NORTH AUGUSTA - A local Family Y often becomes a home away from home for loyal patrons, and the new Clear Channel Y, which opened Monday, definitely has a homey atmosphere.
"We had a great turnout," Donna Waite, the director of the North Augusta and Aiken branches, said of the grand opening celebration. "It was real community-oriented."
North Augusta Mayor Lark Jones and interim Augusta Mayor Willie Mays spoke at the event. In addition, she said, Mr. Mays and officials from Clear Channel Radio CSRA, which owns the property, presented the area's sixth Family Y with plaques.
Last week, Barry Kaye, the vice president and general manager of Clear Channel, said he recognized the building's potential the first time he saw it.
New to the area in July 2003, Mr. Kaye had a vision for the cozy brick house with white columns when he took an initial tour of Clear Channel properties.
"As soon as I got out of the truck and set foot in that parking lot, I was covered with chills," he said. "I just knew that we were going to do something special with that place."
More than two years later, his dream has become a reality.
The new Family Y, which will emphasize education rather than exercise classes, will be unlike the others in the area, Ms. Waite said.
The Clear Channel Y plans to offer programs such as adult literacy, English as a second language, computer classes, minority mentoring, after-school sessions and homework help in the main building. A conference room and a kitchen will be available to community organizations for meetings.
Fitness buffs need not feel left out. Cardio and weight-training equipment and an exercise classroom are set up in the adjoining "half house."
The Family Y held its first aerobics classes Monday morning, Ms. Waite said, and a member of another local Y stopped by the North Augusta facility to work out.
"Our goal is to find out what the community needs and wants from the Y," she said.
The Clear Channel Y will offer activities throughout the week, Ms. Waite said, and the initial joiner's fee will be half price.
Prospective members will receive instructions for using each piece of equipment, Ms. Waite said.
Family Ys are known for their community partnerships, she said, and staffers hope to establish youth sports programs that are not available in the city.
"North Augusta has such a wonderful recreation program. We don't want to compete with that," said Millie Schumacher, a Family Y spokeswoman. "We wanted to come up with a way to supplement that and to work with the city."
She said the location will benefit North Augusta residents and Georgians who live or work in downtown Augusta.
Clear Channel and the Family Y spent about $200,000 to renovate the house, Mr. Kaye said.
He said the Y has an agreement to use the home, which is owned by Clear Channel, rent-free for five years.
However, staff members already are looking forward to the day they outgrow the 6,000-square-foot site.
"Our goal at this facility is to have customer service and friendliness," Ms. Waite said. "And the quaintness of it, that's what brings the customers back."
Reach Betsy Gilliland at (803) 648-1395, ext. 113, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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