By Ben Marshall
The Vandalia Leader
The Eastern Missouri Family YMCA, located in Vandalia, is now up and running, pardon the pun, already having many members enjoying the facility.
This past week, the local YMCA hosted a series of events leading up to the doors officially opening at the facility.
There was a Champagne Reception inviting donors to the project in celebrating the Grand Opening of the Eastern Missouri Family YMCA on Friday, and there was an official Ribbon Cutting on Saturday.
The Felicity Goodpasture-Culwell Gymnasium was filled on the night of the Champagne Reception with 160-170 guests.
Chairman of the Vandalia Recreation Corporation, Alan Winders, asked the Rev. Jamie Franke to open the program with a prayer.
Winders opened by talking about the building, which is about 14,000 square feet at a cost of around $1.8 million dollars.
“What we’ve done is we’ve realized a vision,” Winders said. “A vision that was long coming and long standing for some folks in the community. What we have done is invested in ourselves and in our future as a community.”
Winders introduced Dana Keller, who is the President of the YMCA Board in Vandalia.
Keller mentioned that, “This has been a long project, and I don’t know how long I’ve been involved with it, but it’s four or five years. It’s clearly been a very emotional trip for us. We have board members come, we have had a few board members go. We feel like, that right now, the YMCA board is represented well.”
Keller went on to mention that there are members from Laddonia, Perry, Center, and Vandalia on the board. She also said that she is real excited to get kids and adults of all ages utilizing the services of the YMCA.
Audrain County Presiding Commissioner Steve Hobbs spoke of the many people involved in the journey that got the project to where it was today.
CEO and Executive Director of the Mexico YMCA, Lori Brandow, then spoke to the crowd.
She noted that three years ago when she took over the position, she was scared, and a little nervous about what would happen throughout the campaign.
“The first time I walked in when the walls were up and there was a little bit of dry wall up, immediately I wasn’t scared anymore.” she said. “An excitement came over me, and I could visualize what this was gonna do for Vandalia and the surrounding community.”
Debbie Hopke, Branch Director of the Eastern Missouri Family YMCA, was the final speaker for the evening.
Hopke thanked everyone for coming, “To celebrate your YMCA.”
She noted from a book she read called “The Hero Effect, Being Your Best When It Matters The Most,” that the special reception was a way to celebrate the heroes who made the YMCA possible.
She said if you ask someone the definition of a hero, you would get a number of different answers, with one being, “someone who works tirelessly and silently to due the right thing just because it’s right.”
She said, “That’s who I’m talking about. You are heroes. Each and everyone of you in this room tonight are heroes.”
Hopke went on to say, “During the course of the project, any one of us could have individually given up many times. But the reason this dream became a reality is because we all collectively gathered our super, extraordinary powers and kept marching on. And we became more stronger, more united, and more heroic, and we didn’t look back.”
She went on to say,”You don’t do it for the recognition. You work tirelessly on a cause, because it’s the right thing to do. So Thank you. Thank you for not giving up. Thank you for being heroes in the community, heroes for the future, and for believing in your YMCA. Thank you for doing what’s right.”
Her speech was welcomed with much applause. She then went on to recognize some donors while the champaign was being served.
Those included members of the Rural Morris Foundation, and the generosity of Laddonia’s Max Kennon. She also recognized the sponsors for the night’s event, which were Grove Construction General Contractors, Renner Howell Architects, and local sponsors such as Vandalia Florist, 54 Package Store, and OPAA Food Management Services. Lastly, she thanked all of the volunteers she had asked to do things over the last several months.
Following the program, tours were given of the building.
On Saturday, Ramsey Dickerman spoke at the ribbon cutting, representing the Vandalia Area Chamber of Commerce.
Hopke then cut the ribbon, opening the doors to the Eastern Missouri Family YMCA for those in attendance to tour.
Hopke reported that on Monday there were some 70 visitors to the YMCA by noon.