At a time when most non-profits were doing some belt tightening due to the fiscal climate across the U.S., Executive Director of the East Boston YMCA Joey Cuzzi was expanding. If you asked Cuzzi why she would expand at a time when everyone else was downsizing she’d say there is a need and with that need there has to be more programs for East Boston families and youth.
Sadly, Cuzzi announced this week that she has officially retired from her post at the Y after a stellar tenure of eight and half years.
“I’ve always considered East Boston home, so it’s been a privilege to work alongside so many committed social, civic and business leaders who all share the same goal of improving the quality of life for everyone in our community,” said Cuzzi. “I’ve been blessed with a talented staff and a dedicated branch board who have worked together to ensure that Y programming stays relevant, engaging and affordable. I’m proud of what we have accomplished and I’m confident that future programming will continue to expand and improve in the areas of youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. My heartfelt thanks to everyone who has contributed to our mission and helped ensure our success.”
Under Cuzzi’s leadership, the Y’s Early Education and Care Center was one of the first to be accredited by the nationally recognized NAEYC and continues to be a model for the association to emulate in terms of curriculum, parent engagement and child preparedness for kindergarten.
“The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) managed by this branch has grown to 35 sites across the city of Boston, and is held up nationally for its success in feeding children under the age of 18 when school is out of session,” said Cuzzi. “This summer, we served over 150,000 meals—a combination of breakfast, lunch and snacks.”
The standard for Teen Programming and collaborations with Boston Public Schools was set here said Cuzzi.
“Our Credit Recovery Lab—a program conceptualized, funded and implemented by East Boston will soon to be emulated at other branches in the Y Association,” she said. “And we were the first to offer Safe Dating and Cyber Bullying Programs for teens, as well as free weekend programming for teens.”
With Cuzzi at the helm Eastie became the flag bearer for the Y’s annual Reach Out Fundraising Campaign.
“We were one of the smallest branches that raised money like those three times our size,” said Cuzzi. “And no other branch assembles 500 people at a breakfast and has claim to being the premier community event annually. Last summer, 40 East Boston children attended Y overnight camp thanks to the generosity of donors from our community.”
Recently Cuzzi and the Y opened the Teaching Kitchen which she admits was a personal passion of hers and program director Gail Klimas since the two first stepped foot into the Ashley Street building.
“The Test Kitchen is coming to life as a robust culinary nutrition/ education center for our community,” said Cuzzi. “This kitchen has endless programming possibilities. We will be starting a culinary training programming for teens at EBHS in October, in conjunction with EBHS and Boston-based “Future Chefs.” We raised $300,000 through private foundation and corporate support to make this a reality.”
The Y’s Health & Wellness Membership continues to grow with close to 3800 individuals.
“Joey Cuzzi will be sorely missed,” said City Councilor Sal LaMattina. “She has been a great asset to the neighborhood of East Boston bringing necessary and vital programs to the YMCA, particularly for our youth and elderly. She leaves this program on solid ground and I’m excited to continue its growth and success. I wish her luck in her new position.”
Rep. Carlo Basile added that, “Joey (Cuzzi) is a special person who brought energy, passion, commitment and expertise to the YMCA of East Boston. During her time with the organization, the Y has grown and flourished in our community. While we wish her the best of luck moving forward, we will certainly miss her presence and there’s no doubt she leaves big shoes to fill.”
“Joey Cuzzi has made immeasurable contributions to our community and her leadership will be sorely missed,” said Sen. Anthony Petruccelli about her departure.