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Community involvement key to getting new YMCA
07.10 Y spray ground 2
The spray ground was a huge hit on Saturday as kids wore their swimsuits to the open house and tested out the new playground. - photo by Photo by Pat Donahue

Spray ground 2

Kids keep cool at the spray ground.

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Spray ground 1

Fun to be had at the spray ground.

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It’s taken a community effort for the Effingham YMCA, from fundraising drives to clearing the land near the new building for ball fields.

And that, according to YMCA leaders, is at the heart of the organization.

“Every community deserves a Y,” said YMCA of Coastal Georgia president and chief executive officer Randy Bugos.

“But not every one can have a Y.”

More than a decade ago, Effingham residents asked the Y of Coastal Georgia for their own branch. Initially, the Y rebuffed Effingham’s advances.

But the Y just doesn’t try to find a good corner spot to open, Bugos said.

“The Y doesn’t come into a community and do its market research,” he said. “The Y comes out when the community calls, and the community called for two or three years. We met and talked and surveyed and we weren’t ready.

“The community called and said we want this Y. We are ready. It’s the community that says we’ve got to have this Y. The YMCA belongs to the community.”

For some of the Effingham Y directors, finally brandishing the supersize scissors to cut the ribbon on the 32,000 square foot building was a long-awaited moment.

“It’s hard to describe,” said Effingham Y board chairman Pete Lancaster. “This is one of the greatest days of my life, and I’m going to be 78 years old on August 1. It’s just unbelievable what has come together here in Effingham County.”

Said YMCA of Coastal Georgia corporate board chairman Leo Beckmann: “Little can compare to being here today and seeing this beautiful new YMCA opening its doors for the citizens of Effingham County.”

Ground was broken on the project nearly two years ago, and Saturday’s grand opening for the grand building brought plenty of smiles from Y members and backers.

“I’ve been smiling all along,” said Ann Purcell, the steering committee chairwoman. “The smile began when Mr. Pete and Mr. Toby (Tyler) and I were told there would be a Y of our own. And involves this whole community.”

Bugos said the Effingham Y stretched its dollars further than any other Y branch in 20 years, thanks in no small part to the sweat equity from Y members and volunteers.

“It means the world to us,” he said of the new building. “For eight years, we’ve operated out of (a few thousand) square feet and without any ancillary facilities, no ball fields, none of that stuff. It makes all the difference. We can do so many, many more things and we can serve so many, many more people. So many more people are going to be exposed to the Y’s services. The volunteer help and support was just the icing on the cake. It’s given us so much more than what we would have had.”

Now that the new YMCA’s doors are open and people have seen the cardio room, the pool and the water play area, the gyms and the cycling rooms, YMCA staffers are hoping the community keeps giving by putting it to use.

“We’ve known for years that the Y is special,” Effingham Y executive director Kim Dennis said. “Now, people are starting to see what we can do for the community.”