You have probably heard the buzz about the newest branch of the South Sound YMCA. The new Mason County Shelton YMCA was funded more rapidly than anticipated thanks to a capital campaign that brought out generosity in Mason County, Thurston County and regional donors alike.

“Shelton has long wanted a community center for kids and families,” explains Mary Gibbons, longtime board member and fundraising volunteer for South Sound YMCA. Mary and her husband Jim are a prime example of a family who lives in Thurston County but works in Mason County. They moved to Olympia in 1997 and opened Seattle Shellfish with operations based in Shelton.

Members of the Shelton community had been working toward the creation of a community center for decades. Around 2015, a confluence of energy on the part of a number of individuals, including Mary, started to come together around the idea of a YMCA. In 2016, Shelton passed an education bond for the first time in many years. “When the community invested in their education by passing the bond, it told our board that we needed to look at Shelton,” says Kyle Cronk, president and CEO of the South Sound YMCA. “Something good was happening there.”

“We see this project as the ultimate way to give back to the entire community, and it is especially meaningful to know it will have a lasting impact on the development and well-being of local children,” says Dr. Kyle Hackney of Hackney Family Dentistry in Shelton.  Photo courtesy: Hackney Family Dentistry

By 2017, dozens of Mason County community members from local government officials to business leaders and educators were starting a capital campaign to raise $13-16 million to fund the construction of the new YMCA facility. The Mason County community stepped up and generated over half of the final total dollar amount of the funds that were raised. The other half came from state grants, Thurston County businesses and residents, and the support of regional philanthropic organizations who amplified the campaign in their networks. Another critical component of the campaign’s success was the City of Shelton’s commitment to the project.

The rapid funding of the new YMCA demonstrates the special bond between Mason and Thurston counties. “So many families reside in Thurston and work in Shelton or reside in Shelton and work in Thurston that it’s really important for these services to be fluid,” Mary explains.

Dr. Kyle Hackney practices at Hackney Family Dentistry in Shelton, but lives with his family in Thurston County. He made a generous contribution to the capital campaign. “As a business owner in Shelton, I feel a deep responsibility to support Mason County,” Hackney says. “Having a YMCA in Shelton is not just another gym. It is a community center that will improve the quality of life for all our residents and make Shelton a more desirable place for young families looking to settle down. Our support for this project is an investment in Shelton that will last beyond our years.”

A surprising number of Thurston County construction businesses in addition to Mason County businesses stepped up with in-kind donations for the fabrication of the facility. Reliable Electric, Sunset Air, Forma Construction and SCJ Alliance are all Thurston County-based businesses who are contributing both dollars and labor to the construction of the new YMCA.

Community leaders gathered on November 5, 2019, for the groundbreaking ceremony at the new facility. “What I learned in this process is the huge impact of relationships,” says Mary Gibbons. “Mason county has never done this sort of thing. Tons of individuals stepped forward and said, ‘We are going to make this happen.’ They lit the fire and kept it going.” The facility is on track to open in the first quarter of 2021. Photo courtesy: South Sound YMCA

Prior to the start of the capital campaign, Mary and other community and YMCA leaders were forging partnerships with local organizations of all kinds. “You can’t go into a small community and think that you can succeed alone,” Kyle says. “It takes a whole bunch of entities to come together to make a strong community.” In the case of a new YMCA facility, it means physically coming together to leverage common space in a way that elevates the health and wellbeing of the entire community.

Mason General Hospital plans to rent the gym and aquatics center for rehabilitation programs. Peninsula Credit Union will offer financial literacy services. The Pacific Mountain Workforce Development Council may offer job coaching. Olympic College is considering any number of possible ways to integrate the facility into their programs. “When we talk about healthy living it’s not just about physical activity and what you eat,” Kyle says. “It’s really about the whole person and the whole family being taken care of.”

Perhaps most importantly, the YMCA partners with the schools. “Before and after school childcare and programming are a critical aspect of what the YMCA brings into a community,” Mary says. Mt. View Elementary School, Olympic Middle School, Oakland Bay Junior High School and Shelton High School are all within walking distance of the new YMCA location.

“We cannot forget to acknowledge the support of the elected officials of the 35th legislative district,” says Kyle. “Multiple communities came together across county lines to find this solution and we are all in. It wouldn’t have happened without every one of those dots being connected.”

Construction of the new YMCA paused for just one day over the course of the COVID-19 crisis. “It’s been heartening to see this little YMCA marching forward while so many other things have been disrupted,” says Mary Gibbons, board member and longtime volunteer fundraiser with the South Sound YMCA. “Something exciting is still going to happen as planned.” Photo courtesy: South Sound YMCA

State Senator Tim Sheldon and State Representatives Dan Griffey and Drew MacEwan played a significant role in securing funding from the state and gave personally to the campaign. Their commitment to the cause demonstrates the wide-reaching support from top to bottom this project has enjoyed.

Civic pride has been building in Shelton and Mason County as a whole thanks to Sierra Pacific’s new mill, the new wing at Mason General Hospital and new businesses and restaurants. The South Sound YMCA’s newest facility is another important expression of Shelton as a destination for families to live and work, and it has the support of Thurston County and beyond.


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