The Ashe County Board of Commissioners were updated on the potential of an Ashe County YMCA, during their regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, July 7.
Curt Hazelbaker, president and CEO of the YMCA of Northwest North Carolina was at the meeting to present the findings of a feasibility study given to residents about the potential of hosting a center.
“We got the results back on June 23 and presented the results to our Board of Directors on June 25, and I wanted to update this group about what we learned and what we found out,” Hazelbaker said.
While talking to community leaders, Hazelbaker said they had identified 180 potential people to talk to, and then selected 32 of those people to talk with.
According to the results provided by Hazelbaker, 97 percent viewed the YMCA as “good” or “excellent,” while 87 percent felt the community as a whole had that same view. In addition, 77 percent of people intereviewed said they did not know any of the YMCA leadership.
“We expected that,” Hazelbaker said in regards to people not knowing the YMCA’s leadership. “We haven’t spent a lot of time up here including myself or the executive director at our Wilkes County Y, Sam Franklin.”
Hazelbaker said they did learn that there are some in Ashe County who go to Wilkes County to use one of the YMCA facilities.
Other statistics included 83 percent saying that the need for a capital endowment for an Ashe County YMCA was good or excellent, 90 percent will either make a gift or consider making a gift to the campaign and 70 percent of people said the community would support a YMCA coming to Ashe County.
“There were 63 percent of the people interviewed are willing to volunteer, and 34 percent are willing to assume leadership,” Hazelbaker said. “That’s really key when starting a campaign in any community is that the people support it and also lead. It doesn’t do us any good for us to come in and say ‘we are doing a capital campaign’ when we don’t have the relationships that local folks do.”
The organization that did the research was based in Winston-Salem and said through their expectations, if the YMCA began a campaign in Ashe County, it could potentially raise between $1.75 and $2.2 million.
“The information overall was all good, and we were pleased with what the results were,” Hazelbaker said.
Hazelbaker said the YMCA Board of Directors for Northwest North Carolina formed an ad hoc committee to continue study on bringing a facility to Ashe County. Also, those organizing the study are aware of who the community would want the YMCA to partner with.
“We heard loud and clear through the interview process, that anything we do up here, we need to partner with the school system and with the hospital,” Hazelbaker said. “I have met with (Ashe Memorial) leadership and Todd (Holden) from the school system. They are supportive of us coming and they want to see how we can work together.”
The new committee will have its first meeting on Wednesday, July 16 and will be in charge of giving a recommendation to the Board of Directors. In addition, there will be an advisory committee consisting of leaders and residents in Ashe County.
“Overall, we are encouraged with what we know so far,” Hazelbaker said. “The community likes the Y, and what they know about the Y, they like it. Each Y is different… What is offered at the Y in Yadkin County… will be different than a Y up here, because each community’s needs are different.”
Commissioner William Sands said the results of the study sounded very encouraging and that the study the YMCA is conducting seemed worthwhile.
“A Y definitely works if there is enough support in it,” Hazelbaker said. “We want to make sure we do it right and we set it up for every chance to succeed.”
For more information on the YMCA of Northwest North Carolina, go online to http://ymcanwnc.org/. The organization serves Alexander, Davie, Forsyth, Iredell, Stokes, Yadkin and Wilkes Counties.
Wil Petty can be reached at (336) 846-7164 or on Twitter @WilPetty.