Saturday, July 21, 2018
We visited the Niles-Buchanan YMCA on July 21, 2018. It's building was built in 2006 and words I would use to describe it would be "exceeded expectations" and "YMCA architectural wonder". And I don't say that lightly after having visited 35 other YMCA's in Michigan in the past 9 months. The 55,000 square foot facility is conveniently located just outside of the downtown area of Niles, Michigan in a beautiful property overlooking the St. Joseph River in Berrien County.
From the moment one enters the lobby area there is a sense that the YMCA is an important part of the history and future of the community. The lobby invokes the nostalgia of a gaslight village with various paintings on the walls depicting significant pieces of community history. There is plenty of space for people to gather and carry on conversations before or after their exercise regime.
Being at this YMCA was nostalgic for me personally as one set of my Great-Grandparents with the surnames Ebersol and Shook lived and died in Berrien County, Michigan a little over 100 years ago.
Jonathan loved every part of our visit from the just right temperature of the warm therapy pool to the solid track that overlooks the exercise equipment. Everything was clean from the locker room to the immaculate landscaping outside of the building by the parking lot. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves in the pools and exercise area, and it had precisely the right amount of activity without feeling at all overcrowded.
It was a rainy day in Michigan when we were able to visit the Niles-Buchanan YMCA. And it was a relief to learn that the building was built with proper grounding that enables them to keep their pools open in the midst of rainstorms outside. I don't fully understand how that works but it really adds a lot to the aquatics program to not be at the mercy of the weather in conducting inside water activities.
In March 2017 the Niles-Buchanan YMCA formally joined their work with the St. Joseph-Benton Harbor YMCA to bring the two branches together under YMCA of Southwest Michigan organization. The morning of our visit the organization had the 2018 Race for YMCA 5K/10K in St. Joseph, which involved both branches.
The Niles-Buchanan YMCA has so much going for it that it is hard to imagine it's programs are going to be getting even better soon, but that is exactly what is in the works. It was heartening to learn that they have a capital campaign going on to ultimately add 30,000 more square feet to their building, which will add a second gymnasium, a youth center, a teen center, and offices (Niles-Buchanan YMCA Sets Expansion Efforts, Debrah Haight, HP, September 9, 2017). The improvements will be constructed in three stages with each phase costing about $2 million dollars and adding 10,000 square feet. More information on their capital campaign is on their website.
The community of Niles-Buchanan can be proud of their YMCA. This YMCA stands out as a vital part of their community through not just the sheer awesomeness of their physical structure, but more importantly in the vision and heart and soul of their programs.
Jonathan and Alan Stokes are on a mission to visit every YMCA in Michigan and are showing that the YMCA is FOR ALL, especially those with autism.
Map Credit: By Arkyan [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY-SA 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons