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JER Chilton YMCA at Rockwall breaks ground on $5 million expansion

ROCKWALL – November 10, 2013 – A groundbreaking ceremony on November 7th marked the official beginning of construction on the nearly $5 million expansion and renovation project underway at the JER Chilton YMCA at Rockwall, located at 1210 N. Goliad.

A crowd of nearly 200 supporters gathered for the special event featuring keynote speaker JER “Bob” Chilton, the local businessman and philanthropist who donated $2.5 million to help make the expansion possible.

Local dignitaries, YMCA board members past and present, city officials, community leaders, Rockwall Area Chamber Ambassadors, Y members and staff were among those in attendance. Judge Brian Williams, Chairman of the YMCA board of Managers, recognized distinguished guests including District Attorney Kenda Culpepper, Heath City Council member Justin Holland, Justice of the Peace Mark Russo, Justice of the Peace Nancy Beaty, County Constable Randy Parks, Former Mayors Frank Miller, Bill Cecil,  Scott Self, Alma Williams Howard, and Mayor David Sweet, among others.

“We want to thank everyone for their support of the Y. Those who worked so hard in the past have laid the groundwork for what we’re building on today,” Williams said. “The things that we can do here will change the face of the community.”

“This is an awesome day,” said Bonnie LaVielle, Executive Director of the JER Chilton YMCA. She recognized past executive directors Danny Meigs, Jerry Vincent and Mike Atkins. Pastor Mark Irons of First Christian Church Rockwall, a new YMCA board member, gave the invocation.

Board member Brett Packer shared his Y story, saying, “I really can’t remember a time when the YMCA was not a part of our family,” and pointed out that no matter what stage of life you’re in – young or old – the YMCA is here for you and your family. “The best days for the JER Chilton YMCA are still ahead,” he said.

Longtime member Larry Parks shared the history of the Y, and gave a shout out to Phil Miller, who spent 40 years serving on the Y board.

Gordon Echtenkamp, President/CEO of the YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas, represented Y staff from across the Association. “The building that is going to be presented to you here a year from now is going to be a great addition to what has already happened these last several years in the community,” he said. “While I’m excited about the building, I’m more excited about what’s going to happen in the building as a result of this growth. Most of the stories that were shared at the microphone here today weren’t really about facilities; they were about people. They were about moments in time when lives were touched and futures were changed. That’s really what the Y does so well.”

Echtenkamp added, “Many people think we’re a gym/swim organization, but you all know far better than that – because you’re the ones who go into the building; you’re the ones who experience all of those moments inside the building. Because what we do best isn’t building buildings – although we’re pretty good at that…We energize youth development, nurture healthy living and inspire social responsibility. That’s what we’re all about.”

“That’s what so endearing about what the Y has done through all these years. It’s about the mission – putting Christian values into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all…That’s the spirit that moved Bob Chilton and his wife Missy to make this amazing contribution to support this YMCA and to perpetuate the work of the Y in this community,” said Echtenkamp.

Chilton opened his address by thanking Scott Self for always “making things happen behind the scenes.”

“That’s where it really started, when Scott asked me if I had seen the pool down at the Y. Let’s go take a  look at the pool he said. “The more I visited, the more I was touched by the memories, and the more I could see that the Y really wasn’t keeping pace with the explosive pace of the community. The Y has a few battlescars; it’s aging. That caused me to ask a few questions. It caused me to examine the mission – which is youth development, healthy living, and more importantly, it now teaches social responsibility. The new Y. This explosive area deserves a first class institution like this. If it’s going to grow with the community, it’s got to have a facility that can incorporate all the different activities and outreach programs coming forward. The Y touches all lives and all ages in the community.”

“As I look at the audience, it’s looks like the Who’s Who of Rockwall is here. And if you need proof of this effort – when we announced this program, there were a lot of Y’s that were declining in membership – but not this one. From the time we announced this program of rejuvination, the increase was starting, and it is an indication of what’s coming in the future,” Chilton said. “Bonnie reported that the Y had 85,000 visitations last year. I think that with the new Y, we can double that and provide many more activities within the facility. Gordie is right; it isn’t the bricks and mortar – but you’ve got to start somewhere. We’ve got a very strong management team. A very strong board. And a lot of people who are willing to pick up slack to raise the rest of the money to make this happen. I’m proud to be part of that.”

The expansion and renovation project will add 12,000 sq. ft. to the facility. The workout room will transform into a first-class fitness facility that spans nearly 6,000 sq. ft. – complete with state-of-the-art weight and cardio equipment.

There will be spacious showers and locker rooms, and a large child watch room. Plans also include updating the pool area and installing a new, wood floor in the gymnasium. The Welcome Center will be expanded and the Y will sport an entirely new front elevation.

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