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Watauga YMCA Talks Moving Forward; Steering Committee Formation Meeting Set for Today

By Paul T. Choate


Jan. 10, 2013. The initiative to bring a YMCA to Watauga County is moving forward this week. According to Scott St. Clair, president of High Country Recreation, a YMCA steering committee formation meeting will take place this evening from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Watauga County Public Library.

“The first step going forward is to create a Steering Committee. Prospective members should be YMCA proponents within our community,” said St. Clair and Brian Lowe, executive director of the Hope Pregnancy Resource Center and Watauga YMCA advocate, in an email on Jan. 3. 

Back in October, High Country Recreation hosted a meeting at the Watauga Medical Center auditorium to discuss the possibility of bring a YMCA to Watauga. More than 50 people, including Boone town officials, turned out for the event.

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St. Clair opened the meeting saying its purpose was to give community members an overview of what it takes to bring a YMCA into a new location. When asked during the meeting what would be the next step, he said the main thing was to garner community interest going forward. 

During tonight’s meeting, Bob Conklin, Catawba Valley YMCA CEO, will be on hand to share information on the process involved in achieving the reality of a YMCA in Watauga County.

According to Conklin, the ideal YMCA for Watauga County would cost approximately $6 million to $7 million. The first $1 million would need to be raised by the community or from donors in order to cover operating expenses for the facility during the first three years after opening. During that time, the community would need to come up with the other $5 million to $6 million.

Conklin said about 60 percent of a YMCA’s expenses come from paying salaries, benefits and training. He stressed that once a Y is fully open and operational, it is very much member-funded. In Catawba Valley, membership is usually $40 per month per person or $60 per month for families. However, Conklin said they have a “very liberal financial aid policy” to help lower-income individuals be able to join.

Those interested in attending the meeting can register online by visiting events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/eventReg?llr=g9yl8xcab&oeidk=a07e6sbgyg03d6c4070

About the Y as it relates to Watauga

28 percent of YMCA membership – the largest percentage of membership – comes from the 30-54 age range. Given that Watauga County’s median age range is 29.9, this comes in on the lower end of whom they typically expect as members. Ages 18-29 only make up 15 percent of YMCA membership.

As far as the impact on the community regarding job creation, Conklin said a typical Y would create approximately 70 to 80 part-time (20 hours per week or less) positions along with about five full-time salaried positions and an executive director. He said the salaried positions would pay about $30,000 to $40,000 per year with the executive director making as much as double that.

Gretchen Piasecny, a private wellness coach from Blowing Rock and former employee of the Williams YMCA in Avery County, said during the meeting in October that she believed there was great need for a YMCA facility in Watauga, but added that community interest is a must. She said during her time with the Williams YMCA, things were sometimes difficult due to financial issues.

Piasecny also praised the Paul H. Broyhill Wellness Center in Boone for all they provide, but said the center “cannot provide what we need as a community.”