A community-minded project that started a decade ago culminates Monday with the official opening of the Eastern Missouri Family YMCA in Vandalia.
The first concept of a YMCA in Vandalia was formed in 2009. The YMCA will hold an open house 10 a.m. to noon Saturday to celebrate the long-awaited facility’s completion. A ribbon cutting will precede official tours. The building features a one-tenth mile walking track circuit around the main interior wall of the building. The facility has three meeting and activity rooms, and one has an attached kitchen. The gymnasium floor is roughly 68 by 108 feet and there is a separate cardio, wellness and weight lifting area for members. It also features a child-care facility, which will be available 4-7:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 4-6:30 p.m. Friday while members use other YMCA facilities.
A groundbreaking was held to a crowd of about 80 people Nov. 2, 2017. Construction soon started on the 18,000-square-foot facility. It was built on the same location as the previous Vandalia library. The site had to be over excavated due to expansive clay soil in Vandalia, which would have caused foundational issues if not replaced. Footings were installed by the end of November.
Four semi trailers with material for the metal box building arrived by Jan. 5, 2018. The concrete slab floor was poured in sections early March 2018. As is tradition with the construction of new YMCA facilities and as a recognition of its Christian origins, a Bible was placed in foundations of the building March 14. Exterior wall framing started going up April 2018. Exterior doors and windows were installed the next month with interior wall framing going up as well.
The YMCA started answering community questions on its Facebook page in July relating to construction and other factors. The Eastern Missouri Family YMCA is a project of the not-for-profit Vandalia Recreation Corp. Funds for the facility were obtained through grants and donations.
Debbie Hopke was hired in August to serve as branch manager. Hopke’s experience, dedication and passion for the impacted communities by the construction of the facility made her an ideal candidate for the position, Mexico Area Family YMCA CEO Lori Brandow wrote in a release. Hopke started working with the YMCA when a feasibility committee was formed in 2011.
“I am honored and excited to serve as Branch Director at a YMCA in the heart of Vandalia and surrounding towns. The YMCA has unlimited opportunities and programs that can be offered to build physical, social, mental and spiritual strength for all ages,” Hopke wrote in the August release.
The front entryway concrete walkways were poured in September. Interior finishing touches also began that month. Vandalia native and co-owner of Johnston Paint of Columbia, Melissa Murphy, donated all of the interior paint for the facility. Matt King, territory manager for E.J. Welch Co., also provided adhesives for various flooring materials. Murphy and King also worked together to find affordable flooring material. Murphy consulted on interior design when it came to paint colors and other finishing touches. To honor her efforts, the Y Cafe was named in her parent’s honor, David and Linda Klug.
Along with donation opportunities, the YMCA held several fundraisers throughout the past year, including 5K runs and mouse races, which is exactly what it sounds like. The most recent mouse race event was held Saturday with $13,730 raised from the second annual event.
Equipment for the cardio, wellness and weightlifting area of the building was brought in late December and into last month. Two fitness instructors — Beth Schnitker and April Willis — were hired last month and will teach a variety of classes.
“Continued community support has been key in making this dream a reality. The YMCA team cannot begin to thank everyone enough for the dedication, donations, and endless hours of volunteer work,” a release from Eastern Missouri Family YMCA noted.