I suspect like many of you I first learned to swim at a YMCA. My parents were of moderate means and the “Y” offered swimming lessons to any and all free of charge. In addition, during 30 years of active military service I frequented the YMCA during port calls when I needed both a refresher for both my body and spirit.
It is no secret that we have a youth crisis in the Shenandoah Valley – substance abuse, un or underemployment, and many unable to escape the cycle of poverty which has gripped their family for generations. I see this first-hand where I volunteer at a local food pantry. It is not uncommon to see grandparents raising children because both of their parents are incarcerated or abandoned their children. This breaks my heart. It is time to break this cycle,and I believe that the establishment of a YMCA in Shenandoah County would be a step in the right direction to help alleviate some of the problems for young people, families, and the elderly.
There is a common misperception that the “Y” is only for men and youth — that is incorrect. The YMCA serves the needs of people of all ages, races, and income levels without discrimination. Guided by its core values of caring, honesty, respect and responsibility, the Y is dedicated to giving people the opportunity to reach their full potential with dignity. Individual programs for both the body and the mind are available and can be tailored for both young, old and all ages in between for the betterment of our friends and valley neighbors.
Today there is a group of local leaders in Shenandoah County who have formed a YMCA “task force.” They are working in concert with the YMCA Organization to establish not only YMCA programs but developing facilities to serve identified needs. Specifically, the Task Force will address the need for aquatics, facilities for youth sports such as basketball, and community meeting space while fulfilling the YMCA’s mission of advancing Christian principles.
Like all major projects this will take time to plan and require money through donations along with the support of private citizens. I anticipate in the coming months you will hear more about this valuable addition to the community, and I would ask for your support and feedback.
With your help a YMCA in Shenandoah County will not only thrive but perhaps break the cycle and alleviate some of the generational problems that have plagued the valley for generations. If anything, it is both a start and step in the right direction.
As Kevin Costner stated in the movie "Field of Dreams," “build a field and they will come.” Well, build a YMCA and they will also come — all it takes it that first step to walk before we run. As neighbors we can and should move forward to improve the quality of life in this valley and a YMCA is part of the solution.