CORNER BROOK — As someone who spent much of her youth taking advantage of services offered at the YMCA, Evie Newton admits she’s frustrated at the lack of a suitable facility in the city.
A former chair of the Humber Community YMCA board, Newton was on the front lines when the centre was forced to move from its former location on Reid Street to the current one in the lower level of the Millbrook Mall several years ago.
While she admits the Y was lucky to have a soft spot to land amidst the turmoil, she said the current location is simply inadequate. Lacking a gymnasium or space for meeting rooms, Newton said the centre is unable to offer youth in the city the ability to play after school sports and has been forced to rent space at two local preschools because the Millbrook location is simply too small to offer all the services typically seen at a YMCA.
Adding to Newton’s frustration has been the amount of money spent in the meantime on such facilities as the new Corner Brook Curling Club and the Wellington Street Sports Complex. On Friday, a $850,000 project was announced which will replace the Lions Centre on Wellington Street and give the Saltos Gymnastics Club a new home.
As someone who has been to countless meetings looking for help and support from city officials for nearly two decades, Newton cannot understand the city giving so much money to what she describes as individual sports groups, while a community organization has been seemingly left on its own.
“I mean what is it going to be next, is there going to be a building for roller derby or volleyball?” Newton said Sunday while insisting she doesn’t begrudge the gymnastics club any subsidies its earned through lobbying government. “All these individual buildings for individual sports doesn’t meet the needs of a community. It meets the needs of a small group of people who can afford to send their kids there.
“I don’t understand how city council can look and say this isn’t important. The Y has been doing this for 30 years without city support and yet every time there’s money, they don’t look at us. Maybe the sports groups are taken care of and they can give some money to the rest of us.”
Newton said to finance the move to the Millbrook, the YMCA co-signed a loan, something she said helped lead to her decision to resign when frustrations and stress became too much.
“I can guarantee you nobody at the gymnastics club is co-signing for that $850,000,” she said.
Newton said while the Y has been in the city for over 30 years, it has a history of over 100 years in other parts of the country. The centre offers services to a broad spectrum of the community, to card games and saunas for seniors, to rock climbing and after-school programs for children, all overseen by nationally accredited and trained staff. Winnipeg, for example, has five such centres.
In her meetings with city councils over the years, Newton has come to believe there is a basic lack of understanding among citizens of concern about what a YMCA brings to a community.
Meanwhile, Christine Young, manager of the local YMCA would not agree to an interview when reached for comment on the issue.
However, in an emailed statement, she echoed Newton’s sentiments that groups such as Saltos Gymnastics and the curling club should be commended for successfully lobbying various levels of government in the interest of the groups they serve.
She said with 750 members enrolled at the Y’s fitness centre and over 2,000 citizens accessing membership as some point throughout the year, there’s little doubt the centre is providing a vital service to the community. There are also 200 children enrolled in summer programs through the YMCA, 160 enrolled at preschool and after school programs and last year alone there were over 6,000 visits to the Community Youth Network drop-in centre.
Young said the centre has outgrown its current location and while the city seems to value its contributions, the time has come for action regarding the future of the YMCA in the city.
“Our ability to grow and serve even more members of our community is limited in our current situation,” Young said.