By DAVE FAGERSTROM
Did you see the exciting coverage in the newspaper about the new YMCA groundbreaking? Yes, the new Williamsport Branch YMCA construction has begun and the new facility will be open in about a year.
To get to this point, the YMCA organization has received great support over the last three years from the community. Companies, families, and other organizations have made major donations, solicited by Y-volunteers. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the tremendous gifts from the Cimini family and the First Community Foundation Partnership of Pennsylvania. We also wouldn't be where we are today without the support of Susquehanna Health, in regards to the new location. A few months ago the Y was fortunate to secure $2,200,000 in new market tax credits. So the YMCA Project has come a long way towards our goal.
If you didn't know any better, you might think that it is "mission accomplished" for the YMCA Project. But the truth is we are far from it. The Y has raised about 70% of the project cost. This is sufficient for the volunteer board of directors to take a leap of faith, giving the project the green light for construction to begin. However, the Y still needs an additional $2,7000,000 to complete the overall project.
So, what will the result to the new Y be if the rest of the funds are not raised?
First and foremost, the end result would be that the new YMCA would be saddled with a mortgage. A mortgage would greatly curb the YMCA organization's service to the community for decades to come. Think of it this way... would you rather see the YMCA spend money paying a mortgage or using that same money to offer programs and services? If more donations are not secured, this mortgage amount could well exceed $15,000 each month. While the YMCA would be able to service that amount, everyone agrees that using that same money for teaching children how to swim, helping seniors stay independent, helping families build strong bonds, etc. is a far better use.
Second, about $600,000 of the remaining amount needed is for equipment that we will have to purchase for the new Y. Can you imagine a childcare center with no outdoor playground? Can you imagine a new wellness center with outdated fitness equipment? The new Y will also need a security system, a telephone system, basketball goals, cleaning equipment, etc. Everyone agrees that opening a brand new YMCA facility using existing old outdated equipment would be a real shame.
So, that leads to the question that I have for the leaders in our community: What kind of YMCA do you want? Does our community need a YMCA organization free from debt that can serve adults and families in a superior fashion? Does our community need a new YMCA with state-of-the-art fitness equipment? Do you want a good YMCA that would make people happy? Or do you want a great Y that would be considered one of the best in Northcentral Pennsylvania? I think that a great Y is what we all want. I think a great Y is what this community needs. We need help to bring about a great Y.
Everyone knows that there is a group of individuals and businesses in the area that can either make or break these types of projects. With their support, our new YMCA will get done 100 percent. I am asking for those people/businesses/entities to understand our need. If we can gain their support, we'll accomplish our goal to create the kind of Y that our community really needs, and the kind of Y that I think we all want.
Fagerstrom is executive director of the River Valley Regional YMCA.