The YMCA of Metropolitan Little Rock may be a shadow of its former self, but that doesn’t mean the Y has disappeared all across the state.
Two YMCAs in particular are expanding.
Jenny Holweger is the CEO of the Tri-State Family YMCA, a group of three Ys that operate in Rogers, Neosho, Mo., and Grove, Okla.
The Rogers branch recently opened a 44,000-SF facility, Holweger said, boasting two racquetball courts, a fitness studio and a cardio and stress training area, with more planned down the line.
"We’ve got a real strong partnership with Mercy Hospital," Holweger said. "Without them this wouldn’t be possible. I think that was a big part of the facility opening."
A Y’s success depends on the leadership of its board and executives, Holweger said, as well as its relationships with people.
"The Y has survived since 1844," Holweger said. "Part of that is being able to adapt to the community, really finding out what people’s needs are and trying to fill gaps that aren’t there. You try not to duplicate programs that are out there. You foster something different."
Another Y enjoying prosperity is in Warren in Bradley County. CEO Randall Herring said the Warren Y had been around since 1918. Warren is a town with few fitness options – the nearest gym is in Monticello, Herring said – so the Y has often served as a community anchor.
A big break came in 2006 when a Donald W. Reynolds Foundation grant provided funds to refurbish the town’s old Y building, upgrading it to include youth sports facilities, two adult fitness centers, cardio resistance training equipment and free weights.
The Y has its own pool and swim team, Herring said, and the team has grown from 18 members to more than 60 in the last three years, with some members last year qualifying for the Junior Olympics.
"That was really quite an accomplishment for us, and we’re hoping it grows more," Herring said.
Herring said the Y’s philosophy was what makes it important.
"I always try to emphasize this," he said. "The YMCA is at its heart a Christian organization, and I think that’s the thing that sets it apart from other recreational organizations. We try to live that here to the best of our ability. It’s been here for a long, long time, it’s had a tremendous impact on the community and there are high expectations from the community on what we do here."