The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

February 5, 2010

UPDATE: YMCA offers rec plan to Greenville

Floats partnership with borough

By Monica Pryts


The Shenango Valley YMCA is proposing a partnership with the borough of Greenville to help continue recreation services in northern Mercer County.

Joellen Arenas, YMCA’s chief executive officer, presented preliminary information to council Thursday, with council President Brian Shipley saying there are exciting possibilities for Greenville.

“We have some great ideas we’ve been working on,” Ms. Arenas said.

A council committee, led by Shipley, has been studying how to restructure the way recreation is run because Greenville Area Leisure Services Association has been struggling financially.

The committee in October proposed dissolving GALSA and creating a recreation commission, and talks with the GALSA board have been ongoing, Shipley said.

Greenville is part of the Shenango Valley YMCA’s district, but doesn’t have much of a presence in the area, Ms. Arenas said. She and other YMCA officials have started analyzing the area, interviewing key leaders, local representatives and United Way of Mercer County officials.

“They’re really big on collaboration,” she said of the United Way board, which merged with the Northern Mercer County United Way in 2008.

The YMCA needs to reach out to others and partnering with Greenville would mean more programs and activities could be offered to more people, school districts, businesses and other nonprofit organizations, Ms. Arenas said.

Partnerships lower expenses; increase resources, staffing, grant opportunities and purchasing power; and bring together people who have a wealth of knowledge and experience, she said.

That ties in with the YMCA’s new mindset for 2011, the earliest any collaboration with Greenville could take effect, she said. The YMCA, which has had its main center in Hermitage since 1954, wants to branch out to other locations to serve the most people possible.

“Greenville is the missing link, the missing community,” Ms. Arenas said.

GALSA has abundant indoor and outdoor space, including Riverside Park and an outdoor swimming pool. The YMCA has a swim team, but its building doesn’t have a pool, an example of how the two nonprofits could help each other.

Residents and business owners new to the Greenville area may not be familiar with GALSA, but many people know what the YMCA is. The partnership would also create a more powerful board of directors and attract support from more people, she said.

“Together we can grow stronger,” she said.

If council approves the partnership, GALSA would continue to oversee recreation and its current staffing, programs and activities would remain intact. The YMCA could provide management services for a minimal cost and its board would allow Ms. Arenas to help out for free, she said.

Becky McFadden, GALSA board president, said she learned of the proposal a few weeks ago, and the more people you bring in, the more likely you are to get help like grant money.

“There’s power in working together,” she said.

GALSA’s facilities, which include sports fields in West Salem Township and the Greenville Recreation Center, are treasures, Mrs. McFadden said, adding that she welcomes thoughts, ideas and concerns from the public about the partnership.

“We at the rec center are ready to roll on the idea,” she said, adding that things with GALSA will remain the same this year.

GALSA board member Randy Ferguson said the YMCA proposal came up very quickly and quietly, much like the “recreation commission” proposal did, surprising the GALSA board. Community input is needed before any kind of agreement is formed and the public wants full disclosure of the whole arrangement, he said.

The United Way urged the YMCA in 2009 to collaborate with GALSA when the time was right, so the idea is nothing new, Shipley said.

“A lot of questions have to be answered and nothing is being rushed into,” he said.

There is nothing on paper, so no details like membership or user fees have been worked out, he said. GALSA is funded by the borough, user fees, donations, fundraisers and the United Way.

Ms. Arenas’ presentation served as starting point to get council and the public thinking about the idea of a partnership with the YMCA, Shipley said. The YMCA also plans to continue to survey people in the community, Ms. Arenas said.