there’s the Base, a funky, fantastic lower level that’s part performance center, part sound studio, part hang-out spot, and all cool.

In time, most of the attendees found their way downstairs to check out the Base. Jill Robie, executive director of the Y, had special thanks for Comcast, which has donated dozens of computers, lighting, and digital sound equipment and sponsored Digital Connectors, which advances digital literacy. Other notable donors are the Beagary Charitable Trust and Crane Appliance.

Ms. Robie noted that the new facilities and programs at the teen center, which go way beyond the typical pool table and air hockey games, are unique to the YMCA of Martha’s Vineyard. In fact she said, the new teen center has become something of a model for other Ys around the country.

She then acknowledged Marc Baumhofer, a Y board member and head of the facilities committee, and Al Mark, project manager, for their tireless efforts to get the teen center ready for this “soft opening.” The center won’t actually be open teen activities until some time in January. Mr. Mark drew especially high praise from Tony Lombardi, the teen center’s director: “The success of this project is due in large part to Al Mark, the most honorable and responsible person I’ve ever worked with.”

Mr. Baumhofer, in turn, announced that special framed certificates of appreciation had been made for Islanders who had worked on the project.

If the pride and excitement and good will at Saturday’s opening are any indication, good things are in store for the new Alexandra Gagnon Teen Center and, more importantly, the young Islanders who frequent it.