PARKERSBURG – The Parkersburg YMCA has served the community for over 120 years.
The Parkersburg YMCA is celebrating the 120th anniversary of its current charter.
“The YMCA, born of an ecumenical movement, has served Parkersburg, Wood County and the Mid-Ohio Valley for 120 years”, said Jeff Olson, president and CEO of the YMCA of Parkersburg, W.Va. “It is a privilege to be part of a mission to promote Christian principles for all and an international movement that is the YMCA.”
Olson said they continue to be honored to be part of the local community.
“Our service to the community is what we are called to do”, he said. “We thank the community for all their support and look forward to our future.
“As a catalyst, collaborator and organizer of positive change, the YMCA will continue to serve individuals, families and communities in the Mid-Ohio Valley and West Virginia.”
There were a few charters before the current one, but they didn’t last as long with the first of those coming into existence in 1867, a few years after the Civil War. The Parkersburg YMCA was the first YMCA in West Virginia and the first with an indoor swimming pool when it was originally located where the present Parkersburg Catholic Elementary is located.
Although there have been changes to the mission, the focus has remained on helping people in the community.
“It’s been 120 years with this charter, but I think the last two years have been the most important for us in terms of straightening out our finances, developing new programs and changing how the Y works, becoming less of a fitness center and becoming more of a community center,” said Solomia Wilson, Director of Marketing and Communications.
Each YMCA is locally run and meets the needs of its individual community, she said.
Program director Criss Welshans said they are continually looking for new ways to serve the community.
“Our history and our legacy in the community as we have served this community for 120 years under this charter and as far back as 1867”, she says. “We strive to keep up with the needs of the community and the changing needs of the valley.”
The needs have changed over the years as the needs of the community have changed.
When the area was closed due to COVID, their doors remained open for their childcare services, especially for emergency first responders, she said.
“We had staff here every day,” said Welsh.
Wilson said they also made updates to their building on 30th Street, which was originally built in the 1960s. They recently did a pool renovation (new liner for $120,000, plumbing and more) to their indoor pool. They set up a new $133,000 playground to benefit their child care programs which was completed last spring.
They recently launched the Rock Steady Boxing program which can benefit people with Parkinson’s disease. The Y hosts monthly Parkinson Support Group meetings.
The Parkersburg YMCA offers a middle school archery program for children ages 10-14, a pickleball tournament, youth basketball clinics, tae kwon do, one-on-one swimming lessons, and group, a side-by-side gym class for homeschooled and alternative learning students, after-school programming offered at 11 locations, tutoring, college volleyball league, 3-on-3 basketball tournaments, personal training , group fitness classes and more.
They are trying to raise funds to renovate their locker rooms which are still the original lockers. They are in the midst of a fundraising campaign to raise $1 million to fund the work, Welshans said.
There are plans to establish a center for teenagers in the future.
“We’re trying to make the Y a fun place to hang out again,” said Welsh.
They seek to build partnerships across the community with other organizations to provide needed services, including organizing their first Red Cross blood drive, assisting with food drives, working with the Salvation Army Angel Tree program, staff will help build a home for Habitat for Humanity and more.
The Y is continually looking for ways to offset its costs so that there are more funds for programming and scholarships for after-school programs and swimming lessons.
Wilson said the Parkersburg YMCA has had its ups and downs, including a period about five years ago when they struggled to turn around.
The YMCA has a legacy in this community and in many communities, as they have continually been able to adapt to changing times, Welshans said.
“How many companies do you know that have been around for 120 years?” she asked. “The community needed us then and they still need us today.
“We are finding ways to reinvent ourselves to be here for another 120 years serving our community. Things are different now because the needs are different.
During the pandemic he was helping deliver meals to homebound seniors, they were calling their elderly customers to see how they were doing or if they needed anything and doing what they could as the Y had to find some new ways to serve during these times when things have stopped.
These days have also re-prioritized for them in how they provide needed services in the community, Wilson said.
“We are always here to serve” she says.
Brett Dunlap can be reached at [email protected]