When the Shelton Family YMCA opened its doors on March 1, it was the culmination of a community effort that began over 20 years ago. It’s a project that has attracted multiple local partners while maintaining grassroots support from individuals. “This was something everybody wanted in the community because they saw the strong benefits the Y would bring,” says Joe Schmit, Shelton City Council member and South Sound YMCA board member. “We were able to pull off a $20 million project for the community’s wellbeing. That’s impressive.”
Partnerships will play a central role in the new facility, with Mason General Hospital and WorkSourceWA maintaining office and activity space within the building. WorkSource will provide employment resources such as workshops and hiring events. This structure allows for individuals to access multiple resources at one location and is ideally suited to meet the needs of Shelton residents.
“At Mason Health we highly value our community relationships,” says Mason Health’s CEO Eric Moll. “Our partnership with the YMCA is providing our organization a unique opportunity to deepen our relationship with the community and to fulfill our mission of ‘United Community, Empowered People, Exceptional Health.’ We are looking forward to expanding our campus to include the new office space at the Shelton YMCA location.”
According to Mason Health Chief Development & Communication Officer Jennifer Capps, their partnership with the Y goes beyond sharing a facility. Currently, Mason Health is utilizing the Y’s partnership with the Shelton School District to increase access to childcare and for Mason Health employees. As the third-largest employer in Mason County, their work in this area can be a model for other organizations as schools and businesses reopen this spring.
In addition to the facility partners, the Shelton Family YMCA is working with organizations around the county to increase access to a variety of programs and resources that impact individual health. One example is a partnership with Peninsula Credit Union will who will offer Financial Fitness Workshops in the facility. The Y is also collaborating with Big Brothers Big Sisters to provide facility access as an option for “bigs” and “littles” to spend healthy, active time together.
The structure resulted from a lot of listening, according to Schmit. “The majority of the Y leadership comes from Thurston County,” he notes. “We’ve never had a Y in Mason County, so our job was to help guide the leadership about the needs in our community. We’ve never had a public gathering place where all of these community organizations could work together under one roof. We have physical fitness, social wellbeing and financial health in one place, on top of all the other wonderful things that come with a Y.”
Those things include signature programs like swimming lessons, fitness classes, and programs for youth and families. As COVID-19 restrictions ease, more services will be added. Future programming will be determined by, again, listening to community needs. “The members of the volunteer Advisory Board are going to be integral as we determine out how to best serve all people in the community,” says Jake Grater, Executive Director of Branch Operations at South Sound YMCA. “We want to be engaging and inviting for the entire community. We’ll have our tried-and-true offerings, but beyond that, the sky’s the limit.”
Support from the City of Shelton has been fundamental. In 2018 the City Council entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with South Sound YMCA. Under that agreement, the City would lease the land where the building would be constructed to the Y for $1 per year. “In many communities, the local jurisdictions have the funding to contribute to construction, but we didn’t have a ton of extra capital,” Schmit explains. “Our ability to support this centered around the use of the land. That’s where the partnerships really got off the ground.”
Although momentum accelerated in the past few years, Grater points out that key players in Mason County have been focused on the project for much longer. “I can’t say enough about the volunteer leadership in Shelton,” he says. “There is a long list of people who have been working on the idea of having something here for decades. Having it culminate in a YMCA is huge – it’s an honor to be part of something that means so much to so many people.”
It’s early days, but Schmit can already imagine the impact the Y will have on the Shelton community in the long term. He sees it as a way to showcase the community to the rest of the state, and beyond, as a great place to live and raise a family.
“I’m very proud of the community and those folks who helped us get here,” he says. “I’m looking at this as a huge win for our small city. There are great things to come.”
To learn more, visit the South Sound YMCA website or call 360.753.6576