It was 1999 when Toby Tyler and Pete Lancaster reached out to Ann Purcell to pitch the idea of a YMCA branch in Effingham County. Thursday morning, in front of that branch, they helped cut the ribbon for Ann Purcell Connector, linking Pete Lancaster Lane and Toby Tyler Way.
The first conversation about an Effingham Y took place at Rincon Elementary School, after the Exchange Club of Effingham County dedicated the Freedom Shrine there.
“We all had been talking about it,” Purcell said. “They asked me at the Exchange Club Freedom Shrine dedication at Rincon Elementary — we need a YMCA. We got a room and we sat down and we started thinking about how do we go about doing this.
“It was because of these two gentlemen and the discussion over the Freedom Shrine at Rincon Elementary school that started the real drive of the YMCA of Effingham County.”
From there, the YMCA first found a home at the United Way Service Center in Rincon. It wasn’t long before the Y outgrew its confines and a larger space was needed. The YMCA board received a gift of 20 acres for the purpose of a new Y building.
“That’s when we thought we need to get that campaign going,” Purcell said. “They told us how much money we needed to get. This community came together.”
But the building, now nine years old, wasn’t enough.
Do you think the three of us were satisfied with that building? No,” Purcell declared. “You know what else we needed? A “swimming pool. What’s a Y without a pool? We were told we didn’t have enough money. You don’t tell the three of us we don’t have enough money. We went back out on the campaign funding trail and we were successful.”
Even with the pool, the Y still needed to do something about the patch of grass between the back door and the pool. Instead of swimmers tracking in dirt and grass into the pool, it was decided to take out the grass and put in concrete. That area is now the very popular splash pad.
“We had to go back and say we needed a little bit more money and we were able to get the grass removed,” Purcell said.
Joe Tallent, a member of the Effingham Y’s board of managers, praised the continuing work of the trio.
“They love their community,” he said. “It’s been wonderful working with them and getting to know them.”
The Effingham Y is home to a multitude of activities for youth and adults, from afterschool programs to LiveStrong to the Christian Leadership Academy.
“People from this community joined together to build the Y we had in 1999 and now we have this beautiful facility,” said YMCA of Coastal Georgia district vice president Krystal McGee. “They realized the community needed the programs and services the YMCA provided, such as our day camp. Hundreds of kids are here every day. They are having fun, they are creating great friendships, they are learning character development, they are learning leadership skills.”
With the LiveStrong program, cancer survivors embark on an effort to regain physical and psychological strength. There is also a community splash program to help people get over their fear of the water, McGee said.
There is room for expansion at the Y for outdoor activities.