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YMCA has new home

With the sound of raindrops tapping the metal entranceway awning to Greenville Academy yesterday, the 32-year old school ended one era and began another as the new home for the Greenville YMCA.

"It was the end of one good thing and the beginning of something else good," said Greenville Academy board member Phillip Graham after him and the other academy board members turned over the property to the YMCA. "The Y gets a good deal and we know somebody good gets the property. It's the answer to a prayer."

Greenville Academy, which closed last year due to declining enrollment, has educated thousands of Butler County children in a Christian environment since its inception.

"I've got a lot of wonderful memories of my sons playing football, basketball and wrestling," said Academy board member Floyd Atkins, who has been a part of Greenville Academy since 1978, even coaching its wrestling team in the past. "It's kind of sad to see the school close, but things change. I can't think of any better organization but the YMCA to take on the school."

YMCA local board director Allen Stephenson said the facility, which the Y is purchasing from Greenville Academy for $500,000, is a Godsend.

"When Greenville Academy closed, we only dreamed it was a possibility it could happen," Stephenson said. "But because of our financial situation we felt like it was worth far more than we could pay. But the board of Greenville Academy has gone way beyond what we could have hoped for to enable us to take over there."

Atkins said that the bylaws of Greenville Academy dictate that when the school ceases to exist, any excess funds from the sale of the school and property would be distributed to a non-profit organization. Atkins wouldn't say if the YMCA would possibly receive any excess funds from the sale, but did say "The YMCA will benefit from this" when asked.

With the recent closings of several daycare facilities in the area, the YMCA has become one of the only facilities left in Greenville that functions as a daycare, but with the additional space at Greenville Academy, more families can now be served.

"First and foremost this gives us the ability to expand affordable childcare and that affects the whole family," said Montgomery YMCA director Bob McGaughey. "We've touched lots of lives but the needs are so great."

Stephenson said the YMCA would lease the new building and property for one year with the money from the lease payments going toward the purchase price. At the end of the first year, the YMCA can opt for a second year lease or hopefully pay the facility off.

"We're immediately beginning a capital fundraising campaign where we hope to raise $250,000 for up front and start up costs," Stephenson said. "We have to have support from the business community so we can turn this from a lease into a purchase agreement."

Stephenson said the YMCA board is also seeking room sponsors who would like to fund remodeling a room in the new facility.

"Most of what is needed in the individual rooms is cosmetic, so if we can get civic clubs, businesses or individuals who want to adopt a room and fund the update, it's a win-win for everyone."

The new facility is expected to open its doors Nov. 1, with expanded programs including a "sick room" for parents who have sick children who cannot get off from work. There are also plans to have daycare for children of parents who work odd shifts, an expanded fitness center, gymnasium, aerobics and many other fitness activities for children and senior citizens.

"Time is of the essence as we have quite a large waiting list for childcare and we need to get these children and their parent's help as quickly as possible," Stephenson said.

Greenville YMCA Executive Director Amanda Phillips said the new facilities came with unlimited potential.

"We are all very excited about the possibilities we will have with the move," said Phillips. "We really outgrew our old building within about three weeks after we moved in. This is really big for us."

Phillips said the move would give the YMCA a chance to target more age groups with a wider span of activities.

"We hope to incorporate more child care and adult programs in the future," said Phillips. "And we hope to get in some teen programs and senior citizen programs going too."

Phillips said the YMCA would now have the facilities to care for children at a very young age.

"In child care we plan to start at six weeks old," she said. "That's a big need in our community right now."

Another bonus of the move will be the sports facilities. Greenville Academy comes with a football field and gym already intact. The move will allow the YMCA to use their own location rather than using the city's and county's athletic fields.

Phillips said the YMCA would also be able to use the land to bring back an old favorite for the City of Greenville.

"Watermelon Hill came with it and next year we plan to start the Watermelon Jubilee back," she said. "This is just a big opportunity for us and we are very excited."

Rep. Charles Newton, who was once headmaster of Greenville Academy, also expressed his excitement for the move. Newton said the move was a team effort and showed the unity that lies within the Camellia City.

"To accomplish something like this does not happen by accident," said Newton. "It takes leadership. Allen and Amanda have been showing a lot of leadership lately and we appreciate that."

The fundraising effort received a jumpstart before the closing announcements when a check for $2,000 was presented on behalf of the Kiwanis Club by club treasurer Richard Branum.