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‘For Youth Development. For Healthy Living. For Social Responsibility.’

If our community is constantly changing, and the Lebanon Valley YMCA’s mission is to serve the community, isn’t it the Y’s responsibility to constantly evolve as well?

That sort of ‘if -a-equals-b-and-b-equals-c then-a-equals-c’ thinking was the inspiration behind the local YMCA’s latest and biggest renovation project. The three-phased, $3 million project is nearing completion, and when it is, the A.L. Hanford Center, which is located at 201 North Seventh Street in the city, will be better equipped to serve a more diverse, modern and demanding Lebanon community.

“The whole purpose behind the project is the sustainability of our mission-based programs,” said Darin Pickles, the Y’s director of operations. “We’re more than just a ‘gym and swim’. We knew we had to increase our memberships to sustain those community-based programs.

“It (the Y) needs to continue to evolve,” added Pickles. “And that’s not only true locally, but nationally as well.”

The phase of the project which has been completed is the relocating and re-configuring of the YMCA’s wildly popular fitness center. While it once shared a large upstairs room with the weight room, facing Eighth Street, the fitness center now faces the spacious parking lot off seventh street, with the weight room located directly below it on the first floor.

IMG_7034A total of 11 new pieces of equipment have been added, to bring the total number of cardiovascular machines in the fitness center to 75, while downstairs – where Gyms A & B used to be located, and right next to a brand-new and smaller auxiliary gymnasium – the state-of-the-art weight room features all new strengthening equipment.

“It’s not done. But if you put me on the spot, I’d say my favorite part of the project is the fitness center,” said Pickles. “That’s one of the nicest fitness centers you can go in, bar none, arguably anywhere, period, end of story. I’ve seen bigger, but when you look at the whole package, there’s none nicer. But I might be a little biased.

“It’s (the on-going construction) a small inconvenience,” added Pickles. “But during the fitness center move, it was no inconvenience. It was done in three days.”

The phase of the project which is almost complete will re-locate the 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th-grade youth center – to be named the Freer Family Youth Center – from its current location at the old train station annex on eighth street to a renovated space located in the former fitness center. The lobby area, which will house the Lefty Hallman Youth Center for younger members, the well-used Kid’s Korner and a revamped and modern reception area, is expected to open near the beginning of June.

The third phase of the project, the YMCA’s skate park, which can be found outside the walls of Gyms C and D, is also still under construction, but scheduled to be completed by the summer ‘wheel’ season.

“The lobby is only a little bit of an inconvenience, especially when you consider what we’re going to be able to provide for our members,” said Pickles. “Our lobby area is going to be absolutely beautiful, and were going to have wi-fi for our members. It’ll be much more member friendly.

IMG_7023“It really allowed us to open things up,” said Pickles. “Things used to be jumbled. Now we have a really good flow. It’s a positive thing for our members. It’s a better use of space. Some class rooms more than doubled the members it can accommodate.”

Since the Lebanon YMCA moved from north Ninth Street to north Seventh Street in 1979, the current renovation project is the fourth major one that the service organization has gone through. This current one is believed to be the biggest of the four.

“I love being part of an organization that is soo community oriented,” said Pickles, a native of Iowa who has been in his current position for three years. “This Y goes above and beyond in what it provides for the community.

“Our goal is to educate our members,” added Pickles, “and how they use it is up to them.”

The Lebanon Valley Family YMCA boasts more than 5,000 members. Pickles was quick to point out that there was no increased cost of membership due to the renovation project.

“Too often, a Y in any community is viewed as a ‘gym and swim’,” said Pickles. “Those are just two of our programs. To meet our mission in Lebanon, one of our jobs is to educate our members that they’re an integral part of an organization that impacts our community.

IMG_7018“I think our board and Phil (Tipton, chief executive officer) are very flexible in looking at that (the changing needs of the future),” concluded Pickles. “They’re going to be needs based on our mission statement. One thing that’s not going to go away  is the obesity problem. We’re going to have to be flexible in addressing those needs.”








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