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Brown YMCA still standing; needs help

If the Claude C. Brown Y.M.C.A. building was in better condition, the facility could host more programming and events.

But, when the college preparation and A.C.T. or S.A.T. study help programs have to be moved to high schools because the computer lab and lights cannot be turned on at the same time because the lights may pop or start a fire, Yasmin McKinney, executive director of community development, has tried to offer as many program as the facility can allow.

The center is open daily from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Within these hours, programs such as the Kids Café, open basketball court and after school programming are all that the center offers.

“That’s about all we can do for right now because of the conditions,” Ms. McKinney said. “We’ll see what happens this year because we don’t really have the funds to keep it up this year.”

Kids Café serves about 50 to 80 children a nutritious dinner on Tuesdays. The food is provided by the Selma Area Food Bank and Calhoun Foods.

After much cleaning and many repairs, Ms. McKinney has visions for the center. She wants to have a large fitness facility, game room, working computer lab, reading room, pools and more.

None of these ideas will require any construction of additional rooms to the building. They will just require using all the rooms of the facility, some of which have not been used in years.

The upstairs level of the center is not being used in any capacity.

“From my understanding, this level has not been used in eight year,” Ms. McKinney said. “How did it get to this point?”

A volunteer recently came in and painted the walls of the upstairs main room, but the level is far from a useable state.

“It’s not about the funding,” Ms. McKinney said. “If someone could just come in and do roofing and someone do plumbing.”

The building has no hot water because the boiler unit is broken. The roof allows water to seep into the building, either causing damage to the electrical systems in some of the rooms or filling buckets around the center on rainy days. Only half of the showers in the women’s locker room turn on. The gym does not have any heat or lighting that sufficiently works.

Matt Wymbalda has been volunteering his time along with many others to help rejuvenate the center.

This is the second time Ms. McKinney and Mr. Wymbalda have crossed paths in a Y.M.C.A. The two met at a center in Indianapolis in 2000 where both were working with the programs at that Y.M.C.A. Now, both are working diligently to bring the Brown center back to life.

“It’s exciting to think of what the Brown can become again,” Mr. Wymbalda said. “It has a long history that really represents something special.”

Willie Collins, sports director of the Y.M.C.A., is trying to offer the best environment for the students who come to the center after school.

“The Brown Y is well needed in this neighborhood,” Mr. Collins said. “Without the Y, there wouldn’t be anything else for them to do but get in trouble. If they’re not participating in school activities, then they come right here.”

The gym needs new lighting because only about eight of the more than a dozen lights turn on. The flooring needs to be redone.

“And basically we need some heat,” Mr. Collins said. The gym has four air conditioning units, but no heater.

The Brown branch was formed after Rev. Claude C. Brown, pastor of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, wanted a recreation place for the boys of the neighborhood of the area surrounding the church. He organized the basement of the church as this area, but it was later moved to the current location of the Brown Y.M.C.A. in the early 1950s.

Until 1976, the branch was named the George W. Carver Branch Y.M.C.A. To donate time or items, contact the Walker-Johnson Y.M.C.A. at 874-9622.