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YMCA fund drive excelling

WORTHINGTON -- The capital campaign to build a new Worthington Area YMCA is off to a strong start. YMCA Executive Director Andy Johnson said that as of last Friday, 41 pledges have been received totaling $1,002,000. That's 34 percent of the goal ...

WORTHINGTON -- The capital campaign to build a new Worthington Area YMCA is off to a strong start.

YMCA Executive Director Andy Johnson said that as of last Friday, 41 pledges have been received totaling $1,002,000. That's 34 percent of the goal of $2,975,000 established for the campaign, with fund raising getting under way just last month.

"I am reminded that all successful campaigns have the best leadership," Johnson said. "Our steering committee is certainly making this campaign must a truism. We are only one month into the campaign solicitation of lead gifts and have already one-third of the goal -- that's excellent."

"Our steering committee has outstanding leadership," said James C. Egbert of Egbert & Associates, the YMCA's fund-raising consultant who works exclusively with YMCA projects across the Midwest. "To be almost exactly one-third of the way there this fast is unusual, and plenty of people haven't been seen yet. I'm very enthusiastic about it."

Lead gifts are those ranging between $10,000 and $1 million or more. Already, Prairie Holdings Group has come forward with a $301,000 contribution.

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"They (PHG) stepped up and accepted responsibility for seeing this community continue to grow, and we're extremely happy with their financial investment," campaign steering committee co-chair Greg DeGroot said. "I think that what this is is an investment in our community -- it's extremely gratifying."

The YMCA's history in Worthington dates back to 1944, when the City of Worthington and the YMCA became partners to create the first such facility at the former Union Congregational Church. In 1953, the YMCA moved to the old armory, its current site.

A $235,000 capital campaign built a swimming pool addition in 1964, and $894,000 was raised to construct a new gymnasium and fitness center in 1981. Due to such factors as old and deteriorating infrastructure, difficult stairs and corridors for senior citizens and people with disabilities, limited parking and structural areas in need of repair, campaign steering committee members are now pushing the need for a new site.

"It's just a terrific project for the community, and it's not only important for the YMCA, but for every aspect of this community," DeGroot said. "For us to make this happen for further generations, it makes you feel good."

The new YMCA would be built on the campus of Minnesota West Community and Technical College, thanks to a partnership between the Y and the college. The 35,000-square-foot facility would be built adjacent to the existing gymnasium and the sports complex of the college. It would include a family aquatics center, wellness and family program areas, and plenty of parking and room for expansion.

The new facility's location is easily accessible to the community, steering committee co-chair Mark Shepherd said.

"I don't think the proposed location isn't going to be any further from needy children or certainly any further away from any of the population than now," Shepherd said.

Another concern expressed by some has been the potential for Minnesota West students essentially taking over the new facility, since the YMCA would be on their campus. Shepherd said citizens shouldn't worry.

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"We have many college students that are members of the YMCA now," said Shepherd, a partner with Malters, Shepherd and VonHoltum. "It's a management issue now, and it will be a management issue there.

"Minnesota West is also investing dollars out there to build a training facility for its athletic program, so there should be no concerns of the basketball and football players using the YMCA for those purposes," he added. "We certainly hope the Minnesota West students will utilize the YMCA as members, and they will have to pay the student rate just as they do now."

Shepherd added that the lead gift portion of the fund-raising campaign -- 90 percent of the $2.9 million total -- should be reached by either the end of the year or early 2007.

"The million came in, quite honestly, in about a three-week time frame," said DeGroot, the president of Highland Manufacturing. "We're really just getting started with the solicitations, so to be already at the million mark gives us a really great feeling. We have every reason to believe we can attain the goal by the end of '06."

There are 18 individuals serving on the campaign steering committee. Almost every person asked to join the group accepted, Shepherd pointed out.

"There was one that declined because of other commitments, but other than that, everyone who was asked agreed," he said. "I think that tells you a lot about the sentiment of the community.

"We've got a great group of people who are working on the steering committee and the response, really from the few calls that we've made, has been outstanding," he added. "We've had nothing but positive feedback."

Other members of the committee are: Bruce Viessman, CFO of Worthington Regional Hospital; Ron Wood, president of Minnesota West; Glenn Thuringer, executive director of Worthington Regional Economic Development Corp.; Jeff Johnson, YMCA Board President and owner of Johnson Jewelry; Steve Dudley, VMC/Prairie Holdings; Grant Sorensen, Family Dentistry; Ed McNiece, McNiece Family Dentistry; Conrad Schmidt, Schmidt & Associates; Bill Hedeen, partner, Hedeen, Hughes and Wetering; Alvin Kooiman, president of First State Bank Southwest; Robert J. Demuth, Demuth Insurance Agency (retired) and former Worthington mayor; Dennis Hall, Daily Globe publisher; John Mork, Worthington Specialty Clinics (retired); Gary Hoffmann, president of Wells Fargo Bank (retired); Karen Pfeifer, community volunteer; and the Rev. Arlen Foss, American Lutheran Church (retired).

Ryan McGaughey arrived in Worthington in April 2001 as sports editor of The Daily Globe, and first joined Forum Communications Co. upon his hiring as a sports reporter at The Dickinson (North Dakota) Press in November 1998. McGaughey became news editor in Worthington in November 2002 and editor in August 2006.
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