Balloons and a lunch spread of salad and sandwiches sat beneath the suspension training equipment at the YMCA East Hampton RECenter on Friday as part of a farewell send-off for retiring executive director Juan Castro.
The relatively young Y was built on Gingerbread Lane in 1998, and Mr. Castro was its director for nearly a decade. He celebrated his final day on the job on Friday.
A party highlight was when Harvey Horowitz, chairman of the Y’s board of directors, unveiled a scholarship in Mr. Castro’s name. The award is to help children of need participate in the Y’s activities, such as its large day camp program. Mr. Horowitz presented a certificate to a smiling Mr. Castro as supporters clapped and videotaped the moment.
With a gold medal around his neck, Mr. Castro mingled with staff and well-wishers, many of whom wore stretchy workout clothes fresh from their most recent exercise. At one point, a woman happily hooked arms with him and around they went in a little jig.
“At the end of the day, I’m 64 years old,” the Sag Harbor resident said, adding that his cumulative Y experience stretches back to the 1980s in Brooklyn. “You’ve got to make room for young people. Young people need to be able to move up.”
Dressed in a black polo shirt sporting the national Y logo on the breast, jeans and a pair of black and yellow sneakers, the outgoing director—seated in front of a window overlooking a climbing wall outdoors—said he was most proud of nearly doubling the Y’s budget from about $1.2 million to $2.2 million during his tenure, reducing the subsidy from the town by $100,000 and partnering with local school districts, including its summer camps.
The Y employs as many as 100 people part-time and full-time in the summer, he said. Of those, about 38 are under age 20, making the Y a big contributor to youth employment, he said. Most of its lifeguards are 17, 18 or 19 years old.
During his tenure, the age-group swim team, the Hurricanes, has also grown and, in the process, strengthened East Hampton High School’s boys’ and girls’ teams, he said. The Y has teamed up with the East Hampton, Sag Harbor and Springs school districts to teach swimming, and its staff has even traveled to the saltwater pool at Gurney’s Inn Resort and Spa in Montauk to teach young students there.
Mr. Castro himself has shied away from using the pool in recent years following rotator cuff issues, but still uses the ellipticals and other machines at the Y about three or four days a week for about two hours a day, he said.
Now, Mr. Castro says he will split his time between the East End and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where he and his wife, Kathy, have had a house built. A search is underway for his successor.
“I’ll be sorry to see him leave,” said Y member Gloria Primm Brown of Sag Harbor. “I think he pushed really hard to have a first-rate Y, and, to the extent that it’s politically possible, I think he did a good job.”
Mr. Castro, meanwhile, said the Y was like family to him—and that it plays a key role.
“The importance of the Y is that we have a diversified program of services that’s flexible enough and responsive enough to meet community needs. There are YMCAs that are basically single-home hotels, affordable housing,” he said. “What drives what we do is service gaps, identified community needs. It’s kind of hard to pigeon-hole what the Y does, because we do so many different things, but the strength of the Y is that we adapt, we respond to those service gaps.”