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A new day at the YMCA is under construction / June 05, 2017
There are the changes you can see at the YMCA — and the changes you can’t see.

Over the past two years, YMCA regulars have witnessed a complete rework of the pool center and the gym.

The South Boston Y’s more recent upgrades include a partial redo of the locker rooms, specifically the showers and steam rooms. Both shower areas received new tiles, as well as an addition of a second handicapped facility. The ever-troublesome steam rooms are now back in commission, now lighted with LED bulbs.

But those are only the visible things. An HVAC system has been installed for the pool, back hallway, and locker rooms, which provides regulated heating and air conditioning.

As a regular user of the Y’s facilities, “it’s pretty fantastic,” said Y director Kristen Zerbato.

Three anonymous local businesses have donated three more HVAC units to replace the aging, and failing, models that service the gym. Installation is scheduled for next week. These machines are pricey and not something the Y could acquire without cutting other projects.

“It’s a blessing,” said Zerbato. “I wouldn’t have even known to ask, to pray for that kind of thing.”

These improvements have been able to happen only because of the generosity and interest of the local community, says Zerbato. But the giving doesn’t stop with just renovations.

Lowes and Danville’s Home Depot both provided 25 bags of vegetables, flowers, peat moss and fertilizer, all to help with the summer kids program. This week is themed “Make America Beautiful” — kids get to garden in locally-made raised flowerbeds. The Y partnered with 4H and South Boston Elementary to make sure kids have a fun but productive summer. Older kids are encouraged to mentor their younger peers during the week’s scheduled activities, but also to maintain skills like reading.

The YMCA has also recruited local artist Nola Watkins to help the youngsters learn how to sculpt clay and then fire their creations in a kiln.

“This is a cool opportunity to do something that they may not have normally had the opportunity to do,” says Zerbato.

Other summer events include a parents’ night out — YMCA member parents can go to a movie or dinner while their kids get taken care of by the Y from 6:30-10:30 pm. On June 17, the Y is coordinating with the Prizery so parents can go to their Summer Theatre showing of Into the Woods. For their part, kids get to participate in arts and crafts, sports/games outside, water games, a scavenger hunt, and watch a movie. In July, the same event is set for the 15th.

But the YMCA’s key constituents: seniors. Given their high participation in a given day, much of the improvements serve to improve their experience.

Y regular Grace Seat gushes, “I’m doing great for a 91-and-a-half year-old …. I wouldn’t be half the woman I am without the Y.”

The YMCA’s funding drive has also accrued more than $600,000 in donations and pledges, further aiming to meet the goal of $700,000.

As for seeing if these extensive renovations have been successful for the Y, the numbers speak for themselves. The South Boston YMCA is up 100 paying user “units” since 2016. Usage in March of this year was “the highest we’ve ever been,” at least since these numbers started being recorded in the 2000s, says Zerbato.

As for the future, parking lot paving is expected to wrap up before the end of the year. This move also will provide more light at night for a safer atmosphere.

Lobby renovations are expected to commence in 2018 with the relocation of the children’s nursery to the front section of the Y. In 2019, the Y plans the addition of two family changing rooms. Then, 2020 is designated for locker room makeovers. However, these are all dependent on money.

“I think we’ve made great strides in upgrading and making the Y better for everyone,” says Zerbato. “Now people just need to give us a chance.”

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