An idea first discussed two years and more than $1 million ago has come to fruition: Jacksonville’s New River YMCA opens at noon Thursday.

“It’s just a great excitement for Jacksonville and Onslow County,” said Billy Sewell, the chief volunteer chairman of the New River YMCA Board of Directors.

Sewell was part of those first discussions, when a group of community leaders came together to discuss bringing a YMCA into the community.

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And now Sewell, and so many others, are looking forward to what the building will bring to Onslow County.

Group fitness classes that will be offered include yoga, Zumba, P90X, HIIT, Baby Wearing Bootcamp, strength training, Barre, and more. The schedule of classes is available in the lobby of their building, located at 159 Chaney Ave. in Jacksonville.

The building will also host nutrition and cooking classes in the community room that includes a teaching kitchen, continue programs before and after school for kids, summer programs, and Girls on the Run — who have their first run coming up in December — Stride and Heart & Sole. Kids will also be engaged with video game development, encouraged to use robotics skills for jobs like flying drones in the military or within the medical field as a doctor or dentist.

“A lot of goodness has come from the creation of the YMCA thus far,” Sewell said, describing the hundreds of kids who were part of the YMCA’s summer camp and the before- and after-school programs already offered prior to the building being opened.

New River YMCA Executive Director Jane Schirmer described the YMCA as a whole as an elephant, describing a story in which blind men touch an elephant and all of them feeling something different.

That’s the YMCA, Schirmer said, touching a photo of a small girl with her hand on an elephant that she keeps in her office. Everyone the YMCA touches gets something different out of it.

Every YMCA is different, and Todd Shuart described New River’s as “non-traditional.” Director of Financial Development Kelly Millington agreed, saying “We have this saying, ‘If you’ve been to one Y, you’ve been to one Y,’” because such YMCA is individualized for the community it serves.

Shuart is the CEO of the Eastern North Carolina YMCA which includes the New River YMCA in Jacksonville and the Twin Rivers YMCA in New Bern under its umbrella. This is Onslow’s third attempt at bringing the YMCA here, he said, including in 2009 when some of the same community leaders who were part of the initiative two years ago tried and couldn’t get the momentum to make it a reality.

This time, the community stepped up. Shuart said the founders group raised approximately $1.8 million, of which $550,000 went into construction costs for the building and some of the rest will be used to supplement operations for the next few years. The YMCA also has the support of Onslow County Schools, the City of Jacksonville, Onslow County government, and others, and Shuart said the collaborations were key in bringing the YMCA to the area.

What also makes the New River YMCA different is it being in operation prior to the doors of their building opening.

Shuart said summer camps were held at Queens Creek and Southwest elementary schools, and at one of these Maggie Scheetz’s 6-year-old son attended. Scheetz said her son was fully able to experience a summer vacation, going on field trips for example, and after seeing how the YMCA worked she applied for a job with the company. Scheetz is now the membership coordinator for New River YMCA and said she’s personally excited about having a place to strength train while knowing her son will be cared for in the daycare center within the building.

“My son still talks about how excited he is for summer camp next year,” Scheetz said.

The YMCA is an all-inclusive organization, Schirmer said. Financial assistance is provided for those who need a little extra help with the membership fees.

Shuart said over the summer $12,580 was awarded in financial assistance for kids to participate. And one of the beautiful things, Millington said, is no one inside knows who has the assistance and who doesn’t. When everyone is breaking a sweat in a T-shirt and shorts, it levels the playing field.

“That is one of our core defining piece of being the Y,” Schirmer said, explaining they offer high-quality programs to everyone and, listening to their personal stories and through a bit of paperwork, can bring the group bond of the YMCA to everyone who wants to be included.

The New River YMCA will be open Monday-Thursday from 5:45 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.; Friday 5:45 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Saturday 8 to 11 a.m. The building is closed on Sundays.

The grand opening, including a ribbon cutting ceremony and light lunch followed by group exercise classes, will be held at 11:45 a.m. Thursday. All group exercises classes, which include yoga and strength training, are free on opening day. Free childcare will be available for those who want to take a tour or participate in group exercises between 11:45 a.m. and 6:15 p.m. For more details on opening day visit the event at the New River YMCA Facebook page.

For more information on the YMCA’s programs or to talk to someone about membership or sign up for financial aid, call 910-333-1416 or visit them in person at 159 Chaney Ave. in Jacksonville. The community can also sign up for a membership online at newrivery.org.

 

Managing Editor Amanda McReynolds can be reached at 910-219-8467 or amcreynolds@jdnews.com.