ELKINS - Many who grew up in and around the Elkins area all learned to swim at the same place - the Elkins-Randolph County YMCA.
Unfortunately, the facility's pool was closed in April because of damage from Hurricane Sandy and years of water erosion.
The swimming facility has been sorely missed by young and old alike, and on Tuesday evening, YMCA board members and staff met with the community to detail proposed renovations and asked for donations to help these updates come to fruition.
The Inter-Mountain photo by Beth Christian Broschart
Former Elkins-Randolph County YMCA Board President Marjorie Moses enlists the help of concerned YMCA and community members Tuesday, asking for help and support to renovate the pool. Moses used The Inter-Mountain to illustrate the many people who learned to swim at the facility, including several local athletes who participated in last week’s West Virginia State High School Swim Meet.
Elkins-Randolph County YMCA Executive Director Sid Gillispie talks to a crowd of more than 25 people at the organization’s pool.
YMCA Board Member Cindy Sandeno said they conducted a survey last year, and 96 percent of those responding said they consider the YMCA pool important or very important for the community.
Sandeno said she was not sold on the need for the pool at first.
"I don't use a pool," Sandeno said. "But when I learned more about those who use the YMCA pool and the benefits, I could not deny the need to get it reopened."
Sandeno said there are a staggering amount of kids who have learned to swim at the pool, and she learned about the benefits of the senior exercise and water aerobics programs in the warm water.
"This is the only place around that offers this for kids and seniors," Sandeno said. "The YMCA is a really great place for everyone, especially kids and seniors."
Elkins resident Roxanne Knicely attended Tuesday's meeting. She said the pool is an important asset for the community.
"Both of my daughters learned to swim at the Y," Knicely said. "They were both on the swim team and both were lifeguards at the Y. I think we need this pool."
Knicely said she learned to swim at the YMCA as well.
Sue Gillispie said that generations of children have come to the YMCA and many of them learned to swim there.
"The Elkins YMCA is a cornerstone of the community," Sue Gillispie said. "Our pool is great for kids and seniors because it is warm, which helps with movement, and not too deep for beginning swimmers. On a daily basis, 20 to 30 kids come to swim in the pool. It is handy because it is in walking distance for many folks."
Elkins YMCA Executive Director Sid Gillispie said Tuesday's gathering was the last public meeting regarding the pool renovations.
"Our goal is $500,000, which will be used to update the girls and boys locker rooms, replace the pool lining, install a gutter system around the pool and replace the roof structure with epoxy coated steel beams," Sid Gillispie said. "The YMCA Board of Directors will look at where we are and decide when the project will begin during their March meeting."
Past YMCA Board President Marjorie Moses said swimming is an important part of a well-rounded fitness plan.
"The YMCA pool is unique," Moses said. "It is the perfect depth and temperature and is good for water aerobics, children's swimming lessons, those with sports injuries and those with arthritis."
Moses said in terms of community wellness, the pool contributes to disease prevention and health enhancement.
"The YMCA pool is a real asset," Moses said. "And when kids are swimming, they are not out making poor social and health decisions."
Sandeno told those in attendance at Tuesday's meeting that the YMCA pool also addresses three community needs.
"The pool can help with youth obesity," Sandeno said. "In West Virginia, youth obesity is a big concern. The YMCA is a safe place where kids can swim and exercise."
Sandeno said that learning to swim is a life-saving skill, and that the area needs the YMCA pool because it provides a place for year-round swimming activities.
"Also, the YMCA is a great place for families to come together and spend time together swimming," Sandeno said.
YMCA Board President Joe Biola said he felt it is important for the children and grandchildren in the area to have the same opportunities as past generations.
"Everyone needs to have the opportunity to learn to swim," Biola said. "The board has made a commitment for the renovation. We are grateful for everyone's support. We especially want to thank Ryan Legg for his mondo pledge."
Pledges to date toward the project are $200,000, leaving a $300,000 balance.
"We feel very good about the response from the community," Moses said. "Donations do not have to be a large amount - every donation helps us get closer to our goal."
Moses said many opportunities exist for donations, including monthly bank drafts or multi-year pledges.
For additional information about the YMCA or to make a donation for the pool renovation, contact the Elkins-Randolph County YMCA by calling 304-636-4515, or online at www.elkinsymca.org or on Facebook.