Y breathes new life into facility, health programs

Published 6:10 pm Tuesday, January 6, 2015


YMCA Fitness Director Kathy Bell teaches YMCA member Ed Mitchell how to use one of the new treadmills at the Y. — Powell Cobb

Despite a widely circulated fear several years ago that it was about to shut its doors, the Bainbridge-Decatur County YMCA is still here, and indications are that it is as strong as ever.

A few years ago, the Y was indeed in dire shape. With the general economy in a downslide, employment in the area in decline, and increased competition, revenues were not sufficient to sustain the Y, and the organization was running on fumes.

But times have changed.

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“I’d say the Y is definitely in the best shape it’s been in in the last five years,” Scott Ewing, president of the Board and executive vice-president at First Port City Bank said. “Through the board, and the staff, and the community–everyone pulling together–I feel like we’ve got the Y heading in the right direction. I think we’ll end 2014 in the black which hasn’t happened in a while.”

By refining programming, working to balance the budget, and increasing participation by actually expanding some programs, the Y has mostly resolved the fiscal crisis and set the organization on a firm path, Ewing said.

“It took a lot of people, valued donors and partnerships to recognize where the issues were and try to address them, and reconnect with the community,” he said, “and slowly but surely turn things around.”  Ewing also noted that membership and programs are sufficient to sustain income for daily expenses, and the Y is working to make improvements and advancements in what they offer.

It is the expanded programs that have helped breathe some life, and income, into the organization said Crystal Hines, Acting Executive Director of the Y.

“We have new collaborations,” Hines said. “The school board and hospital for instance, are relying on us as a partner to get some things done. So the day-to-day budget is more manageable because they are spending smarter. We’ve tripled the number of programs that we offer. For instance, we have over 125 fitness classes in a month.

There are twice as many kids playing soccer as there were in 2011. There are twice as many people sitting on spin bikes. It’s math. We increased what we were offering. We gave families a reason to use their membership.”

Looking to start the year off right, the Board recently approved a new roof for the facility as well as new heating and air conditioner systems. Both have been completed, and the buildings just underwent a deep cleaning by the staff and volunteers.

But there is another physical improvement members will notice more readily. The entire fleet of cardio machines has just been replaced with state-of-the-art equipment, which is an important part of the Y experience for many members.

However, the Y is much more than a gym, Hines said.

“There’s so much more that goes on that has nothing to do with elevating your heart rate,” she said. “There’s no other place in town where a mother can come and enjoy a spin class or a Zumba class and know that her 6-month-old baby is safely being watched in another room in the same building. We’re unique in what we do.”

As a non-profit, Christian organization that serves the community, the Y will always be striving to maintain or grow services while balancing the budget, Ewing said.

The organization is currently accepting applications for a new CEO and the Board is optimistic that a new leader can take them to even better places.

“The financial struggles are behind us for the most part,” Ewing said. “The programs have grown over the last two years. Program numbers are close to triple what they were. All the trends are up year over year.”

Story by Dr. David L. Pollock