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Family Y to take over Health Link

The Family Y is coming to Thomson in a big way. In a meeting Monday, Aug. 28, the McDuffie County Hospital Authority Board approved the Family Y to assume management responsibilities of Health Link, the hospital's fitness/wellness facility.

"This is a fantastic joining of two fine organizations, and will certainly be very positive for McDuffie County as well as surrounding counties," Douglas Keir, CEO of McDuffie Regional Medical Center, said in a press release Tuesday.

The Family Y, which is a partnership of the YMCA and the YWCO of the Central Savannah River Area, currently operates six branches in Augusta, North Augusta, Martinez, and Lincolnton. The Y is a Judeo-Christian faith-based institution which provides recreational, educational and fitness programs for children and families.

Millie Schumacher, community relations director for the Family Y, said Health Link Director DeDe Keir and most of the staff would remain in place.

"Health Link has done such a great job already, and what we'll be able to bring to the table are some traditional YMCA-type programs that Thomson has not had access to," she said.

The transition will take place Sunday, Oct. 1. CEO Donny McConnell said the Y will honor current memberships of Health Link. Mr. McConnell said the facility will be upgraded with some new equipment, and unused space in the back of the building will be renovated into a child care area.

The facility isn't large enough to accommodate all of the programs the Family Y has to offer, but that isn't stopping Mr. McConnell from realizing the Y's mission.

"Most people when they think of the Y, they think of a lot of stuff for kids. We are going to work pretty hard to bring a lot of youth activities to the community," he said.

But this will, in fact, take the whole village. Mr. McConnell said they will look for backyard pools that homeowners will let them use and pay insurance to offer swimming lessons. They hope to use social halls in local churches and rooms in schools to offer classes and after-school care.

"But the key to that will be partnering with other groups throughout the community. This facility will turn out to be a program center, a hub," Mr. McConnell said. "(Teaching classes and swimming lessons) are the kinds of things that we can do well beyond the walls of this facility."

The YMCA is not the same everywhere, Mr. McConnell said, but is tailored to each community. He said a board of directors will be formed, made up of local officials, who will oversee the facility as volunteer policy-makers.

"One of the things that's important to us is to come into a community and listen pretty closely to the needs... that are not being met right now, that the YMCA is pretty good at," he said.

Mr. McConnell said he met with the mayor of Thomson, the city manager, council members, and officials from the hospital two weeks ago, and "everybody felt like it was a win-win situation for both groups."

Health Link's name will be changed to reflect the Family Y involvement and the community, but Mr. McConnell said that will be decided by the board of directors.

Along with Health Link memberships being honored, Mr. McConnell said changes to new memberships will be very positive. Instead of contracts, the Y operates on a membership and monthly fee. There are membership options and price variations, which allow members to use just the Thomson facility, or to take advantage of other Y facilities in the CSRA.

"The nice thing is you can switch back and forth between the categories," Mr. McConnell said.

As a non-profit organization, the Family Y operates off of membership fees, their own fundraising efforts and donations from the United Way. Mr. McConnell said they also have a financial assistance program that applies to all Y programs.

"In the CSRA, we are giving away over half a million dollars in services every year, $25 at a time," he said. "I don't want finances to ever be a block for someone to be able to participate in anything we do."

Web posted on Thursday, August 31, 2006

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