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Council Should Support New YMCA Building

If you take a quick stroll outside the YMCA, you’ll see its cornerstone dated 1929. This wasn’t the beginning of the Jamestown YMCA, which has roots as far back as 1858, but it was the last time the community rallied together to build a completely new structure to serve as a more suitable base for the Y’s mission. The YMCA’s ongoing community impact was what inspired those supporters to build this new facility despite the challenges they no doubt encountered. It was in June of 1926 that an ambitious capital campaign effort was begun to set a path forward for the YMCA mission to prosper and evolve in ways beyond even what they could have foreseen at the time.

Now, nearly 100 years later, the Jamestown YMCA’s mission is alive and thriving as is evident from just a broad view of 2022 impact statistics like:

¯ 60,000+ meals served to kids,

¯ 250+ children provided with afterschool/childcare,

¯ ,1073 students from local schools received water safety instruction,

¯ 1,480 Senior members (60+) have access to countless ways to stay active including group exercise (64 classes), sports, fitness equipment, and High Blood Pressure prevention programming.

¯ Income Based Pricing for Membership at the Jamestown YMCA makes Y facilities accessible to all and benefits about 1/3 of our membership base.

You can also see the mission in action when you look closely to see the stories:

¯ A teen expelled from school for poor decisions was able to get on track and prepared for re-enrollment in high school thanks to the impact of the Teen Center staff.

¯ A 6th grader was falling behind academically and beginning to think she was just “bad” at school until she enrolled in Power Scholars Academy (a free summer learning day camp). Here she received morning time instruction from certified teachers and afternoon enrichment like swim lessons, singing class, and field trips. She made great memories, rediscovered her ability to grow in reading and math, and had classroom teachers remark on how prepared, she was to start 7th grade.

¯ A current member recently described feeling relief from more severe MS symptoms which he credits to daily swimming and exercise at the Y.

¯ Another member has found community at the Y after his wife passed away and reports that the heart palpitations he had experienced before joining have disappeared since beginning to regularly exercise.

These impacts and stories don’t even capture the “tip of the iceberg” on how the Y is tangibly impacting our community right now. Like an iceberg, the Y’s impact stretches below the surface of what can be seen in the present, stretching into decades of stories beyond even the memories of today’s longest-standing Y members. Some of you reading this right now have your own Y story to tell, and I’d love to hear it.

While the mission of the Y is thriving in our community, the physical building that serves as the base for this local mission needs to be replaced. High maintenance costs create obstacles to program consistency and undercut financial resources. Structural challenges impede YMCA buildings and programs from being easily accessed – especially by those with mobility impairments. Now is the time for our community to make sure that Jamestown residents continue to have a suitable structure for the YMCA to continue living out the mission.

Plans for a new YMCA facility may feel ambitious, but what other investment could our community make that would provide such a broad range of resources to such a broad range of people? The YMCA brings together people: old/young, multiple ethnicities, richer/poorer, white collar/blue collar. In fact, I suspect if every local resident were to examine their own lives, it wouldn’t take long to find at least one way that they themselves, a relative, coworker, or someone else they care for has been impacted by the work of the YMCA.

Our leaders and volunteers have just begun the process of seeking funds just as they did 96 years ago. A new facility will almost certainly take both public and private funds to be built. It is time for our community to come together to support not only the present work of the Y but to prepare for the future and all the amazing ways the Y will continue to evolve to meet our community’s needs in the future. The Jamestown City Council should unapologetically use unprecedented federal funds to support this endeavor. How often does a cornerstone community project come along that has the proven potential to continue making a tangible impact for more than 100 years after the initial investment? The new YMCA facility is one of those projects. Every member of the City Council should proudly support this project and be among the first wave rallying together to support an endeavor that will have a lasting impact benefitting Jamestown residents for generations to come.

John Barber is vice president of operations for the Jamestown YMCA.

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