Regina Raffa already misses her colleagues at the Bayside YMCA in Barrington, and she isn’t retiring until next Wednesday, Sept. 12.
But the very familiar face at the Bayside YMCA over the past 35 years seems ready for “the next phase of my life,” Raffa said.
“I will miss being around all the members and the staff,” she said. “But I’m looking forward to it. And I will always be a member – a ‘Y’ person.”
The Barrington native lives about a mile from the YMCA. So she certainly won’t be going far away from her “second home.”
“I’m very lucky to have stayed at the same YMCA for all these years,” she said. “All my stars were lined up. And they have stayed lined up for a while.”
Raffa describes the Bayside ‘Y’ as far more than a swimming pool and gymnasium.
“It’s a family,” she said. “You can come and meet your neighbors and make new friends. I was very happy to make numerous connections and introductions over the years.”
Raffa stepped down from a director’s post a few months ago when she decided to retire. She is the financial assistance director and membership navigator now. She has held the membership and operations directors’ positions.
“This has been absolutely fabulous,” Raffa said of her career with the YMCA. “I have loved every minute of it and every change and step. I have learned and experienced so much. It’s been a great, great time and in a town I grew up in.”
Raffa came to the YMCA as a part-time program secretary in 1977 when her children were 5 and 7.
“I was a stay-at-home mom,” she said, after earning a degree from the former Katherine Gibbs School in Providence.
Raffa answered a help-wanted ad and was hired by a woman who had hired her at the former Cherry & Webb store in Barrington when she was a teenager.
There were two people at the front desk and three directors at that time, and the building was a bit smaller.
“I learned who I was and what I am capable of,” she said.
The Bayside YMCA is expanding now, with the addition of a new common area and locker rooms and a new Aquatic Center.
“I didn’t want to retire until the ‘Y’ was renovated and the expansion was under way,” she said. “I just made it.”
Preparatory work on the expansion started a few months ago, and an excavator leveled the old swimming pool building last week.
“We have outgrown the building, and it’s old and tired,” she said.
Raffa said she has always been a “people person.” So, it's not surprising that one of the highlights of her career was “helping many people through some rough times. I think they became a bit better through the ‘Y’.”
Raffa’s actual introduction to the Bayside YMCA was “water babies” – a swimming program she enrolled her children in about three years before she took the YMCA position. They eventually swam through every swimming program the YMCA offers, she said.
Raffa lost her husband two years ago; he worked for a while as facilities director at Bayside. So her retirement plans remain up in the air.
She will definitely be spending more time with her four grandchildren in North Attleboro and Attleboro. She also plans to travel some.
“I will certainly come back as a member and take exercise classes,” Raffa said. “I’ll just be on the other side of the desk.”