CHINCOTEAGUE ISLAND, Va. (Delmarvanow.com) -- A happy crowd Monday celebrated completion of the first phase of a $300,000 capital project at the Chincoteague Island Family YMCA.
"This is just phase one of many more things to come," said Missy Denault, the branch's executive director.
The first phase of the project includes a new free-weight area where the former bank drive-through was, after the area was enclosed. The facility also has all new exercise machines.
The Chincoteague Y has around 800 members — one quarter of the island's population, said Robbie Gill, chief executive officer of the YMCA of the Chesapeake, of which the Chincoteague branch is part.
With the capital improvements making it possible, the goal is to expand membership to at least one third of the population, he said.
He noted the YMCA provides financial assistance for those who need it in order to join.
Gill recalled his first trip to Chincoteague a decade ago, when he brought a busload of youth from farther north on Delmarva to participate in Chincoteague's Christmas parade — that was when a group of volunteers were working to bring a YMCA to the island.
Since then, the branch was established and later moved to the former bank building at 6395 Maddox Blvd.
"What I would say is so unique about this community is this Y is blessed with a tremendous amount of dedicated volunteers who really have put a lot of time and energy and sweat into making this YMCA possible," Gill said.
He praised the hardworking staff and noted the branch's programs extend off the island to other northern Accomack County locations, including Mappsville.
"What once was a bank is slowly transforming into a beautiful little community Y," Gill said.
The branch got its start when a group in 2005 met at the Chincoteague town office to discuss the idea of bringing a YMCA to the island.
A year later, a survey showed overwhelming support among residents, with 500 participating.
When a community meeting was held to further gauge interest, 120 turned out.
After that, a committee was created and volunteers began work to organize and operate Y programs in locations around town, with the help of what was then called the Mid-Delmarva Family YMCA.
The Chincoteague Island Family YMCA opened doors of a cardio-fitness facility at another building on Maddox Boulevard in 2009.
Last summer, the Y launched a $300,000 capital campaign, with the goal being to expand and renovate the present building, a former bank that the Landsberger family donated to the organization in 2014.
The family also agreed to match contributions to the campaign in its early phases.
In the next phase of capital improvements, the group exercise room in the rear of the building will be renovated and expanded — it will double in size, Denault said.
Additionally, the child care area is slated to expand.
A third, final phase of the project will include renovations to the bathrooms, including installing a shower and a few lockers in each.
"I'd like to thank everyone for coming today and for all of your contributions to make this possible," said Jenny Hanyo, chairwoman of the Chincoteague branch's advisory board.
David Landsberger, Chincoteague's representative on the YMCA of the Chesapeake corporate board of directors, also thanked people for supporting the Y and said "it has been an interesting and long journey to get here, for those who have been involved in the Y since the very beginning."
Donations to the Chincoteague Island Family YMCA can be made online by visiting http://www.ymcachesapeake.org/
Call the Chincoteague Y at 757-336-6266, email firstname.lastname@example.org or like the organization on Facebook at Chincoteague Island Family YMCA.