Town councilors Andy Romance, John Wilson, Su Connell, Tim Fruth and Ed Blair are to be commended for their decision to support bringing a YMCA to Payson.
The five voted Oct. 18 at a council meeting to direct town staff to begin lease talks with YMCA officials for five acres of land located near Rumsey Park.
Attracting a YMCA to the Rim Country, which wouldn't cost local taxpayers a penny, would be a boon to entire Northern Gila County.
For the past 20 years, local movers and shakers have battled to find a way to build a community recreation center for use by all ages.
Former Parks and Recreation Director Bill Schwind was among those leading the charge.
While Schwind was instrumental in building Green Valley Park, attracting Heritage Grants, building new parks and rec offices and the construction of tennis, volleyball and basketball courts and five-all-weather state-of-the-artFieldturf playing fields at Rumsey Park, he never could find the funds to build the community recreation center.
Most in our town, including myself, were ready to give up on the rec center concept, even though we knew it was desperately needed.
But then, YMCA came along to offer our townspeople a tax-free proven way to build top notch facilities, including a swimming pool and gymnasium, in Rumsey Park where they would be the perfect complement to the library and other facilities there.
YMCA's programs would reflect the needs of our town and be much more than a weight room where members pump iron or participate in physical-fitness classes.
While most YMCAs stress fitness training and good health, they also offer community development programs, social clubs, student homework assistance, aquatics, family nights, support groups, child care, sports teams, adventure programs, Hi-Y Youth and government groups, outdoor education and middle school programs.
In Chandler, the YMCA has even partnered with the school district to offer alterative education and online classes.
YMCA officials say their goal in Payson will be to help families build stronger bonds, achieve greater work/life balance and become more engaged in their community.
Around the country, there are 2,663 YMCAs which serve more than 20.2 million people each year, including 9.5 million children. As a former public school teacher and coach of 37 years, I -- and most educators I know -- support YMCA's core values of caring, honesty, respect and responsibility.
After all, those are among the Pillars of Character PUSD educators and coaches are asked to teach daily. Having those value teachings reinforced by the YMCA during afternoon, weekend and summer settings would be real plus for our children.
Common arguments I've listened to about YMCA are that they charge fees just like any other gym or recreation facility.
Around the country fees vary, but all YMCAs offer financial assistance to those who cannot afford membership.
As a young teacher and coach in the late 1960s in the ghettos of South Phoenix, I was surrounded by kids who lived off commodity foods -- there were no food stamps then -- and lived in ramshackle homes without heating, cooling and often, running water.
As poor and disadvantaged as they were in the pre-Martin Luther King era, I found the doors were always open for them at the YMCA and South Phoenix Boys Club.
If they had a few pennies, they paid an admission fee. If not, they were allowed in for free.
Bringing a YMCA to Payson will serve notice to all those living iin small town Arizona that our community is truly committed to providing the highest quality of life possible for youg and old alike.
If you come across any of the five town councilors who voted for the YMCA, give them a pat on the back for a job well done and urge them to continue their support of the proposed YMCA.