YMCA is vital to our community’s health

Published 10:33 am Monday, November 5, 2012

By Gerald Chestnut

Guest columnist


If you know how to swim, play tennis, basketball, soccer and play some of the popular board games such as Monopoly, Chess, Checkers and Dominos, like me, you probably learned how to play these sports and games at the YMCA.

Some of my most memorable years growing up in Selma were spent at the YMCA. The Y was, and is, a safe haven for children and teenagers. There are so many great things going on at the Y such as youth sports. The best thing about these sports is they are accessible to all kids, regardless of their skill level, experience or background. Kids always have a place on a team at the Y.

The YMCA is not only a place where the whole family can have fun and get fit ­ it’s also a place to become connected and build friendships. Families strengthen bonds, relationships are fostered and community becomes family. The YMCA has served generations of families for it is deeply rooted in our communities throughout Selma. The YMCA is the oldest human services organization in Selma. Simply put, there isn’t any other organization in this country like the YMCA.

My father used to say that the YMCA is the unparalleled cause for strengthening community because they are the community. They believe that lasting personal and social change can only come about when we all work together to invest in our kids, our health and our neighbors. That’s why, at the YMCA, strengthening communities is their cause.

It is no secret that the YMCA has built strong kids, strong families and strong neighborhoods. Thus, when my brother, Terry, shared that the YMCA may be closing, I could not believe this devastating news. I was shocked and disappointed. Make no mistake, closing the YMCA will have a devastating effect on all of our neighborhoods and our overall quality of life.

Selma has dealt with a lot of blows, but closing the YMCA would be a major blow. Whether you work for a big company or a small company, closing the YMCA would send an absolute terrible message to businesses, suggesting that leaving is a better choice than continuing to invest in the community.

Please consider these major adverse factors should the YMCA close:

1. Closure of the YMCA will indeed affect the location choices of future businesses.

2. Closure of the YMCA will affect our neighborhoods adversely immediately, and for decades to come.

3. The after-school programs are extraordinary and they are a necessary must for working parents.

In these tough economic times, our neighborhoods need affordable and family-friendly amenities that the YMCA offers. Our senior citizens need the YMCA. Our young people need the YMCA. Selma needs the YMCA. We need the Y to keep our families and communities together. It just doesn’t make sense for us to let the YMCA close.

The bottom line here is that the YMCA brings people together and nurtures potential. The YMCA has contributed to Selma’s quality of life, and it is a selling point for economic development to be able to boast that our town has a YMCA. We cannot afford to lose this valuable resource.

We all need to be good stewards of the Y and do what is needed to stop the YMCA from closing. If you are not a member, become a member. If you can, buy a membership for a child and or a neighbor. Please remember, we cannot afford to lose our YMCA. It is a valuable resource and it is vital to our community’s survival.