Originally created 05/06/02

Leader plans to broaden Family Y



The Family Y has a new president, and his mission, he said, will be to expand services.

"We certainly are going to be expanding beyond our facilities and are laying down the plans to do that," said Dan McConnell, who assumed duties as president and chief executive officer of the Family Y about eight weeks ago.

Mr. McConnell worked eight years for the YMCA of Greater Charlotte in Charlotte, N.C., and has spent the past 12 years working for the YMCA of Coastal Georgia in Savannah, where he was the chief operating officer.

Barry Story, a former board chairman of the Family Y and the chairman of the CEO search committee, said he was most impressed with Mr. McConnell's experience and his association with the development of new Y facilities in the Savannah market.

"I think that our focus as a committee was to find somebody with experience in the development of new facilities and the expansion of existing operations, as well as the ability to spearhead fund-raising activities in the community," Mr. Story said.

In the past five years, Mr. McConnell has opened six YMCAs. Two were large construction projects that cost more than $5 million each.

"They were YMCAs grown from small branches to where they are today," Mr. McConnell said.

That's likely how the Family Y will expand services to other areas, such as Columbia County, Aiken and North Augusta.

A Y typically begins by offering programs using existing facilities, such as schools, parks or recreation centers. That's how Mr. McConnell plans to expand in the Augusta area.

"We are looking at moving beyond our current facilities and growing in these communities, but it has to be community driven," he said.

The Family Y has two locations on Wheeler Road. The Wilson Branch has youth sports fields, an aerobics area, fitness area, outdoor pool and indoor gymnasium, and the Wheeler Branch has an indoor pool, gymnasium and large aerobics area. Its Southside Branch at Milledgeville and Tubman Road is child-care oriented.

"Our board is already moving forward to develop that into a full branch," Mr. McConnell said.

Funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and private donations are being used to build a field for youth sports at the branch, which also has an outdoor pool and fitness center.

"We have hopes to add a gymnasium to that site, but we will need some community support," Mr. McConnell said. "We will be kicking off a campaign within the year to accomplish that."

In April, the Family Y entered into a lease agreement with the Army Corps of Engineers on a 162-acre site at Thurmond Lake. A day camp will be operated there this summer.

The Family Y also serves 2,500 youths from Richmond, Columbia and Aiken counties in an after-school program.

"We already have program services far beyond the immediate Augusta area," Mr. McConnell said. "It's a perfect example of why we need to continue to expand our programs in these areas. We are already in those communities and we need to take the next natural step."

Reach Melissa Hall at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 113, or melhall@augustachronicle.com.