Good Reason Y: Parkersburg YMCA marks 120 years as a community resource | News, Sports, Jobs
The YMCA of Parkersburg building is located on Eighth Street between Market and Juliana Streets. It was a four story building and housed West Virginia’s first indoor swimming pool from 1906 to 1961. (photo provided)
Groundbreaking for the current YMCA building on Broad Street in 1966. The Parkersburg YMCA has expanded its services over the years to include fitness, after-school programs, tutoring and more. (photo provided)
A photo of the original Board of Directors of the Parkersburg YMCA in 1902. (Photo provided)
This photo of Parkersburg’s modern YMCA shows the addition of the basketball gym, aerobics gym, indoor pool and new fitness center. The Parkersburg YMCA is celebrating its 120th anniversary under its current charter. (photo provided)
PARKERSBURG – The Parkersburg YMCA has served the community for over 120 years.
The Parkersburg YMCA is celebrating the 120th anniversary of its current charter.
“The YMCA, born out of an ecumenical movement, has served Parkersburg, Wood County and the Mid-Ohio Valley for 120 years,” said Jeff Olson, President and Chief Executive Officer of the YMCA of Parkersburg, W.Va. “It is a privilege to be part of a mission to promote Christian principles for all and an international movement that is the YMCA.”
Olson said they remain honored to be part of the local community.
“Our service to the community is what we are called to do” he said. “We thank the community for all their support and look forward to our future.
“As a catalyst, collaborator, and organizer of positive change, the YMCA will continue to serve individuals, families, and communities in the Mid-Ohio Valley and West Virginia.”
There were a few charters before the present one, but they didn’t last as long as the first was established in 1867, a few years after the Civil War. The Parkersburg YMCA was the first YMCA in West Virginia and the first with an indoor swimming pool when it was originally located where the current Parkersburg Catholic elementary school is located.
Although the mission has changed, the goal has remained to help the people in the community.
“It’s been 120 years since this charter, but I think the last two years have been the most impactful for us to turn our finances around, develop new programs and change the way the Y works, from becoming less of a fitness center and becoming more a community center” said Solomia Wilson, director of marketing and communications.
Each YMCA is operated at a local level and addresses the needs of each community, she said.
Program director Criss Welshans said they are constantly looking for new ways to serve the community.
“Our history and legacy in the community as we have served this community for the past 120 years under this charter and up to 1867,” She said. “We strive to keep up with the needs of the community and the changing needs of the valley.”
The needs have changed over the years as the needs of the community have changed.
When the area closed due to COVID, her doors stayed open for her childcare services, particularly first responders, she said.
“We had staff here every day,” said Welsh.
Wilson said they also made updates to their 30th Street building, which was originally constructed in the 1960s. They recently did a pool renovation ($120,000 new liner, plumbing and more) to their indoor pool. They built a new $133,000 playground to benefit their child care programs, which completed last spring.
They recently started the Rock Steady Boxing program, which can benefit people who have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The Y has Parkinson’s Support Group meetings every month.
The Parkersburg YMCA offers a middle school archery program for children ages 10-14, a pickleball tournament, youth basketball clinics, Tae Kwon Do, individual and group swimming lessons, gymnastics next door for homeschooled students, and after-school programs Offered at 11 locations, tutoring, middle school volleyball league, 3v3 basketball tournaments, personal training, group fitness classes and more.
They are trying to raise money to renovate their locker rooms, which are still the original lockers. They are in the midst of a capital campaign to raise $1 million to fund the work, Welshans said.
A youth center is planned for the future.
“We’re trying to make the Y a cool place to hang out again,” said Welsh.
They are considering building partnerships through the community with other organizations to provide needed services, including hosting their first Red Cross blood drive, helping with food donations, working with the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program, becoming staff in construction of a house help habitat for humanity and more.
The Y are constantly looking for ways to offset their costs so there are more program funds and scholarships for after-school programs and swim classes.
Wilson said the Parkersburg YMCA has had its ups and downs, including a time about five years ago when they had some difficulties that they managed to turn around.
The YMCA has a legacy in that and many communities as they have been able to continually adapt to changing times, Welshans said.
“How many companies do you know that have been around for 120 years?” She asked. “The community needed us then and they need us now.
“We are finding ways to reinvent ourselves to be here for another 120 years and serve our community. Things are different now because the needs are different.”
During the pandemic it helped deliver meals to seniors who were at home, they called their seniors to see how they were or if they needed anything and did what they could since the Y in these times had to find new ways to serve things were shutting down.
Those days have also reprioritized things for them, like delivering needed services in the community, Wilson said.
“We are consistently here to serve” She said.
Brett Dunlap can be reached at email@example.com
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