ELKINS - For more than a century, the Elkins-Randolph County YMCA has served as a cornerstone in central West Virginia.
The Davis Avenue facility long has been a gathering place for men, women and families alike, ever since its official opening in 1908.
One of the biggest draws at the YMCA has been its swimming pool.
Photos courtesy of the Elkins-Randolph County YMCA
The first YMCA pool was funded by Col. Richard Chaffey. The cost was $10,000 in 1906.
Col. Richard Chaffey was responsible for the construction of the first pool - a 15-foot by 50-foot swimming bath - that cost $10,000 in 1906.
That facility remained in operation until a new pool was constructed, adjacent to the old pool, with more modern amenities in 1958.
Fast forward 55 years to April 2013, when YMCA officials discovered serious structural deficiencies in the facility's roof.
After more than half a century of use, beams supporting the roof had decayed and bent to a point where it was time to close the facility and investigate alternatives.
"The beams were bent and the joints were badly rusted," said YMCA Executive Director Sid Gillespie. "We contacted an engineer and found out we could not really do a patch job because of the corrosion. We found this when we removed the (drop) ceiling."
"We're not sure if any of this was caused by the heavy snow and high winds from the storm, or if it was just the chlorine and moisture from all the years of use," Gillespie added.
After studying the situation, obtaining bids and having an open meeting in August, YMCA officials are opting to do a full renovation of the swimming pool area.
Altogether, the project will cost about a half-million dollars, but will include major upgrades to not only the pool area, but the boys and girls locker rooms.
"When completed, there will be a new deck around the pool and a new gutter system," Joe Biola said.
"It will have the appearance of an entirely new pool, similar to the one at D&E," Gillespie added.
The biggest renovation, though, will be the roof. The old covering will be completely removed, and a new steel structure will be added, one that will fit exactly back into place where the old structure rested. To help fight corrosion, the new beams will be coated, extending their lifespan.
"The pool is used by all ages, from kids learning to swim to senior citizens doing exercises," Gillespie said. "This is very important to the community."
"If you grew up in Elkins, you learned how to swim at the Y," Biola added.
Fundraising for the project will begin Jan. 1, 2014, after the United Way fundraising
YMCA officials will have a head start when it comes to monies, though, as the organization's board of directors already has earmarked a large chunk of funds for the project. A second large donation will be provided by an unnamed
Much still will be needed from the public, however, to complete the project. Gillespie plans on speaking to several civic organizations at the beginning of the year, including the Rotary Club. Pledges will be accepted either as one-time gifts
or as scheduled, long-term
"Every little bit will help," said Sue Gillespie. "From large donations to $10 and $20 donations. It's a large project."
Fiscally, the YMCA is on solid ground, with no external debt. This is particularly impressive in that several other improvements have been made in recent months.
Work was completed on the YMCA's sprinkler and fire alarm system, bringing them 100-percent up-to-code. Other cosmetic repairs and improvements also have been made, including the recent installation of new lighted exit signs.
"This really is a great place," Gillespie said. "We offer so much here. Membership includes all the classes we offer. That's unusual, because most places charge extra for those offerings."
"We had 26 or 27 classes that we offered this fall," Gillespie added. "We incorporate all that into the main membership fees."
The Elkins-Randolph County YMCA not only serves the needs of those seeking to be more physically fit, the facility also helps many others to develop their minds, too.
The Literacy Volunteers have space in the facility, as does Catholic Charities for their Youth Build Food Program.
In fact, until 1970, the county library was located in the YMCA.
"So many people have helped the YMCA to become what it is today," Gillespie said. "Jim Jackson from Elkins Fordland has been a tremendous help with the annual Drive for Fitness fundraiser. Over the course of the events we have raised more than $200,000. All this money goes straight back into the YMCA for improvements."
One upcoming event that will benefit the YMCA is the Phillip Phillips concert scheduled for Nov. 8 at Davis & Elkins College's Harper-McNeeley Auditorium. Tickets are on sale at the YMCA.
For more information on the Elkins-Randolph County YMCA, visit www.elkinsymca.org.
- Contact Matthew Burdette at 304-636-2121, ext. 120 or via email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at IMT_Burdette.