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YMCA can be vital to local life

By By James Crawford
News Editor
The announcement last week that the Atmore YMCA is looking for land to build a new building was very exciting to me. The YMCA has played a vital role in my life and I would venture to guess has made an impact on lots of lives here in Atmore as well.
I can remember learning how to swim at the "Y" when I was young and my sister and I spent many summers at the day camps out at Camp Horne in Tuscaloosa while my mother worked.
If not for the camps, I'm not sure what my mother would have done. They worked with her on the money, which was a blessing in itself for a single mom with two kids, and even helped on the transportation some.
Years later the "Y" would again become important to me when a friend of mine, Michael Talerico, decided to make a career with the organization and convinced me to help participate in some of the fund raising events.
What I thought would be a chore turned out to be some of the most rewarding experiences of my life. My friend turned the small struggling leaders club into an organization that gave dozens of kids activities to do and a purpose beyond that of just hanging out.
I was privileged enough to be a part of that, albeit a small part, but I did what I could and I have lots of cherish memories of those days.
Through the "Y" I also helped myself out a bit by starting a wellness program and started swimming and playing basketball at night to lose weight. Basketball and swimming being the only two activities I've ever had to actually work in dropping off the pounds.
I've heard dozens of stories, and I'm sure you all know a few, of successful business people who started out by hanging around at a YMCA instead of in the streets.
In that respect and in no small part, a new building for the YMCA here will be a godsend. The new programs they could offer, the indoor walking track that's planned and the weight and aerobics rooms alone will be wonderful.
But I think the biggest influence will be the increase in involvement of the local citizens, which means the more programs they can develop for the area youth and that means benefits for us all and can help improve the culture and closeness of the community for years to come.
If you have a story about the YMCA that you'd like to tell or about a value or lesson someone at the "Y" taught you when you were young, I would love to hear from you. The community would do well to know just how much its YMCA means to the citizens it serves.
James Crawford is the News Editor of the Atmore Advance. He can be reached by e-mail at james.crawford@atmoreadvance.com