In recent months, the Charlottesville City Council has vigorously debated whether to spend the money it would take to renovate two area swimming pools, one of which the Piedmont Area YMCA uses, or contribute resources to build a new YMCA within the city. The Council eventually agreed to explore the latter course.
With no existing facility (no gym or pool of their own), the Y is forced to host many of their activities like basketball and swimming at various locations throughout the area, operating like an “invisible giant,” says Shelly Remaly, the group’s development director, “because we touch a lot of people but we’re so spread out.”
YMCA’s current presence is limited to this day care center off Route 29N, but Shelly Remaly, the group’s development director, says that when the new YMCA gets built we’re going to wonder how we got along without it.
If a physical structure can be said to represent the Y’s presence in Charlottesville then it is the local chapter’s headquarters on Westfield Road, off Route 29N. Not only does the staff call it home, but it is also the center for the Y’s Child Care program that runs year round.
There, on the west side of the building, a few small classrooms host the program’s 45 children, most of whom have left by the time I arrive. Down the hall is the recreation room where a handful of kids run around in a circle, pursued by a couple of volunteers from UVA’s Madison House. It is the first day of gymnastics class.
“It usually takes the kids a little while to warm up to it,” explains Youth Sports Program Director Jessica Packer, even though everyone seems to already be enjoying themselves.
Barely a mile away from the rec room and its tumbling children, the Park’s Edge After School Program—a partnership between the Y and the Albemarle Housing Improvement Program—is bustling at the public housing development of the same name. There in the Park’s Edge Community Center, another group of children assemble every weekday afternoon from 2:30pm to 5:30pm to finish their homework and otherwise occupy themselves. In one room, small kids color with crayons while in another computers are worked over by older kids.
“Each Y needs to be what its community needs it to be,” says Remaly. While she effuses over the Y’s current impact, she is clearly excited over the possibility of a new facility. “This YMCA will be a center for the community,” she says, referring to the proposed structure. “People don’t often get to know each other outside their own neighborhood, school or church, and it would really bring that all together. People are going to open the doors and say, ‘Wow, how did we ever get along without it?’”
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