JERSEY SHORE - The Jersey Shore YMCA has undergone many changes in its 100-year history to meet the needs of the community it serves. And last week the local Y celebrated another impressive milestone with the presentation of its new wellness center wing.
During the heavily attended ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday evening, the modern wellness center (which occupies the area of the former bowling alleys) was revealed to the public.
The open house began with eight speakers: Tammy Gunsallus, Barb Schmouder, Laura McMahon, Robert Shangraw, Burt Francis, Dave Fagerstrom, David Stone and Ken Scheesley. Refreshments followed with tours of the facility.
DEBI HADDAD/THE EXPRESS
Staff, board members and volunteers at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new wellness center wing of the Jersey Shore YMCA.
Schmouder, chairman of the J.S. Branch Y Board, recounted the project's initial stages to completion. After discovering capital campaign funds raised for building improvements years ago, Schmouder contacted donors for financial approval of the renovations they had in mind. Donors were excited about the prospect.
"Upon securing contractors from North Branch CH&E Inc, we were surprised that the given time frame for the project starting July 30 with a projected finish date of Nov. 7 2012." Schmouder continued. "Well here we are - Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012 and it is completed! It has been a year since we first started talking about doing something to update the Y and one year later we have done what we started out to do."
Executive Director Laura McMahon proudly proclaimed, "It's here and it's finished," adding that the Y was able to complete the project because of the generous contributions from donors, highlighting the four major donors in her speech.
"I would like to give a very special thank you to Jim and Betty Allen and Bob and Charlene Shangraw. With their gifts we are proudly naming the new area the 'Shangraw Wellness Center' in memory of John and Mabel Shangraw gifted by Robert and Charlene Shangraw, and James and Betty Shangraw Allen," McMahon said.
Robert Shangraw spoke of his family's longtime involvement with YMCA and while growing-up here it was "a safe place for him to go after school. My home away from home was this very room," he said.
He acknowledged past director, Louie Carpenter, as his "second father" and remembered how "he took good care of us... and I think that is what the Y is all about."
"I'm just happy that my sister, Betty, and I were able to do this," Shangraw continued. "Not only for this room, but also for our mom and dad."
Burt Francis of Jersey Shore shared his memories of the YMCA.
"This was a great place if you were a kid growing-up in Jersey Shores, starting from a kid until you graduated from school," he said.
Francis reminisced about his mother serving soda and ice cream many years ago at the soda fountain in the same room. And in 1951, he met a nice young lady bowler at that same soda fountain and 61 years later he and his wife are still living in the same house.
River Valley Regional YMCA President and CEO Dave Fagerstrom said, "The Y today isn't about a building, it's about the people that have been here in the past - all of you that are here now - and all the generations that are coming in the future."
Fagerstrom noted the county's obesity rate was at 30 percent and growing; however, this community is doing something about it.
"Our community has a long rich history of volunteers that have given their time, talent and treasure to help the YMCA stem the tide," Fagerstrom said.
"This community stepped-up and donated almost $400,000 to help the YMCA renovate this space the YMCA organization is committed to the long term well being of this community."
"We have a group of five YMCA's that all work together we support one another and we use each other's strength to make each other stronger," David Stone, chair of the River Valley YMCA board said.
"This really is a testament to us working together... and I want to congratulate all of you for making this happen."
Ken Scheesley, board member, closed the speech portion of the program by thanking local businesses, organizations and volunteers for all their help in constructing the new fitness, aerobics and weight rooms.
During a walking tour, board member DeeAnn Brown mentioned the former fitness room would now be used as the teen activity center previously known as the Brickhouse.
For more information about the new Shangraw Wellness Center or other programs, call the Jersey Shore Y at 398-2150 or visit: www.jerseyshorepaymca.org.