Editors note: This is the first part of a two part series about the YMCA’s 10th anniversary celebration.
The Rhinelander YMCA is turning 10 May 2 and the facility is opening its doors to the public for a celebration.
“The whole day May 2 we will be holding an open house,” interim CEO Laurie Schlitt said. “It is free to the public. We will be gathering stories from our members on a big birthday card. It is a day to celebrate our members.”
It is also a time to celebrate the community which came together 10 yeas ago to provide the facility that is standing today.
“Before this facility, the YMCA in Rhinelander was program based,” Schlitt said. “It was located above the old M&I building and had youth and adult programs but no formal facility.”
In 2001, an effort was made to purchase the land and begin raising funds for the a building to be constructed.
“They were not able to raise 100 percent of the money needed, but it was determined this building was important enough that construction should begin anyway,” Schlitt said.
Those involved in getting the project off the ground including Mel Davidson, Jodi Hanson and Steve Courts, toured other facilities and consulted with the builders and helped drive the construction.
“They really wanted to emphasis program space,” Schlitt said. “They also wanted a start of the art pool.”
When the building was constructed it contained a full gymnasium, a wellness center, aerobics studio, aquatic center, generation center and child care center.
But the YMCA has become more than just a place to work out and get healthy, Schlitt said, and that is no accident.
“We are a community organization,” Schlitt said. “We are filling gaps in the community. We are not just a gym and swim. We want to promote healthy living and youth development.”
And that message has resonated throughout the community and has led to a large membership base for the organization.
“We average around 5,000 members at any given time,” Schlitt said.
To give back to that membership base, the YMCA has sponsored programs and other initiatives to help members reach their goals no matter what they are.
“We have our Healthy Kids Day, our Livestrong program for those who are coming back after cancer treatments,” Schlitt said. “We have our Fit for Life program which has had an impact to help people change their lifestyle to be more healthy. So there are lots of ways that we get out into the community and provide these services for people.”
Schlitt said the YMCA has also benefitted from partnerships with other community organizations. The biggest partnership is with Ministry Health St. Mary’s Hospital. The hospital does all of its rehab work at the YMCA to help support its mission.
The YMCA also partners with the Kiwanis Club to sponsor the annual Hodag Run.
“It is important to have that cooperation,” Schlitt said. “When two groups cooperate, other organizations see that and it becomes infectious.”
And that spirit of cooperation is what will be on display at the May 2 party as everyone is welcome to take part. A large sheet cake will be offered and special membership deals will be available to community members that want to join the organization.
“It is a great time to come and join the Y family,” Schlitt said.