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Long County ponders YMCA
Ben Spencer, YMCA vice-president, addresses a crowd during the July 17 Long County Chamber of Commerce meeting about ways to establish a YMCA. - photo by Photo by Mike Riddle
About 40 Long County residents attended the Chamber of Commerce meeting July 17, many wanting to hear details  about starting a YMCA.
YMCA representatives Ben Spencer, Lee Boggess and Jamie Walten provided insight in the matter.
After Spencer gave a brief history on the YMCA, he described two methods of  establishing a center.
First, he shared information about the creation of the Liberty County YMCA. He coined this method, “The I Dream of Jeannie” method, where a person or a few people provide a generous donation and are able to establish a center rather quickly.
The second method, she said, is the more common approach, and is similar to the way Effingham County built its  facility.
That center, he said, was started with a few satellite programs, followed by the leasing of an available building that was remodeled, and then a steady growth in services until a new center could be built.  
In comparison, Spencer noted the Liberty method was rather fast while the Effingham approach took about 10 years. But he said both ways were possible, and both communities reaped the rewards of having a YMCA  family center.
Spencer also said both Y’s were similar in that they both were started with the establishing of a Pryme Time After-School Daycare Program — a common thread among most centers at their start.
Spencer told the crowd he had already discussed the feasibility of establishing a Pryme Time Program with Smiley Elementary School Principal Sandy Jones, and he said, “I feel very positive that the Pryme Time Program will happen.”
Jones said she was very hopeful the after-school daycare would pan out.
When asked about the possibility of the program being offered at the school in the gymnasium, she said she did not think it would be possible, because of the elementary school scheduling so many activities in the gym.
“With us being the only elementary school in the area, I don’t see how we could designate the gym for this all the time because it is used for so many different events,” Jones said. “However, if the program can be set up in another location, I am in full support of it because it would help several of my teachers with their young children.”
Spencer also fielded questions from those at the meeting regarding funding and staffing.
He said all YMCAs are  non-profit organizations that are assisted by the larger centers, but are ultimately self-sufficient.  
About staffing, he said the employees were usually hired from the local community.
In addition to the people at the meeting, Spencer was shown sheets with 300 to 400 names stating they would support pursuing a YMCA in Long County.
Spencer recommended the group establish a committee research/advisory board to begin research.
He also suggested a community survey be done to determine residents’ needs and priorities.
“I feel the turnout tonight was very good, especially when you take into account all the names on those papers,” Spencer said.
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