The largest gift the YMCA of Williamsport ever has received in its 146 years will go toward a new building to continue its dedication to helping others.
Ron and Rosie Cimini, of Williamsport, donated $1 million to the building campaign. The new Y will bear the Cimini family name.
"I have such a strong feeling for the Y," Ron Cimini, owner of Tory Leather, said. "I know we need a new Y."
Above, a view of the proposed YMCA location looking down an alley between Spruce Street and Walnut Street from Park Avenue facing High Street. The location shows signs of recent demolitions of homes as well as reseeded lawns where homes once stood.
He considered the donation necessary to spur on the people who were "sitting on the fence" about whether to donate until they were sure that the new building project would happen.
The campaign still needs between $3 to $4 million to construct the building debt-free, which is a goal for Dave Fagerstrom, president and CEO of the River Valley Regional YMCA. The project will cost $10 million.
Fagerstrom said he hopes the Ciminis' donation will form "an avalanche of additional support."
Ron's passion for the Y sparks from a lifelong use of the programs offered, from summer camp as a child, to a more recent program to help diabetics with their sugar intake.
"The Y's not about a building," Ron said. "There're a lot of people who think the building and the equipment inside is the most important thing. The most important thing is the staff."
He uses the Y almost daily and during his visits, he often sees someone's life affected by it, whether it be a young or old person. A new facility would help serve people for a long time.
"In order to continue, we need a new Y," Ron said, because the present building is too large and too antiquated. "A new building would serve the public a lot better," he said.
The Elmira Street facility has 220,000 square feet of space, Fagerstrom said.
"It's an anchor around the association's neck," he said.
Based on studies done by the national Y, the ideal size of a branch with the area's population is between 55,000 to 70,000 square feet.
Lots of space equates to duplicative space, such as a large, open skating rink, basketball arena and a renovated bowling alley.
"If we only had one, we'd be fine," Fagerstrom said.
Yet with renovations necessary at the time, it kept growing.
The new 62,000-square-foot facility will allow the Y to do 95 percent of what it already does, plus allow for new items, such as a teen center, a senior center and three additional preschool classes.
More than $100,000 a year will be saved by using a smaller location, which includes cuts in energy, cleaning and maintenance costs.
"It's much more efficient," Fagerstrom said.
Construction could start either in the fall or spring, but as the calendar inches closer to September and October, Fagerstrom said the spring looks more plausible.
"It's not the worst thing in the world," he said. "It's more time to raise additional money."
Once started, the project could be completed in about 12 to 14 months, which Fagerstrom said may seem like a long time, but compared to the Y's history, "14 months is a blink."
The Y is still in its silent campaign, which means the top 200 people who possibly could help with donations $25,000 or more are asked first. The larger donations are sought first so that when the campaign becomes public, the community is more readily willing to donate $50 or $100 because the project is close to fruition.
The Y will sell its Elmira Street property and is taking offers. There already is one standing offer, but the association is looking at other offers to find what would be best for the city.