Tuesday, March 6, 2018 - 12:36

By Amanda Thames 
The Daily News - Jacksonville NC
Posted Mar 2, 2018 at 7:45 AM


The YMCA is one step closer to becoming a reality for Jacksonville.

“This area needs one,” said Jessica Drake, a volunteer coordinator for the founding committee of the New River YMCA.

There are numerous boxes to tick off before a community can official usher in a YMCA, and a big one is getting a mentor.

The New River YMCA did that this week.

Before getting a mentor, Drake said the committee, which was formed about a year ago and held their first meeting in June, had a lot of research to conduct. They presented their findings to the Jacksonville City Council in January, which included a survey that showed 1,100 locals saying they wanted to be more connected to their families and their community.

While conducting interviews, Drake said she spoke with a pastor who told her his family had been surviving so long, they forgot how to live.

“It (has) almost become like a motto that I carry around,” Drake said. “I thought that was the best sentence in all of our work that summed up the need for a YMCA here. This is an opportunity for families to thrive in Jacksonville and Onslow County.”

Basically, Drake said they were building a case as to why a YMCA would be beneficial to the Onslow County community, and some of the committee members presented their case to the Twin Rivers YMCA recently.

The Twin Rivers YMCA out of New Bern agreed that there’s a need in Onslow County, and the Eastern Carolina Young Men’s Christian Association Board of Directors approved the New River YMCA’s charter request at their monthly meeting Wednesday, said Twin Rivers CEO and President Todd Shuart.

Twin Rivers will sponsor New River, Drake explained, and be sort of a big sibling to the Onslow YMCA.

New River is looking at before and after school care, summer day camps, water safety programs, and family activities, Shuart said. Twin Rivers has 11 after school programs and a summer day camp with more than 200 children per day.

“We will be working with (New River) to bring those types of programs to Jacksonville, Onslow County area through this new YMCA,” Shuart said. “We will provide the resources and support moving forward and be the governing body that oversees the operations.”

Twin Rivers already have models that work, are safe and high in quality, Shuart said, and they can pass along their experience to New River.

But this approval is far from the last step involved.

“Now we are going to put together a plan for the programs we will offer and a three-year start-up budget,” Drake said.

The New River YMCA still has committee members working on site development at 159 Chaney Ave. in Jacksonville, where they hope to house the YMCA, Drake said.

When the committee presented their findings to the Jacksonville City Council on Jan. 16, they also asked to lease the Chaney Avenue building. City staff has been working with the committee and architects reviewing the building and determined there are several aspects of the building, like the restrooms, AC, and heating, that need to be upgrades, City Manager Richard Woodruff previously told The Daily News.

City staff hopes to have a full update for the council this month or early April, Woodruff said.

The next major step will be getting approval from the YMCA of the USA, Drake said. New River will submit their business plan to the company once it’s finalized.

For now, Drake and Shuart – and everyone else involved – are eager to get their plans underway.

“The volunteer leadership and board of directors at the Eastern Carolina Young Men’s Christian Association are very excited about being able to expand the movement of the YMCA into Onslow County,” Shuart said.

Reporter Amanda Thames can be reached at 910-219-8467 or Amanda.Thames@JDNews.com