Hockomock Y Turned 50 in 2022, Looks to the Future


The year just passed marked a major landmark for the Hockomock YMCA – fifty years since its inception, years marked by consistent growth and expanding programs.

The Hockomock is actually the second YMCA story for two towns. The first Y in Franklin got started in 1911 and eventually had its own building behind the current post office. North Attleboro got a start about 15 years later, acquiring the Grand Army of the Republic Hall. Due to the Depression, Franklin’s Y sold its building to the Masons and operated sporadically from borrowed or rented facilities for the following decades

A host of factors including changing demographics and growing suburbanization challenged the region’s YMCAs in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Indeed, both communities were growing rapidly – North Attleboro by 50 percent in just one decade. Perhaps there was a renewed need for the Y?

North Attleboro still had its own building but it had a chronic flooding problem in the basement and wasn’t up to modern needs. So, discussions began. Perhaps the time was right to build? But funds were tight. So, perhaps joining forces with Franklin, which still had some funds held aside, could make it more feasible for both Ys to move forward?

The Franklin and Attleboro YMCAs did, in fact, merge together in 1972, combining their existing funds to build a new Y first in Attleboro (completed in 1975 and then coming together a few years later to build a new Y in Franklin. In addition to agreeing to regionalize, the founders sought to create a ‘family Y’ – that would serve the needs of the community from early childhood to “gold years.”

Groundbreaking in Franklin was in 1988 but the new facility was still relatively small compared to the needs of a booming town. Further investment was needed, so another capital campaign was launched immediately. The result was a major renovation in North Attleborough in 2000 and an expansion on Forge Hill in 2004 –which is the current Franklin facility.

A Happy Partnership

The joint administration of Hockomock oversees membership and staff across both facilities and a region that includes 15 communities. We are one “business” and four locations said Jim Downs, Hockomock CEO and President. The organization also pays dues to YMCA USA. “The national organization  does a lot of advocacy work for the Y at a national level and helps local Ys, especially the smaller ones, with human resources and marketing."

“And we have an alliance of 28 Ys here in Massachusetts,” Downs Adds.

Some of the key people on the board that brought the Ys together have passed away but some are still on board, said Downs. For example, one member, Steve Clapp, has been on the board for 30 years and was also part of the original group that brought Franklin and Attleboro together.

Mary’s Journey

Mary Clermont, a Franklin resident who serves on the Hockomock Board of Directors, describes her years of moving from member to volunteer involvement...

“I moved to the Franklin area back in 1993. I really had no ties to the community other than that it was a place with good schools. And, it was a good place to buy a house.

“I joined the Y when my son was a year-and-a-half. So, the first visit was when he was four and learning T-ball. At the time, the Y was just a tiny house.

"My boss, [At Putnam Investments] Ed Whalen, suggested I volunteer and I instantly saw what this committed group of leaders were all about. It was remarkable to get on the other side and see how they were impacting the community.

“At Putnam Investments, we had about 1000 people in the community and whenever we had a need we couldn’t fill as an employer, we would call the Y and ask if they could help. They would offer a scholarship or whatever was needed. The impact for people who didn’t have the ability to pay blew me away.

“We had a lot of blue collar at the site but it wasn’t just them. Sitting in HR, I could see the need was broad and, no matter the need; from putting someone on the giving tree to providing daycare, the Y was there. That was 1995, and that’s when I got a call to help on the capital campaign. I knew we needed more of a facility but I didn’t know anything about running a capital campaign,” she admitted

Even after the successful capital campaign, Mary stayed involved – and was involved when Covid came.

Above, volunteer Mary Clermont helping with Covid food distribution.

“When Covid hit, the world stopped and people needed food. We weren’t really the place for that but we pivoted and met the community where it was. It was so heartwarming to see people helped, with no questions asked. When people came to pick up groceries, if you saw a car seat you might ask them if they needed diapers, too,” she said.

And it wasn’t just food.

“Staff members put on masks and took care of kids, especially children of first responders. They were there for the people who had to be on the frontlines. No one blinked an eye,” said Clermont.

More that Swim Lessons

For Downs, those Covid adaptations speak to the nature of the Y. “Everybody knows we have swim lessons and camp and more. But there is so much more beyond those mission programs,” he said. "People often don’t know we have a large special needs program and special Olympics teams in every sport and even a glee club,” he added.

Scott Martin, Executive Director, of the Franklin Y, added, “When companies come to us or need us -- it could be unplanned job loss, divorce, or a medical diagnosis -- we can come in and provide support and a sense of normalcy.”

The Hockomock Area YMCA is a not-for-profit charitable community service organization of men, women, and children of all ages, ethnic origins, religious affiliations, and socioeconomic levels united in a common effort to positively influence the quality of life of its members, families, and communities. Based on the foundation of Judeo-Christian values, our programs and activities emphasize the development of the whole person in spirit, mind, and body and are available to all individuals regardless of their ability to pay.

I'm interested
I disagree with this
This is unverified