Bricks and mortar are a large part of the overall appearance of a building - and often the most expensive component as well - but what goes on within those walls is what really matters.
The YMCA has been a part of Kingsport history for years. As early as 1919, Kingsport recognized the need for a YMCA. A $150,000 facility was built downtown and, in 1983, Kingsport received its charter to have an official YMCA. In 1994, Charles Glass was hired as the Y’s CEO and Executive Director. Since the YMCA office was housed in a small building on Shelby Street, there was no room for classes. The staff and board of directors developed partnerships in the community through which they established after school programs and summer day camps. But more needed to be done.
Over the years, the programs and camps have grown: YMCA after school programs are now in 11 schools, Y day camps and teen programs are at two summer sites, and special events are held at the Y and in various community outlets throughout the year. The Y currently serves more than 3,800 people - 50 percent of whom are children and youth - bringing together people of all backgrounds and incomes, through Y memberships and programs.
The YMCA is a leading international nonprofit committed to strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Deeply rooted in community, the YMCA believes that lasting personal and social change can only come about when we all work together to invest in our children, our health and our neighbors.
The early programs and camps could only serve so many people. What next? Who was working to develop a blueprint for a healthier community? Were the programs and classes accessible to everyone? In 2005, the YMCA moved to a larger facility in order to address some of those questions. Wellness classes were still offered, but more importantly, a healthy lifestyle culture was being promoted. Y member Karen Lovelace is just one of the many members who have embraced that culture and have truly changed their lives for the better.
"In November of 2011, I decided to participate in the YMCA’s ’Dashing All the Weigh’ holiday challenge. We earned points individually for workouts from Thanksgiving to New Year’s and weighed in the first week of January 2012. This began a journey of health for me that I am continuing today," Karen explained. "For the first time in my life, exercise became a part of my day just as much as brushing my teeth. I lost 65 pounds and gained a whole new outlook on life, health and wellness. I love the group fitness classes at the YMCA, as well as using the MobileFit system as my own ‘personal trainer.’ I look forward to seeing the staff/instructors at the Y since they always have a motivating thought for me.
"My daughter loves all the activities for kids and is always excited about going to the Y. She has learned fun ways to incorporate fitness and health into her daily routine as well," Karen added. "The staff and membersarethe YMCA. There is such a warm, inviting and encouraging spirit there that I can’t imagine my life without it."
The new YMCA Wellmont Center, scheduled to open in May 2013, is close to 40,000 square feet and will offer a wide variety of health and wellness activities. There are amazing play spaces for kids, beautiful wellness rooms, and all Y members will have full access to the Kingsport Aquatics Center’s indoor and outdoor aquatics' facilities as a year-round membership benefit.
But the Y, officials are quick to point out, offers more than programs and services - and is more than the equipment and spaces a building can hold. The Y creates a positive impact on the people of this community for a brighter future of all who are involved. And to make a healthier lifestyle even easier in 2013, the Y is offering a $0 joining fee!
For more information, stop by the Greater Kingsport Family YMCA, call 423-247-9622 or visit www.ymcakpt.org.