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YMCA success story: Doing the right thing

While the daily news is filled with contentious situations where opponents simply can’t stop fighting — I’m thinking of the ferocious and endless Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the tribal dissension in Afghanistan, and the Democrat-Republican gridlock in the Indiana General Assembly — it is refreshing to be able to report stories involving local people of various backgrounds who work hard together to reach common goals. Here in Harrison County, the story is the rapid and amazing progress of the YMCA of Harrison County.
It all started only a couple of years ago when Catherine Turcotte, Tuula Van Gaasbeek and some other mothers were sitting at a swimming pool, wishing they could keep summer programs going all year-round. They started wondering, “What if … ? ”
Now, less than two years later, they are in the midst of an impressive $5 million project. When it’s built, it will enhance the physical, emotional and spiritual lives of everyone in the county who wants to take advantage of it. (No one, regardless of their financial situation, will be denied membership in the Harrison County YMCA.)
The latest installment of the YMCA enterprise is on our front page: The story reveals plans for “Keller Fields,” a 44-acre recreational complex adjacent to the 15-acre YMCA site in north Corydon. In signing a 35-year lease with the YMCA and Friends of Harrison County Youth, Keller president and CEO Steve Robertson said, “It was the right thing to do.”
This most recent announcement is the last in a series of good news stories. The Y got off to a fast start after a couple of visioning sessions. The group, originally known as SOS (a tribute to the first grassroots swimming pool campaign three decades ago), raised $300,000 in less than 12 weeks. (That must surely be some kind of record.) The money came from everywhere, not just a few wealthy patrons. That kind of widespread support is another characteristic of this energetic, community effort.
Last year Dennis and Kathy Jenkins, who own Arc Weld in Corydon, announced that they were giving 15 acres of land behind their business to the YMCA. That turned out to be another serendipitous event, because the Jenkins property is next to the 44-acre Keller property, where kids have been playing soccer for years.
The Keller offer makes the Y location just about perfect: close to town, on a major road, with friendly neighbors, in a scenic area with Big Indian Creek nearby, and room for growth.
In March, the Y asked the Harrison County Community Foundation for $2 million for their building campaign so the Y could open and start the many programs it has in mind without a mountain of debt. The Foundation will make $1 million available as soon as the Y breaks ground, and another $1 million in the years 2003 and 2004.
In early April, the Y board of directors “kicked off” an ambitious capital campaign to raise a total of $5.5 million. With the help of the Foundation pledge, they have already raised $2.6 million. To break ground, Turcotte said, they need to have $4.4 million pledged. The Y board has also applied for grant money from other foundations that seem impressed with what has happened here. Now is a good time to consider making a pledge to the Y, when donations will be matched by the local Foundation up to $1 million. The pledges can be paid over the next three years.
Recently, the Y folks got together with Robertson, soccer parents and Friends of Harrison County Youth (who run the softball and baseball programs at Rice Island Playground in Corydon). It was time to put everything together. Combined with the Harrison County Ministerial Association softball league and the proposed Indian Creek Trail, this will be a magnificent recreational complex. The YMCA will have a large building with a six-lane Olympic-size swimming pool, two gyms for basketball and volleyball, warm water therapy pool, indoor walking and jogging track, a fitness center with cardiovascular and weight equipment, and a “drop-in” child-care room. Outside at Keller Fields, there will be many soccer fields and baseball and softball diamonds.
The amazing, rapid-fire success of this excellent family- and community-based organization shows what can happen when a group has a strong vision, reaches out to everyone, works hard, and is willing to cooperate and compromise.

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