The YMCA says, “Thank You”
By Chris Booth
In October 1958, a group of Kernersville citizens met at the Community House to discuss the need for recreational facilities. In the months that ensued, surveys were sent out and meetings were held to plan the next steps. By the spring of 1959, the YMCA was ready to accept its first charter members.
Even though the YMCA would not have permanent program facilities early on, that did not deter Ray Mathis, the very first director of the Y. Mathis utilized a 54-passenger school bus to pick up children for activities such as swim lessons at Piney Grove Lake. Newspaper clippings from the spring of 1959 also highlight a softball league that consisted of 6 teams. The Y utilized high school gyms and other places in the community to begin helping all people reach their God given potential in Spirit, Mind, and Body. Eventually Ray Mathis had an office in the basement of Main Street Baptist Church and later over the Men’s Shop.
As the YMCA grew in number and impact, the dream of permanent facilities became more of a reality. Fundraising efforts ensued which culminated with the purchase of the current property which is located at 1113 West Mountain Street. A groundbreaking ceremony took place on January 20, 1972 and in just over a year’s time, the YMCA was ready to open with a pool, a gym, locker rooms, and fitness rooms. An estimated crowd of nearly 3,000 showed up on February 18, 1973, to dedicate the building.
Now, as the YMCA reflects on 50 years at the current location, there is a sincere gratitude for all the men and women who laid the foundation for what the Y is today. Even though the YMCA does employ some staff, it has always been considered a volunteer driven organization. While brick and mortar are vehicles for delivering services; the members, the volunteers, program participants, and the staff are the heartbeat of the YMCA.
Today, the Kernersville Family YMCA sits on 23 acres of land and occupies over 73,000 square feet of building space. It boasts a membership of almost 8,000 and hosts several community events each year. It has 4 total pools, 2 of which are outside and available Memorial Day through Labor Day each year. The Community Pool, geared for indoor lap swimming, was built in 2000 in conjunction with the Town of Kernersville. The Y is also blessed to have a gym with an elevated walking track. The gym now also boasts 3 pickleball courts, as well as space for basketball and volleyball. Recent upgrades were made to the old North Gym to create two new spaces. A state of the art functional training center is on one side and on the other, a group exercise studio for classes and other group fitness programs.
The Y continues the long history of supporting children through signature programs like Safety Around Water and Bright Beginnings. Teens can access the Y at reduced or even no cost through the Reaching our Potential initiative. The list of programs offered for people of all ages is extensive and all are funded through the Annual Impact Fund. The YMCA raises these funds annually so that no one would ever be turned away for the inability to pay. Scholarship and financial assistance impacts 1 out of every 3 participants in YMCA membership and programming.
As the YMCA honors the past and celebrates the current impact, it also is reaching out to those who would help them invest in the future. The board of advisors are taking necessary steps in 2023 to chart the course for future programs, services, and even a campus utilization plan. They are reaching out to the community for input. If you are interested in assisting their efforts, please contact Executive Director Chris Booth at 336-245-7213 or email@example.com.
The celebration that is planned for February 18 will be a big THANK YOU to the community for 50 years of love and support. The Y has also launched a Facebook event page that will welcome current and past members, staff and program participants to share their memories. For more information, check out the Y’s website at www.kernersvilleymca.org or their social media pages.