(Delmarvanow.com) -- The Eastern Shore Family YMCA in Onley has been undergoing a major face-lift.
Workers knocked out a wall in the 18-year-old building last week to make room for a larger fitness center.
The space will facilitate more small-group and personal training programs while making the gym more comfortable, said Andre Elliott, executive director for the Onley center.
“Membership’s been growing. A lot of people have changed their attitudes about health and wellness,” Elliott said.
The area for the expansion was once a cardiac rehabilitation center inside the YMCA. When the center moved to Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital, which opened near Onancock this year, the Y had a chance to grow.
“When the opportunity came after Riverside moved … we had a lot of different ideas to do with that space,” Elliot said. “It always seemed like a natural transition to move that wall and create a bigger space for free weights.”
The change follows an equipment swap that upgraded the fitness center machines.
Workers aim to complete the project by Christmas, which will provide space for programs such as the Daniel Plan, which focuses on a healthy lifestyle, he said.
It will also make the gym less crowded, Elliot said.
“Our usage has been going up. That space was tight and cramped to begin with,” he said. “We were realizing that it was getting tighter and tighter and harder to serve the folks that we’re serving.
“It was a need at this point,” he said of the expansion.
Since opening in 1999, the YMCA has had several renovations, including a locker room upgrade a few years ago.
In addition to its fitness center, it provides children’s programs such as swimming lessons and summer camps.
The Y also gives need-based subsidies to more than 40 percent of its membership each year, Elliot said.
“You look at a county like Accomack and the Eastern Shore in general, and there are not a lot of options healthwise,” he said. “This year, we’re going to have close to 90,000 visits to our center for people just to increase their health.”
The center is working with Eastern Shore Rural Health to launch a diabetes prevention program next month and cooperates with groups including the Community Services Board and public schools from both counties, he said.
“It’s important for so many different reasons, but the health of our community is super important. Rather than sending everybody to Riverside or Rural Health to fix something, we can fix things on the preventative side,” Elliot said.
“We try to be accessible and open to all,” he said.
Private donations and an Eastern Shore of Virginia Community Foundation grant funded the project.