Everybody In

A YMCA swimming pool similar to this one could come to Walton County depending on the success of fundraising efforts to build the Y.

MONROE, Ga. — Planning for the new Walton County YMCA continues despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Walton County corporate and community leaders have developed and carefully vetted a dynamic strategy to develop this important addition to the quality of life in the community.

Last fall, the Walton County YMCA Committee developed a Strategic Planning Task Force comprised of 45 corporate and community leaders. Over the next four months, the task force — led by retired Walton County schools Superintendent Gary Hobbs — developed a strategic plan for 2020-24.

In December, the committee retained First Community Development of Atlanta to conduct an independent, comprehensive feasibility analysis to gauge the philosophical and financial support for the proposed YMCA strategic plan.

The company interviewed 44 corporate, community and government leaders and presented their report and recommendations in late February.

The analysis elicited a wide range of candid responses about the strategic plan, perceptions of the Y and potential support for development of the new facility and program in the county.

More than 8 in 10 leaders said the proposed strategic plan as presented was “excellent, necessary and beneficial.”

Six out of 10 said they would be willing to serve or consider serving in a capital campaign to raise funds for construction.

A majority felt a fundraising campaign to develop the new YMCA should be implemented as soon as possible.

But when the state issued a shelter-in-place order in mid-March, the Walton County YMCA Committee pressed “pause” on plans to raise funds for the facility and its first five-year program. However, committee members have continued to work behind the scenes.

“This new Walton County YMCA will be critically important to the health and well-being of Walton County as we ramp our community back up,” Hobbs said. “Having a safe place like the Y where families can go for exercise and recreation is important for our emotional health as well.

“I wish we could wave a magic wand and have this new YMCA here tomorrow!”

Lee Rowell, whose family donated the 30 acres where the new YMCA will be built, echoed those sentiments.

“We are on the right track and this YMCA for Walton County couldn’t come at a better time,” he said. “This is a program that will serve every man, woman and child who live or work in Walton County.

“We are excited to get this fundraising initiative underway as soon as the time is right.”

When will the time be right? That’s a question that committee members have discussed at each of their monthly meetings. All of the committee members agree that now, as the local community begins to move back to the marketplace and reopen businesses, is not the right time to be out raising funds for this project.

Meredith Malcom became the market president of Synovus in Monroe in 2017.

“Our Walton County economy is gradually picking back up,” Meredith Malcom, president of Synovus’ Monroe market and a member of the committee, said. “Every day we see more people out and about.

“Yes, there is still some uncertainty, but we believe later this summer, if everything continues to go well, we will all begin to feel more comfortable that we are headed in the right direction.

“In my mind, that would be the right time for us to begin focusing on the future of a YMCA for Walton County.”

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